Thursday walk

winter trees

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

It was raining and there were dark clouds swirling outside but time for a walk. I set off up the hill and surprised a sparrowhawk on the ground. It flew off and perched on a post for a while. I could see its yellow claws. There were many red kites around working the fields and one them had landed on something. This was unusual because red kites usually just take their food on the wing even if it is a dead rabbit on the ground they can swoop by without stopping, such is their agility.
The trees were stark against the moody sky. There was hardly a leaf on them. I walked on to Fingest through a thick carpet of fallen leaves. On the trees there were buds coming out although it would be a while before they would emerge of course. In the hedgerows, wild clematis or old man’s beard wafted in the breeze. Groups of long tailed tits made their way noisily through the tree tops. A buzzard took off ahead of me and flew away. It was definitely a buzzard as the tail was all wrong for a red kite. They fly differently as well.
At Fingest the jackdaws were busy squabbling in the trees and they were flying out on small missions to a nearby apple tree which still had some fruit clinging on. As I climbed up hanger wood, the sun came out and lit up the sides of the beech tree trunks. Their shadows stretched out for a long way across the fields, so low was the sun.
By now it was getting dark, there was a thin horizontal line of sun on the horizon under a growing bed of dark clouds. I sudden disturbance ahead of me made me freeze and I searched the woods ahead of me. There were two roe deer standing there looking at me. For a few moments we met eye to eye and then they ran


Hambleden shop Review

St Mary’s Church, Hambleden

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Out on one of my bike rides, the Ravenous Rambler stopped at the Hambleden shop for tea. The village is one of those quintessential English villages. A dog sleeps in the middle of the road, there is a an old well by the tree in the centre of the village square and there are delightful old brick and flint cottages all at odd angles around the village. There is a little bridge over a stream from where you get a good view of the allotments that are a blaze of colour with flowers and vegetables growing together. The church and pub complete the scene. The place is a much used film location; 101 dalmations, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Midsomer Murders to name a few.
Just down the road is the River Thames and Hambleden Lock. Jerome K Jerome wrote “…the rather uninteresting river residence of my newsagent – a quiet unassuming old gentleman, who may be met with about these regions, during the summer months, sculling himself along in easy vigorous style, or chatting genially to some old lock-keeper, as he passes through”. He was writing about the owner of the large newsagent chain of WH Smith. The estate was owned by Henry Smith’s family since the 1870s but sold recently. The most notable resident was Lord Cardigan who was born in the manor house and led the famous Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimea.
There are seats just outside the shop and its a great place to take some time out and sit to have some tea or an ice-cream. They serve the tea in a china pot with milk in a jug on a silver tray. It was wonderful tea and I had some locally made carrot cake that was superb. The best thing about this shop is the locally sourced products. There is a good selection of meat and vegetables as well as all the usual provender of a local shop. There is a constant stream of locals, some with children stopping by for a chat and an ice-cream. Several builders and other tradesmen stopped by for some refreshment as well. You can sit and people watch all day. A delightful child was eating her ice-cream and asking her mummy questions like – “ Mummy, how are houses built?” and “Mummy, how are people made?” The latter question she cleverly avoided.
Hambleden is the centre of some of the best walks and cycle rides in the Chilterns so I do commend it as a refreshment place.
5 stars.

Cedar House Rules – a review of the Cedar Cafe in Marlow

11 November

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Marlow is a delightful old town in Buckinghamshire on the Thames. There is a great regetta here to rival the more famous Henley Regetta just up river. There are some delightful shops but the question is, where to go for coffee. There is a Costa coffee and Starbucks but in my quest to find independent coffee shops I refuse to go into these chains.
Down near the river there is the quaint Burgers Patisserie if you would like a more formal occasion but I like the small Cedar Coffee shop up in West Street. There is a window seat and then the rest of the seating is at the back adjoining the alternative treatment shop which shares the same entrance.
As I go in, I am confronted by the bar where there is a huge choice of cakes and other delights, including the exceptionally pretty waitress. She took my order and then I sat myself down in the corner to relax and have my treats brought to me.
I had a lovely cup of coffee and a couple of slices of brown toast with marmalade. There was gentle music playing away and low murmur of chat from the other customers. I didn’t like the commercial pictures on the wall – maybe they would like some of mine? A shame there was no view but you can’t have everything. I paid on my way out – they are very trusting and then smirked at the poor loosers in Costa’s as I rambled on my way.

Dawn Chorus Walk at Warburg Nature Reserve

misty trees

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Dawn Chorus at Warburg, 4th May 2008
The Ravenous Rambler was up before the larks this morning. 3.30 am to be precise and then down to the Warburg nature reserve in the Bix valley for International Dawn Chorus Day.
It was still dark as we drove down the flooded winding lane deep in the Oxfordshire countryside. There were some shadowy figures standing around and our host – Gavin Hageman was giving a running commentary on what we might see. I worked out that the event was being recorded for Oxfordshire radio by Phil Mercer and whilst I was rummaging around in the boot, Mrs Rambler was being interviewed for the programme!
There were a few tawny owl hoots and then the skylarks kicked in along with blackbirds and mistle thrush. Then the robins started to sing and it all started to get a bit confusing.  We, there were about eighteen hardy souls, all went for a walk around the reserve and we heard black caps, chiff chaff and willow warbler and I was quite pleased to get these sounds into my head. Also distinguishing between blue tits and great tits. The great tits’ call is like “teacher..teacher”, whereas the blue tit is more “see…see…see”. We heard the green woodpecker with its cackle like cry.
The sun loomed up without giving much away – it was a dull day but the walk was excellent, through the chalky pastures and Chiltern beech woods. There were fields of cowslips and rings of mushrooms to spot.

This reserve is one of the oldest run by BBOWT. It nestles in a deep wooded valley in the Chiltern Hills and is a superb nature reserve with a network of interesting walks that link up with a variety of other footpaths that go outside the reserve. The mixture of chalk grasslands and ancient woodlands make it an excellent place to spot a wide variety of birds and butterflies.
It was with some relief that we headed back to the start where Gavin set to making breakfast on a camp stove and we all enjoyed bacon and egg sandwiches which have never tasted better. Red kits soared overhead but they weren’t getting my bacon roll!
Back home – it was back to bed with a pot of tea and we tuned into Radio Oxford to hear it all over again.