6 January 2017

how to enjoy strolls on top of the world

chiltern hills

We're currently shrouded in fog at the time of writing this. Winter likes to do that to us here in the Chilterns, denying us what little sun we can get during the cold months. The temperature has dropped, the wind is all but non-existent, meaning the hills are covered in this blanket of cloud. It didn't produce a White Christmas, again! We do get snow from time to time. It's not frequent, but when it does come everything comes to a standstill. I know that the rest of the snow covered world shakes their heads in disbelief at our ineptitude, but that's how it is. Anyway its post Christmas and we're into that strange time before New Year. Life goes on of course, it just seems that everyone is at half pace or unsure of what day it is! That's why it's especially good to get out and have a stroll, assuming the fog doesn't ruin the views. So that's exactly what we did. Stroll, on top of the chilterns, fog or no fog!  

chiltern hills

Dunstable Downs 

The Chilterns have an abundance of wonderful walks, comes with the territory I suppose. It boasts the oldest path in the UK, The Ridgeway, but for this post we're not featuring it! Perhaps another time? We may even try to walk one of these days? No, we're up at another key point in the hills. Well actually we're at its end, or beginning, depending on which way you look at it, and one of its highest points, Dunstable Downs. 

Dunstable Downs sits on the edge of, Dunstable! A rather nondescript town in Bedfordshire, close to its more famous neighbour Luton. Which is better known more for its airport these days. There's even a song about it! Which I'm sure the residents of Luton and the airports workers hate! I used to live in Luton during my university years. Good times for the most part, or certainly the parts I can remember. I would occasionally heading out into the countryside surrounding the town. Although only having an old sit up and beg bike I probably didn't manage to cycle up to the Downs.  It's funny how the older you get the more you appreciate your surroundings, which I probably didn't as much then. I now even take pleasure in cold weather and even bare bushes! (See below). I certainly now appreciate the Downs, they are beautiful and here's why.

The Chilterns

History of the Downs 

Dunstable Downs are the highest point in the East of England, rising some 797 ft (243m) above sea level, hence our top of the world headline. They just so happen to be one of the most popular points on the Chiltern ridge, according to the Chilterns AONB website and we can clearly testify to that with a full car park and people everywhere! Some even eating ice cream! It's like minus 4 out there! I may be exaggerating a little, but not much.

The Downs boast, if that's the right word, 5000 year old ancient burial grounds called the Five Knolls (there are in fact seven knolls!), as well as ancient rabbit burrows and fantastic views. On this occasion we didn't head to them as our son decided he wanted to walk down the downs and then back up them! I knew full well that I'd have to carry him at some point, hoping it wasn't whilst climbing back up! Thankfully it wasn't I'm happy to report. There was once the custom of rolling oranges down the slopes on Good Friday. My son would have happily followed said tradition if allowed. I could picture the scene. He, aged 4, running down chasing the orange, all arms and legs, with me following and falling flat on my face! He would be watching me, happily at the bottom with orange in hand! It is a shame some of these traditions are lost to 'health and safety', such is modern life. On this occasion I was thankful.  

The Downs are such a great place to take the family. You get the opportunity to enjoy some of the best views The Chilterns can offer. There's the rather nice visitors centre, a chance to fly kites if there's wind. On this occasion we could see the vale below stretching into the far distance. The fog had cleared and the sun was setting behind the next ridge of hills. Making for a perfect post Christmas stretch of the muscles. 

Chiltern Hills

Walking into the New Year 

New Years not only marks the beginning of a new chapter, but also the chance to stretch those legs a little more and perhaps meet one of our new years resolutions. I fully intend to walk as much as I can this year. Explore some of the villages and towns, perhaps a local pub or two. What better way to see our wonderful countryside? So to answer our headline, How to enjoy strolls on top of the world? Just put those wellies on and go!


Where do you go to stroll on top of the world? I'd love to know, so why not leave a comment on one of the various social channels available. Happy strolling. 

30 December 2016

tremendous travels, the years best bits

Review of the 2016

Well that's been one heck of a year hasn't it? To be honest, and I'm sure there are many of you who feel the same, its quite nice to say "good riddance" to it. Let's hope that 2017 will be a better year, full of hope, and success. From a Sketches point of view it has been an incredible year. The blog has continued to grow, through your support, and my ideas are flowing, hence we've got plenty in the tank for next year!  For our final post of the year we pick out the best bits, or my favourite articles. There were many I haven't included, such as the interviews with three folk musicians; Alison Reynolds, Matthew Shepherd and Kelly Oliver. My thanks to them for their patience and willingness to be interviewed. Also my new series Beyond the Back Garden, but more of that next year. 

