Chiltern Walks: Watlington Hill Circular

Start / Finish: Watlington Hill NT Car Park, Watlington, OX49 5HS
Distance: 3.6km / 2.2 miles
Ascent: 104m
Duration: 1 hours 45 mins at at leisurely pace
Other Routes Touched: The Ridgeway
Map: OS Explorer Map Active (171) Chiltern Hills West, Henley-on-Thames and Wallingford
See also: National Trust Watlington Hill

Maybe it was the clear, sunny winter’s day, but I think I’ve found my new favourite short walk in the Chilterns. Judging from how packed was the car-park when we arrived, this is clearly a popular place. When we left at lunchtime it was overflowing with cars lined up along the road. From the car-park take a clockwise / Westerly direction and you’ll soon get great views to the North. After half a mile the trail descends steeply to Hill Road where you’ll turn left onto the Ridgeway. Follow the Ridgeway for about a quarter-mile then left a left through a gate and follow the path through the fields at the foot of the hill. The route hits a T-junction in the path at the end of the field. Take another left here and follow the path gradually ascending all the way back to the car-park.

We went to the Fox and Hounds, a 2 minute drive away on Christmas Common, for a post-walk Sunday Lunch. Its well worth the diversion as its a quaint old place with great food and service.

If you’re heading back via the M40 there’s also the Shirburn Hill Trigpoint and Bald Hill, the Oxfordshire Historic County Top within 5 minutes drive of Watlington Hill or the pub

Richard gowerComment
Chiltern Walks: Hughenden Monument Circular

Start / Finish: Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire
Distance: 3.4km / 2.1 miles
Ascent: 89m
Duration: 1.5 hours at at leisurely pace
Other Routes Touched: Hughenden Boundary Walk
Map: OS Explorer Map (172) Chiltern Hills East

Having already visited the Manor at Hughenden, this time we were back to explore the wider estate. The Monument Walk is a a great short stroll that reveals even more about the history of the estate. From the National Trust Visitors’ Kiosk follow the orange arrows for the 1-mile walk to the monument, The NT’s own web page on the walk is a great resource for info on the route and history of the monument.

Although the NT’s route directs you to retrace your steps from the monument, a better option is to continue South and make it a circuit. Pass through Little Tinkers Wood, across a small housing estate then back across Coates Lane into Hughenden Park. From here head North back to the fence surrounding the Manor.

As you re-enter the grounds take a moment to look at the gates designed by Benjamin Disraeli himself. They include a Castilian Tower, representing his Jewish heritage,which he played down in his earlier carrier but re-embraced later on. After passing the gates turn left onto the North Lawn for a great view of the house to finish the walk.

Design from the Disraeli coat of arms incorporated into the old visitors gates.

Design from the Disraeli coat of arms incorporated into the old visitors gates.

Richard gowerComment
Completing all Buckinghamshire parkruns

Buckinghamshire is my home county and includes Black Park, the first parkrun that i did on Boxing Day 2012. It also contains some of my favourite courses like Wendover Woods, Tring and Black Park itself. There’s currently 9 parkruns in present-day Buckinghamshire and you could also include Upton Court in Slough if you extend it to Historic Buckinghamshire. There’s also Springhill parkrun which is within the grounds of a closed prison, and as such is not accessible to members of the public. So, without Springhill I’ve technically not completed all of Buckinghamshire but I’m happy not to have had the opportunity to do it.



Black Park




Higginson, Marlow


Linford Wood


Milton Keynes



  • Completed: 5th January 2018

  • Time: 25:58


  • The address for Rushmere is actually in Bedfordshire but as whole course is on the Buckinghamshire side of the border, I’m including it here.


Wendover Woods


Wycombe Rye


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Cycling The River Mimram

Part of the Chilterns Rivers series.
River Source: Off Lilley Bottom Road, North-West of Whitwell, Hertfordshire
River Mouth: Confluence with River Lea, North-East of Hertford Town Football Club, Hertford, Hertfordshire
Elevation of Source: 90m
River Length: 12 miles / 20k
Date travelled: 2nd January 2019 by cycle
Route Start / End: Circular from Hertford Town Centre
Route Stats: 53 km in 4 hours 11 mins, +372 m elevation gain
Other routes touched: NCN Route 12 and 61, Chilterns Cycleway, Lea Valley Walk, Cole Green Way, Hertfordshire Chain Walk, Hertfordshire Way, The Chiltern Way Northern Extension,

This was to be the final trip in my Chilterns Rivers project, and one to satisfy my completist nature. That idea changed during research for this blog post as I noticed that I’d missed the Ouzel, the Flit and the Hiz. Not a big deal as it gives me more trips to do this year.

