Friday, 17 September 2021

Walking through bluebells

FOR your own personal bluebell wood, try the other end of Rocky Lane, where it emerges from the right on to the Peppard to Nettlebed road, just before Highmoor.

Park on the verge of crunchy beech leaves at the top end, instead of down below Greys Court, and take the first bridleway on the right — the log-lined path is to keep you off the intensely blue patch of bluebells — or walk to the bend in the lane and continue straight on into an enchanting parkland, planted 100 years ago with a rich variety of specimen trees.

This is also a bridleway so there is a good wide gate designed for riders to open and you don’t have to balance across the cattle grid.

At the bottom of the slope beside the Scots pines, on the edge of an old gravel pit now inhabited by badgers, you may take the path to the right over a style and walk down through beech, holly and bluebells towards the National Trust woods.

Turn right at the bottom of the hill by the two blonde and beautiful Highland cattle chewing the cud. It can be muddy and there are several paths up to the right which will bring you back on to Rocky Lane.

For a longer round, turn left at the gravel pit, before the next cattlegrid, and take the gate into another enchanting, blue-carpeted beech wood, where the sun filters through the soft emerald of new leaves.

This, too, can be muddy as there has been wood extraction and we are on the chalk and clay of the Chilterns, where tiny wild raspberries and gooseberries fruit in summer.

Continuing to a crossroads among the rhododendrons, now in flower, turn left to follow another bridleway back to Rocky Lane, emerging close to the cattle grid.

For a longer circuit, continue through the woods towards the sad wreck of the redundant Dog and Duck at Highmoor but turn back to the left before you reach the pond and roar of the road and follow the waymark posts and arrows to a field bordering on Rocky Lane — no styles on this route, but lots of puddles to jump and logs to balance on.

The rich clover you walk across (please keep in line to avoid damaging it) back to the lane is part of the four-crop rotation of the Nettlebed Estate.

Next comes winter wheat or oats for sale or to make into silage for winter cow feed, followed by a spring barley and bean mix which fixes the nitrogen in the soil and feeds the cows, then turnips for sheep and a fallow summer.

This rotation protects against the build-up of pests and disease, helps biodiversity and spreads the risk of crop failure.

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