From Roald Dahl to Mary Berry, leafy Buckinghamshire’s charms have attracted their share of celebrities. And with historic churches, idyllic villages and acres of stunning countryside, what’s not to love? In a bid to blow away the corporate cobwebs, I set off early on Saturday to embark on my celebrity inspired hike from Great Missenden to Amersham.
Leaving behind the Marylebone metropolis, we whizz into the magical village of Great Missenden: former home to Roald Dahl. The Chocolate Factory magic is omnipresent throughout the village from the eponymous Museum & Story Centre to the charming Red Pump garage – which sadly appear to have run out of fuel.
Dahl’s final resting place at St Peter and Paul’s Church also attracts fans in their droves with flowers and toys left by his grave. His simple yet playfully inscribed tombstone is every bit as enigmatic as the man himself.
After a short descent, hazy spring sunlight casts its spell across the barren winter fields as bone-warming sunshine and bird song welcomes us into Little Missenden. Taking a well-earned tea break at the Red Lion pub, we’re joined by waddling geese with their eye on the main opportunity.
Also worth a visit in Little Missenden is St John the Baptist church, which contains 13th century murals of St Christopher. As if on cue, hallowed spring light lights up the walls as we visit.
Re-invigorated, we take on oozing quagmires reminiscent of the Somme. It takes a huge effort of balance and coordination to gingerly navigate the mud bath below. After thirty minutes of sloshing and squelching, it’s with great relief that we drag our boots under the canopy of Penn Wood. Boasting 177 acres of woodland dating back to Roman times, some of the trees here date back more than 200 years.
Once out of the woods, we discover the picturesque village of Penn – familiar filming location for Midsomer Murders and home to baking sensation Mary Berry who is a regular attendee at Holy Trinity Church. Celebrating its 800th year in 2016, the church offers amazing views across eight different counties but unfortunately during our visit, the church is closed so there’s no chance to test out the claims.
Leaving Penn behind, we follow the undulating route through the village of Winchmore Hill to Coleshill – scene of the famous windmill which dates back to 1860 and which has remained a fiercely protected landmark for the last 120 years. With tired and aching limbs, we make our final descent into Amersham.
Located at the end of the Metropolitan Line (zone 9), Amersham old town has a vibrant market place, a quirky selection of independent shops and the 10th century St Mary’s Church. Not to be outdone by its neighbours, St Mary’s Church has welcomed Oliver Cromwell, John Knox and Sir William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania and resident of Penn in its time.
Feeling in need of sustenance, guiltily we veer away from St Mary’s and opt instead for a well-earned pie and a pint at the Elephant and Castle. Leaving rosy-cheeked and ebullient some hours later, we reflect on our perfect spring hike to the Chilterns. All that’s missing is a slice of Mary Berry’s Lemon Drizzle cake or possibly a Willy Wonka chocolate bar.
What’s your favourite spring walk? Please share your thoughts below.