I’d already attempted this trip earlier in the year, only making it 5 miles in before abandoning it. I’d just come back from my Balkans trip and I was in the mood for another adventure. The wife was out for the day and tackling the Mimram seemed like a great way to spend a Sunday. It wasn’t. What I’d not factored in was that I was exhausted from the Balkans trek and it was also the middle of a heatwave. I’d also driven an hour to Hertford before realising that I’d not packed my backup USB power charger and my phone was already down to 50%. This is a complicated route and I wasn’t going to crack it without the GPS route. For some unknown reason I set off anyway then decided 5 miles in that I had neither the power in my phone or my body to complete it. My second attempt was better planned. January 2nd wasn’t in a heatwave, I was fully rested after Christmas and I’d brought my charger. I’d also brought my friend Charlie for added entertainment.

Hertford is a great base for the trip as it's a nice town with lots of parking and choices for food. For the circular trip we took an North-Westerly anti-clockwise route along mostly quiet county roads to find the source. The actual source is not accessible but we picked a quaint pond nearby to mark the start of the river section. From here the route heads South-East also along quiet country roads back to Hertford. The first couple of miles follows Lilley Bottom Road through Whitwell High Street, crossing over the river several times.

By the time we got to Welwyn we were ready for a coffee break. Despite having several pleasant looking pubs nothing seemed to be open so we continued on. This final section was the most interesting as it gave us a chance to get off-road as we got onto some bridleways through Panshanger park. Shortly after Panshanger we joined the Cole Green Way which follows a disused railway line to Hertford.

A kilometre before reaching the end we went off-piste to find the confluence of the Mimram and the Lea. Its at the end of a footpath to the east of the grounds of Hertford Town Football Club. I imagine that few locals even know its there and its a nice quiet place to mark the end of the trip.

Blue = River, Red = Cycle Route

Elevation above and map pin below show the source / pond at Frogmore stables.

Richard gowerComment
parkrun Compass Club

After a New Year’s Day visit to Westmill, I’ve now earned the (unofficial) parkrun Compass Club badge. This comes from completing parkrun events that contain the words North, East, South and West. But how many parkrun compass points are there? What’s the actual most Northerly/Easterly/Southerly or Westerly parkrun in the UK? .. In the world? So, with a bit of extra time on my hands before New Year and inspired by a debate on the UK parkrun Tourists group I had to find out …

UK North

UK East

UK South

UK West

Richard gowerComment
2018 in Numbers


  • Run: 415 miles

  • Cycle: 416 miles

  • Trek: 265 miles

  • Total = 1,096 miles

Trek = recorded hiking & walking events, not general steps.


  • 1 Ultra Marathon

  • 8 Half Marathons

  • 42 Total parkruns

  • 33 New parkruns

  • 2 New County Tops (Helvellyn, Old Man of Coniston)

  • 6 New Countries (Jordan, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Mauritius)

2018 Garmin Stats.JPG

Stats from 2010+ .. first year of tracking via Garmin

Richard gowerComment
Completing all parkruns inside the M25

Having completed Londone earlier this year, my next mission was to complete “all inside the M25” by year-end. Just squeezed it in on December 29th ….

Event (County, Region) - Finish Time on Date Completed

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Chiltern Walks: Hedgerley Circular

Start / Finish: The White Horse, Hedgerley, Village Lane, Hedgerley, Slough SL2 3UY
Distance: 9.1km / 5.6 miles
Ascent: 84m
Duration: Approx 2.5 hours at at leisurely pace
Other Routes Touched: None
Map: OS Explorer Map (172) Chiltern Hills East
See also: Bucks County Council Hedgerley Walk PDF

This one’s not technically in the Chiltern Hills AONB, but its close enough and fits into my own “Greater Chilterns” region. Hedgerley is not a place you’ll find by accident and most people speed past it on the way to London on the M40. Its worth hunting out though as this is a nice, quiet (in most places) walk with a great pub at its centre.

