Sunday, 28 August 2011
Walk 13: Henley and Hillsides
Date: Sunday 28th August 2011
Route: Henley to Middle Assendon, Bix Bottom and back
Distance: 8.8 miles
19 years ago, I was outside for most of the day, dodging showers and puddles and looking forward to seeing Nirvana at the Reading Festival. No Nirvana today, sadly, but Bank Holiday Sunday still included plenty of dodging showers and puddles, sturdy footwear and even a pint of cider! There was also a rock 'n' roll connection to today's walk, albeit somewhat tenuous (more of which later).
Walk 6 from the Time Out Book of Country Walks Volume 2, which kept us busy for a few hours earlier, is an old favourite, starting off from the town of Henley, but quickly leaving the town to head over the hillsides of the Oxfordshire Way.
In the last few weeks the fields of the Chilterns have not only been harvested but the persistent rain seems to have led to an explosion of fruit and fungi by the wayside. Today we came home with a container full of blackberries and hazelnuts foraged from hedgerows (I predict a crumble). If we had been braver, we could have supplemented that with mushrooms (or maybe toadstools?!), elderberries, rosehips and sloes.
The walk itself boasts those type of rolling hillside views that never translate too well into photographs - and because of this does include occasional slightly taxing uphill stretches - but is generally easy to follow and well worth the infrequent effort.
Because we did the shortcut (8.8 miles) version (rather than the full 13.7 miles), we left the main walk about an hour in, after passing the Rainbow Inn at Middle Assendon, then walked along quiet country roads to the farm at Bix Bottom, before heading back over the hillsides and through woods full of acorn-laden oak trees to Henley. The rock 'n' roll bit of the walk is the final pathway alongside George Harrison's fence (complete with razor wire on top) - I did say that it was tenuous! Good opportunity to plug the forthcoming George Harrison documentary by Martin Scorsese though - click here to see more.
The disadvantage of the doing the short walk is that you miss out the lunchtime pub stop (and probably arrive too early for lunch at the Rainbow), but if you start off at around 10am you will be comfortably back in Henley in time for a pub lunch at the Argyll, with its hop-laden beams and suit of armour.
Great walk, great views, not quite as crowded or noisy or muddy as the Reading Festival (and no Nirvana) but a great way to spend a Bank Holiday Sunday, nonetheless.