A Walk Along the Dunstable Downs
Enjoy complete sole satisfaction this Winter when exploring the great outdoors with our collection of beautifully versatile boots. And with the help of blogger and WI member Penny from ‘Being Mrs C’ be inspired to explore, clear the mind and enjoy the world around us. Penny tells us…
Bearing in mind that I have never actually lived by the sea, I strangely find myself missing it at times. There’s something about walking along a cliff top, staring out at the vast expanse of water in front of you that gives you a sense of perspective on things. Whatever the weather the sea is always fascinating to look at – be it flat and calm, or stormy and moody. I could happily spend hours there just watching the water.
But what about when you live at one of the most landlocked parts of the country – Hertfordshire? How do you get your costal walk fix then? The answer is a short hop over the county boundary into Bedfordshire and a visit to the glorious Dunstable Downs on the edge of the Chilterns. There may be no sea to see, but the view and immense sense of space somehow make up for that. Walking along the top of the Downs feels akin to walking along a cliff top, especially on one of those days when the fog has descended and obscured some of the view.
With the weather having announced winter’s arrival with the first frost of the year on the car that morning, I pulled on my gorgeous new Hotter Belle boots and admired the lovely rich purple colour and headed towards the Downs. It’s my special place for a walk to clear my head and take time out to put some distance between me and all those crazy things that we have going on in our busy lives. With the afternoon sun starting to sink in the sky it was the perfect place to go to stretch my legs after a morning spent sat huddled over my laptop.
Icknield Way Trail
The route I like to follow is part of the Icknield Way Trail, which covers a total of six counties if you choose to walk the whole 170 miles. I may not be going for a long distance walk, but the section I love is part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and when you’re there on the Downs you can really see why it deserves to be such.
As always, I start my walk at the Chilterns Gateway Centre and from the car park there simply head out towards the view. The height and open space makes it a perfect area for kite flying and all year round you’ll find there’s at least enough of a breeze there for children of all ages to have a go at flying a kite. On some days there may be limited success, but on a windy day the sky is full of kites and the grass full of children trying to control them!
Your arrival at the Icknield Way Trail itself is marked with a strange, and huge, metallic structure sticking out of the ground. A first glance may think it’s part of a crashed aircraft that has been left there for some weird reason, but the truth behind it is that it’s a fancy ventilation system for the visitor’s centre that’s behind you.
As you then continue north on the Trail the kite flyers are replaced by what some may call the grown up equivalent – paragliders. Members of the Paragliding Club travel for miles to come to the Dunstable Downs and it’s fascinating to watch them waiting for the conditions to be exactly right before they’re picked up into the air by the thermals. Once they’re airborne it’s so incredibly relaxing to watch their colourful canopies slowly meandering their way back down to earth.
The air excitement doesn’t end there though. At the base of the Downs is the London Gliding Club and you regularly see the tug plane taking a glider up to the thermals before leaving it to ride the thermals above the Chilterns. My children love having an uninterrupted view of all this going on and are fascinated by the idea of these “planes without engines”.
My final destination on this walk is Five Knolls. From there you’re given a 360 degree panorama which in one direction gives you the beautiful Downs and a vast expanse of beautiful Chilterns Chalk Grassland.
Turning the opposite way you see the complete opposite and spot the snaking path of the M1 as it heads north and cuts through Luton and Dunstable and their industrial outskirts. You can also catch sight of passenger planes taking off from Luton airport, busy taking people away on holidays or business trips. It’s an image which seems a million miles away from the peace and quiet of the gliders I was watching moments before.
Time To Relax…
I then turn my back on reality for a bit longer and head back to the Chiltern Gateway Centre and the hot cup of tea and Bedfordshire Clanger (now made famous by the Great British Bake Off!) that I know will be waiting for me in the cafe. All winter walks need to end with warming your hands on a mug of steaming tea or hot chocolate as far as I’m concerned. My Hotter boots may have kept my feet warm, but cold hands and fingers are a different matter.
Fit For Exploring
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