The whole route is a bow-tie shape with the White Horse pub in the centre. We’re locals and, with the wife feeling a bit ill, we decided to do it as 2 shorter walks on Christmas Day and Boxing day. This also gave us the opportunity for a selfie by the Christmas Lane sign 1.5m into the first part.

The Western section is longer at ~6 km with the Eastern section at just under 3.5km. Both are pleasant and relatively easy with only minor inclines. Watch out for a half-mile section on Parish Lane on the Western section which has no footpath but lots of fast cars heading toward the motorway from Stoke Poges. Once past this you’ll be rewarded with a loop of Egypt Wood, a quiet woodland next to Burnham Beeches. The Eastern section suffers from the noise of the M40 that runs really close to it. Don’t let that put you off though as it includes a pleasant walk through Hedgerley Green.

Richard gowerComment
2018 Trig Point / County Top Christmas Quiz Answers

Here’s the answers and results from the Christmas Quiz on the Facebook Finding All the UK Trig Points group.

  1. Dec 9th: Lowest Historic UK County Top that is a Munro.
    - Answer is Ben Vorlich. Trig = S6510
    - Daily Winner was Alan Smeaton

  2. Dec 10th: Highest Historic UK County Top that is not a Munro.
    - Answer is Snowdon. Trig = 10684
    - Daily Winner was Tony Jenkins

  3. Dec 11th: Highest Historic UK County Top that a Hewitt but not a Nuttall.
    - Answer is Slieve Donard Trig = OSNI 3087
    - Daily Winner was Tony Jenkins

  4. Dec 12th: Lowest Historic UK County Top that’s either a Hewitt or a Nuttall.
    - Answer is High Willhays Trig = Yes Tor, S1765
    Daily Winner was John Arthur Edwards

  5. Dec 13th: Highest Historic UK County Top that's on an island (but not the UK mainland).
    - Answer is Goatfell. Trig = S1607
    - Daily Winner was John Arthur Edwards

  6. Dec 14th: Highest Historic UK County Top that’s a not a Marilyn.
    - Answer is Moel Sych. Trig = (Cadair Berwyn) S1545
    Daily Winner was Jon Glew

  7. Dec 15th: Highest mountain that is a Marilyn and a Hewitt but neither a Nuttall nor a UK Historic County Top.
    - Answer is Carrauntoohil. Trig Pillar on Carrauntoohill has been removed. Nearest intact pillar is on Mullaghanattin
    - [
    no daily winner]

  8. Dec 16th: Highest Historic UK County Top which has a parent peak that is not another County Top. - Answer is Glas Maol. Trig = S1565
    - [
    no daily winner]

  9. Dec 17th: Highest mountain that is a Hewitt and a Nuttall but not a Marilyn or a UK County Top.
    - Answer = Garnedd Ugain (Crib y Ddysgl). Trig = S1618
    Daily Winner was Gerald Davies

  10. Dec 18th: Highest mountain that is a Nuttall but not a Hewitt, Marilyn or a UK Historic County Top.
    - Answer is Castell y Gwynt. Nearest trig pillar is the remains of 11252 on Carbedd Dafydd
    - Daily Winner was Gerald Davies

  11. Dec 19th: Highest Historic UK County Top that’s not a Marilyn, Munro, Hewitt or a Nuttall.
    - Answer is Merrick - Kirriereoch Hill (boundary). Trig = Merrick itself, S1586
    - Daily Winner was Wayne Macdonald

  12. Dec 20th: Highest Munro that is neither a Marilyn nor a Historic UK County Top.
    - Answer is Sgor an Lochain. Nearest trig pillar is on Ben Macdhui, S1579
    Daily Winner was John Arthur Edwards

  13. Dec 21st: Highest mountain that is a Hewitt but not a Marilyn, Nuttall nor a UK Historic County Top.
    - Answer is Beenkeragh. Nearest Trig Pillar on Carrauntoohill has been removed. Nearest intact pillar is on Mullaghanattin (FB# not known)
    - [
    no daily winner]

