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. 

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