Just before 10, Richard and I left our cars at Bulbourne (top right, about 1 o’clock; our path in green) in the car park of College Lake Wildlife Trust and stepped north-east onto the Grand Union Canal.
At about 4° with a cloudless sky, it was perfect walking weather, at least for us. The plan was, vaguely, to get as far as Drayton Beauchamp and return, perhaps eight miles in all, and Richard, getting over a bout of bad flu, asked me, the map-keeper, for an easy walk. That was my intention as well.
We turned off the Grand Union at Marsworth reservoir, through Little Tring and onto a disused stretch of the Wendover Arm. Here, we stopped to look down at several high-vis-jacketed workers bricking up bits of the drained canal. When we got as far as Drayton Bridge we stopped for a cuppa and to agree on how we were to return to base. The map showed that we were on the brink of circumnavigating the ancient settlement of Tring (pop. c.12,000), something we had failed to do last year on account of inadequate map-reading. A short discussion ended in agreement that we should get on with the latter, despite Richard’s earlier wish for a shorter walk. I was at pains to check and double-check his unequivocal agreement
We had to get through the horrors of a huge housing development just after Beeches Farm and over the B468. Though the noise, ground-scarring from earth-movers and general mayhem we were able to cross the Roman Road of Akeman Street which once linked Watling Street with the Fosse Way. Under the A41 took us to the beginning of a steady climb past West Leith Farm, trudging up to the high point of about 800 ft. When we got to Hastoe, we were on familiar ground and celebrated our success by having lunch at Hastoe village hall, our backs to the wall sitting on gravel in the sun. Oh, what difficulty we had standing up afterwards!
Although decently refuelled, we spurned more heights on the nearby Icknield Way and took a more level path past Wick Farm into Wigginton, crossed Hemp Lane and into The Twist. Off to the right, we took The Ridgway that afforded glorious views to Aldbury,
back north-east over the A41 and Akeman Street to descend through Chestnut Wood onto the Grand Union, near Tring Station. Here, we picked up the towpath north-east, getting into Bulbourne at a quarter past two, chuffed to see on my walking app that we had packed in 11 miles, without the slightest hint of keeling over.
Of what does one talk about on such a walk? Well, I can report the gratifying near-absence of Brexit-natter, both of us, like many citizens, exhausted by two and half years of it all. Although staunch Remainers – of different political hues, him being decidedly blue against my oscillating pink to red – we shared a quick Bollocks to Brexit, lamented the consequential state of our democracy and left it at that.