  14. Dec 22nd: Lowest Historic UK County Top that’s a Marilyn.
    - Answer is Normanby Top. Trig = 2995 (The Acre)
    - Daily Winner was Wayne Macdonald
    - Photo Bonus Point for Iain Snell

  15. Dec 23rd: Lowest Historic UK County Top that’s a Nuttall and a Hewitt but not a Marilyn.
    - Answer is Chwarel Y Fan. Nearest trig is Bal Mawr S7281
    - Daily Winner was Wayne Macdonald

  16. Dec 24th:
    - Highest mountain that is a Marilyn but not a Munro, Hewitt, Nuttall nor a UK Historic County Top.
    - Answer is Creag Toll a' Choin. Nearest trig pillar Sgurr a' Chaorachain S9446.
    (no correct guesses)
    - Highest Munro that is not a Historic UK County Top.
    - Answer is Braeriach. Nearest trig pillar Ben Macdhui S1579.
    Correct answer by Wayne Macdonald

Richard gowerComment
Chilterns parkrun

My parkrun event for the morning was Jersey Farm for its 3rd outing since starting in October. There was quite a crowd of tourists mostly there to capture the only mainland UK “J” for parkrun Alphabet. I’d already bagged the Channel Islands regionnaire, so I was here for a different reason. This was my re-bagging of the new region that I’ve made up myself: the Chiltern Hills.

There’s only 3 parkrun events in the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but the Chilterns covers a much larger area. I’ve not seen a common definition, so I’ve decided to select the boundaries marked by the rivers Thames, Colne and Lea. All rivers and streams that start in the Chiltern Hills eventually flow into these 3 rivers, so it feels like the best boundary. One could argue that the area could also include everything south of the Lea before it reaches the Thames at Limehouse Basin, but that would include most of North London too.

So, the Greater Chilterns area, a beautiful and adventure-filled region, contains 15 parkrun events so far. It also includes my home location, Black Park and 2 of my hilliest favourites, Tring and Wendover Woods. Here’s the links:

parkruns within the Chilterns Hills AONB

parkruns within the greater Chilterns AREA

Click on the map images to enlarge them

Richard gowerComment
3 Hours in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is an unlikely place to go to if you live in the UK. There’s no direct flights and the connections via the US are a pain in the arse. If you want to go to the Caribbean there’s many other places to go to first. I was fortunate enough to have a work trip there. It may have taken more time travelling than I spent there but the work was good and it gave me a very small glimpse of the Capital.

I arrived a day before the meeting with a spinning head full of jet lag and work thoughts. I needed a break and headed out to see the Old Town. I was staying at La Concha, a hotel on Condado over the bridge from Isleta de San Juan. Checking out the route on Google Maps I assumed it would be a pleasant walk from the hotel to the Old Town. I’m not sure about pleasant but it was certainly interesting.

The first stop over the bridge was San Geronimo Fort. It appeared abandoned but the gates were open so I wandered in. A couple of minutes later a man came out of a hut and spoke to me in Spanish. I assumed he was a security guard shooing me away but he turned out to be quite welcoming. He just wanted me to be careful as it was raining and slippery. In many other islands this would have been a well kept tourist attraction. This was my first experience of a city very much feeling the impact of economic decline and the devastating effects of the 2017 hurricane.

Moving on towards the Old Town, the hurricane’s effects became even clearer as I reached Parque del Tercer Milenio. In what should have been a busy recreational spot, there was literally no one around for a full 10 minutes. It had a real 28 Days Later feel about it. Loads of cars were parked up but no people. Buildings that should have been busy were abandoned and decaying.

The first person I saw was a homeless guy coming out of a beach changing hut. He started staggering in my general direction. This didn’t help with the zombie movie feel and I had a minor internal freak out so started walking more quickly. After a couple more similar encounters I moved off the beach path and onto the sidewalk next to the main road. Here there was another homeless guy walking towards me down the middle of the busy road.

Despite the ever-increasing feeling that I should have taken a taxi to the Old Town, I was glad I walked there. It gave me a very real view of a city struggling to get back on its feet. The homeless guys weren’t dangerous, just out of options.