I'd also like to take this opportunity to say, 

"Thank You"

to everyone for their support, wherever you are. From Russia to Brazil, America to Germany, Israel to Japan, I'm eternally grateful for your readership. So in no particular order here are Sketches in Travel's best bits.

From Venice to Vienna - all pictures by the author 

Travel - Europe 

Although our travelling was mainly confined to UK shores, (no bad thing), we did managed to venture into Europe twice, Italy and Austria to be precise. Taking in Venice and the Tuscan capital of Florence (Firenze) and Vienna. Beautiful cities for very different reasons. Each are packed full of history, grand buildings, art and culture. Great coffee, wonderful food and exciting attractions. Click on the links to read more and see why I thought this.

Venice  - Walking the Streets of Venice 
FlorenceFlorence Bound 
ViennaA little Guide to Vienna 

So where we will travel to next year? Who knows but you can be certain that adventures will be had, delicious food eaten and one or two photos taken. 

Exploring England 

Back in the UK three areas featured. London with our Walk the.. series, Swanage and The Cotswolds, in particular Stroud and Gloucester. They were a lot of fun to write and a particular highlight was walking the Laurie Lee Way, near Stroud. The weather was perfect, the scenery stunning, and it brought home the joys of his book and the countryside it was set in. See below the picture for links to those posts. 

looking at london
London - all pictures by the author 

The Walk the series....

London featured prominently in my posts this year. Especially with a new series of posts called Walk the.. I wanted to see London from a different perspective, so what better way than walking it! The three featured to date take in mainly the central district, although the South Bank walk did head down to Greenwich. No better way to see the city in my opinion. Links below. 

Walk the... Circle line 
Walk the... South Bank 
Walk the... Shopping Streets

As mentioned before we headed West and South, taking in some of the very best scenery our fair country has to offer. The weather was fabulous, (we do get good weather sometimes!) Making for wonderful excursions. Trust me by tapping below.

Gloucester... A day out in Gloucester
Stroud... Stroud
Swanage... Why you need to go to Swanage now

The UK has so much to offer, whatever the weather. In 2017 we're going to make sure we continue to discover and enjoy what our own backyard can offer. 

Swanage, Corfe and Gloucester - all photos by the author 

Thank You, Whoever you are 

So that's it for another year. Tremendous travels for sure. I think what this year has demonstrated is that you don't have to visit exotic places and be travelling all the time to have great experiences. Day trips are just as valid as longer vacations. Perhaps we all need to look around our local areas more, see what we have to offer as much as another country? 

Well onto a new year. Arnold will return, as will our new character Sidney. Beyond the Back Garden will develop, and Walk the.. series has some adventures lined up.  Onwards we go...continuing to create Sketches in Travel

Happy traveling everyone and may I wish everyone a great 2017.

22 December 2016

proudly introducing you to next years exciting sketches project

Sidney the Squirrel 

Let me introduce you to someone who is going to become a huge part of my life, and hopefully yours in 2017. Sidney is a new character that takes centre stage in a story that will be released next year. Whether its in book form or another format, Sidney is coming and you'll be able to follow his development here. We have no publisher to date, so its a personal journey, that whatever the outcome, will be a life affirming and enjoyable ride. 


The image (well the sneaky peek at it!) is a glimpse of a rough squirrel sketch that will become Sidney. This is a collaboration with artist Emma Shepherd (she did the artwork for her brother, Matthew Shepherd's By the Sea EP, which I featured in a post in the summer.) She will be bringing the story to life through her wonderful artwork. 

Its a project that is really exciting us both, and we wanted to wet your appetite with a glimpse at the early stages of its development. Then from time to time we're update you on the books progress. The story is written, perhaps needing some more editing and Emma is working her magic on turning this sketch into the first of the many images that will be used in the book. Hopefully we're be able to give you a preview soon. 

Reasons for Sidney

Why am I introducing Sidney to you now? Well we're going to get serious, and personal for a moment. This year has seen a dramatic change in my life, my thoughts and my outlook on life. The way I write too. I had never really suffered from anxiety or depression before, well I didn't think so anyway. Having experienced it now, I can say its truly horrible. Writing has become my release, from trying to improve this blog, and the stories I've been working on. They have helped me through the dark days and the pain. I feel more inspired now than ever before, and Sidney is the next step on that creative path. I wanted to write a story for my son, this will be that story. 

Follow the Journey 

So at various points throughout the creative process we're be giving you snippets of Sidney's development and what is happening with the book, the publishing etc. Call it our version of Pledge Music, without the pledge! We're show you some of the writing, and the artwork. I do hope you're be a part of this process? 

So look out 2017, Sidney is on the way. May I also take this moment to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. You're amazing.



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