Walking (and eating!) in the Chilterns

I am very lucky to live where I do, in a picturesque village right on the edge of Ashridge Forest in the Chilterns area - a dream location for anyone who likes walking.

I've been living in Hertfordshire for over 20 years and the sight of serious walkers passing through the village is a familiar one. They are usually properly attired wearing raincoats,  multi-pocketed trousers and serious walking boots, and are often carrying walking poles, rucksacks and are adorned with a necklace featuring a plastic-wrapped map on string round their neck.

I am not what you'd call a keen walker, more a fan of the internal combustion engine really, but even I enjoy the occasional expedition into the beautiful countryside in my area, especially when it incorporates some form of food.

Luckily in and around Tring and Berkhamsted which are both within stone's throw of my home, we have some wonderful kid and dog friendly pubs and cafes, including the fabulous Brownlow cafe up by the Ashridge Monument.

It  serves amazing freshly cooked food (no friers or microwaves) at very reasonable prices and has the added advantage of being right next to a National Trust shop stuffed with shiny things. Seriously, you could do your entire Christmas shop right there and then enjoy a cream-filled scone the size of your head.

We went up there with friends (and their dogs) yesterday, and I had a real job choosing what to have from the menu. I had a lovely tuna-topped jacket potato followed by a home-made giant cookie then wished I had copied DH and ordered the fab all day breakfast which featured the nicest looking locally produced sausages....

The route up to Ashridge Monument from Tring, via Aldbury is hilly so if you prefer flat walks you could follow the canal joining the towpath at almost any point between Aylesbury to Hemel Hempstead for a lovely walk.

If I turn one way at Tring Station I pass several good pubs and a lovely cafe which does excellent cream teas, turn the other way and discover yet more canal side pubs and the distraction of beautiful Berkhamsted where you can eat anything from sushi to salmon smoked on the premises at HERE, or fab fish and chips from the takeaway right next to the railway station.

I confessed I am not a keen walker. In fact I have been known to turn up for what I thought would be  a gentle ramble wearing flip-flops only to suffer the ignominy of manure-coated toes and nettle rash.

Let me explain - the first time this happened I was the parent help at Cubs and forgot to read the schedule for that week which to be fair clearly stated that we were going for a walk. Walk? More like 4X4 experience without the Landrover!

The second time I believed I was just heading to a friends for supper, forgetting she always likes to take the dogs out in fields around her home at that time of night. I said I'd go along, not realising her village is practically infested with cows!

I jest, but even if you are like me and only walk relatively short distances (due to the double edged sword of Fibromyalgia and natural laziness) and that not exactly frequently, it is still important to be suitably dressed, with footwear being the most important item to consider.

No-one likes blisters or sore feet so invest in the best quality boots you can, and my top tip would be to also treat yourself to some special two-layer walking socks.  My daughter wore these for our church's annual pilgrimage walk from Tring to St Albans (about 18 miles) arriving tired but completely blister free!

Even if the day looks bright and sunny pack a lightweight waterproof jacket which will double up as a warm layer if the weather changes. Always carry water- walking is thirsty work- and snacks in case you get to your cafe of choice and find it is closed for refurbishment, or so packed with other walkers you can't get in!

Not sure where to walk or don't want to hike without a purpose other than getting from A to B? There are lots of resources online including GPS treasure hunts designed for smartphones and geocaching challenges, you could treat yourself to a National Trust membership or you could buy a book of routes in the area you live or are holidaying in. I particularly like the ones which feature walks which include a stop off at a pub or a cafe for a cream tea - but then I would, wouldn't I?

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