By the time I reached Castillo de San Cristóbal I’d crossed a line into the Old Town and into a very different feeling. This was the boundary of the Spanish-era city walls and the furthest point that most cruise tourists visit. This was UNESCO-town with all the investment in repairs to keep the tourists coming back.

After waiting 10 mins for a dithering group of tourists to work out how to count themselves I decided to leave the Castillo and come back later. Instead I continued West along to the top of the fortifications. I passed La Perla community, some great street art and Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi cemetary along the way. Having a tour guide or at least a book would have been great. This was a whistle-stop lone walkabout so I had to make do with great views but no historical context.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro San Juan is at the end of the island. With no dithering cruise groups to block my entrance, I had a look around. By now time was ticking on and I needed to start heading back. My final hour was a meander through the beautiful streets of the Old Town with a couple of diversions to Puerta De San Juan and Iglesia San José, finally returning to Castillo de San Cristóbal. By now the cruisers had sorted themselves out and I had a clear run at getting in.

Both Castillos are managed by the US National Park Service and are well maintained with interesting information panels. They also both have great views of the city from the tops of the fortifications. By the time I got to the top of San Cristobal my jet-lag kicked in and all I could think about was getting a taxi back to the hotel.

I would have loved more time in the city and even more to explore the island. I'd checked out Cerro de Punta, the Island High Point, but that would have been a whole day trip. Its tough to be disappointed though as a unexpected trip to San Juan was still a great experience. My main memory is having talked to some of the locals about their experience of living through the after effects of the storm. They're a hardy and friendly bunch and I'm glad to have met a few of them.

Richard gowerComment
Cycling The Maidenhead Boundary

The Maidenhead Boundary Walk is a well signposted route around my hometown. In my not-so-adventurous days growing up there I remember the annual charity walk passing near my home and thinking “why would anyone want to walk all that way?”. Nowadays 15 miles is well within “Short micro-adventure” territory and I was keen to cycle it as soon as I saw the route mapped on RideWithGPS.

Although its obviously designed as a walk, its very cycle-friendly with only 1 section on the Thames Path that’s not for cycling (see below). The rest is mostly quiet roads and bridleways with a few kissing gates thrown in, but large enough to get your bike through. The off-road parts can get muddy so take a Mountain Bike.

The charity walk starts at Boulters Lock, however I chose Ockwells Park as a better start and end point. This has easy access from the M4, free parking and a cafe with toilets. Its also the mid-point of the Southern section of the route. From here head West following small roads and a path to the Shire Horse pub at the A4.

The Western section heads North through National Trust land, passing through Maidenhead Thicket, Pinkneys Green and the old Brick and Tile Works. This is the highest point on the route at 85m. From here the route descends toward the Thames with views of Cliveden to the East and Windsor Castle to the South-East. The whole of the Eastern section follows the Thames Path, crossing over from the West Bank to the East Bank at the A4 Maidenhead Road Crossing. You’ll cross back over the Thames on the noisy M4 crossing at Dorney Reach.

Back on the Southern section, the route passes through Bray, Braywick and Maidenhead Golf Course before crossing over the A404M footbridge and returning to Ockwells Park.

This was a really pleasant couple of hours cycling for an Autumn Sunday afternoon

Below: location of the recommended start point at Ockwells Park


Cycle Diversion

The only section that doesn’t allow cycling was at KM 14 where Islet Road becomes a footpath to the Thames. I got off and pushed, however if you want to stay on your bike, just keep on the A4094 Lower Cookham Road and don’t take the left turn onto Islet Road. I recommend sticking to the route and taking the short walk along the Thames for some nice views.

More on the web:

Books and maps:

Take lower Cookham Road to avoid cycle ban on Thames Path

Richard gowerComment
Completing all Surrey parkruns

With Cranleigh ticked off this morning I’ve completed all parkruns in the present day county of Surrey. Well, just about… as another new one popped up last night at Brooklands near Weybridge. It doesn’t start til next week so, until then, I’m claiming all 11 parkruns in the county. As I’m a Historic Counties nerd, I’m also claiming the 16 parkruns that were part of “classic” Surrey until Greater London was formed the ‘60s, but are now covered by the LonDone parkrun regionnaire. Hazelwood is the interesting one having been in both Historic Surrey and Middlesex and is within the M25 but outside Greater London.

** Updated on 29/12/2018 with Brooklands **

parkruns in present-day Administrative County of Surrey

Banstead Woods



  • Completed: December 29th 2018




Frimley Lodge








Mole Valley




Reigate Priory


BONUS: Riddlesdown

See the LonDone post for location map, elevation, finish time and link

This one’s in the Greater London parkrun region and the Historic county of Surrey but also touches on the present-day county of Surrey. The start is just on the London side of the border with the finish in Surrey



parkruns in Historic County of Surrey but now IN Greater London

Richard gowerComment
Stevenage Half Marathon

When: November 2nd 2018
Where: Stevenage, Hertfordshire, UK
Course: 2 lap, fairly flat, traffic free route, starting and ending at Ridlins Athletic Track. Takes in Fairlands Valley Park, home of Stevenage parkrun
Finish time: 2 hours 3 minutes

Richard gowerComment
Predator Seabreacher Adventure

This was my birthday present from The Wife: a trip round and under Victoria Dock, London in a metal killer whale. As I was strapping myself into it the guy looked at my voucher and told us that they don’t sell the 30 minute version any more as too many people were throwing up inside. I was fine as we’d already bought it but I just wished that he’d told me after. Don’t do this if you’re remotely sea-sick, claustrophobic or hung-over (they also have a long list of other conditions on their risk assessment). For anyone else, its awesome. Check out the video and imagine half an hour of the same.

Richard gowerComment
Tough 10, Epping Forest

When: October 21st 2018
Where: Epping Forest, London
Course: Single lap hilly trail race starting on Chingford Plain and snaking through the hills of Epping Forest.
Other Trails touched: London Loop, Greenwich Meridian Trail 
Finish time: 1 hour 2 minutes

They weren’t joking when they called it Tough 10! This was never going to be a PB and a week of 3 long haul flights and epic jet lag didn’t help either. Great course though and I even managed to bag a new Trig Point at Pole Hill, 7k in.

Richard gowerComment
Fort Reno, Washington DC

This was my second US State(ish) High Point of the year. Similar to High Point, New Jersey earlier in the year it was a convenient evening excursion whilst working in the area. This one is a pretty underwhelming “peak” in a fairly flat city. At 125m the highest point isn’t even higher than the Washington Monument. Even so, its easy to get to and there’s decent nearby parking so it’s a worthwhile trip for any High Point geek already in the DC area.

You can get to the high point by walking up to the gates of the Department Of Transportation salt depot. There’s a large brick tower behind the gates so you can’t miss it. There’s also a USGS-style survey marker at the highest natural point in the park. I spent half an hour searching for it but then gave up as my jetlag was kicking in and finding a solution for that became more interesting than finding the plaque.

Richard gowerComment
Wills Neck, Quantocks

Significance: Highest peak in the Quantocks AONB,
Member of: Marilyn, Hardy
Elevation: 263 m
Date climbed: September 15th 2018
Coordinates: 51.1096° N, 3.1937° W
Route Start / End: Out and back from the car-park next to the Forest Office on Cockercombe Road. Follow the track up to the T-junction, then its a ~4k circular walk taking in the high-point.
Route Stats: 8.5 km in ~3 hours, +217 m elevation gain
Subsidiary tops on route: none
OS Map: OS Landranger 181

Richard gowerComment
Surrey Bacchus Wine Half Marathon

When: September 9th 2018
Where: Denbies Wine Estate, Surrey, UK
Course: Single lap hilly trail race that looks like a waving alien on its side. Starts and ends in Denbies Wine Estate, Dorking and passes through National Trust land, Dorking Wood and Ashcombe Wood.
Other Trails touched: North Downs Way, Ranmore SCC, Prospects of Polesden SCC
Finish time: 2 hours 11 minutes

Half Marathon #46 of 50 and my favourite so far. There were 5 wine stops along the route with wines from the Denbies Wine estate, plus pizza, cake and music. Basically, a big party with a bit of running in between.

Richard gowerComment