It was a wonderfully sunny morning, which made a change for this summer, so Debbie and I decided to go for a walk – please click on the links to see some photos. We took a look through the Pathfinder Guide for Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, and walk number 2 in Stockgrove Country Park sounded excellent, not too taxing, very much out in the countryside, and spending a lot of time in woods under the shade of the trees. However, it is worth noting that a couple of things appear to have changed since the Guide was published, and the Buckinghamshire County Council and The Greensand Trust websites also do not appear to have kept up to date. First of all, I am not sure it is still called Stockgrove Country Park. The car park had a sign saying Rushmere – Stockgrove Entrance. Secondly, the car park pricing structure has also changed, and it is now a £2 charge on exit, requiring exact change. The car park is situated on a minor road which leads to Great Brickhill, to the north east of Reach and Heath (which is a fascinating place name I have passed many times over the last few years, and have been dying to actually drive to), and we drove past it the first time because of the name sign.
We began by turning right out of the car park then immediately turning right again, before following a left-hand path to take us into the oak trees of Baker’s Wood. The route is easy to follow and we kept ahead along a fence-lined path, enjoying the quiet and the cool temperature under the trees’ canopy. The ground was firm enough underfoot, although some stretches had been softened to mud by mountain bikes, and there were some puddles to be avoided. Inside, the wood was predominantly green, and it was only outside of it, in the neighbouring fields, that we could pick out other colours of wild flowers. After a while we came to an opening and the Heath and Reach British Legion Club. We turned right, back into the trees, and kept ahead again on a pretty obvious track, making our way through trees, gorse and glades. This took us to an uphill stretch which continued gently to the brow of the hill, before it descended much more steeply to cross a bridge over a brook. The bridge is built into the track, rather than being raised in any way, and the brook was brown and hardly flowing. We continued uphill, a steeper climb this time, until we reached a track crossing our route and an oversized chair and book carved out of wood. From there we kept ahead again with the path passing a spider before descending to the edge of the wood, at which point we turned right, keeping to the boundary edge.
We had now joined the Greensand Ridge Walk and the path was keeping us to the left inside edge of Oak Wood. We passed a seat carved from wood as we kept to the left of a pond, passing some horse riders for the first time (and we would later pass those same riders again, so they must have quickly circled around), heading uphill to a crossways at which we took a right and continued going uphill. We kept straight on at the next crossways and eventually emerged from the trees on to a gravel track which passed to the left of Stockgrove House. The clock tower was delightful, including two little balconies which would have suited Rapunzel. We continued to a lane and turned right, recognising it as the lane we had driven down earlier while trying to find the car park. We started walking down the lane until it curved to the right, with a parking space to the left which leads into a public bridleway along an enclosed path by the left edge of woodland. We followed this enclosed path until we found a weather-beaten public footpath sign for Stockgrove Country Park and an overgrown stile to the right of the path. We went through the overgrowth, but could more easily have continued along the path a few more metres and turned right. It all came out into a clearing and we crossed the track to continue straight ahead, walking for some time before we reached a point with Rammamere Heath on our left and King’s Wood ahead of us. At this point we turned right along a track which ran open between the wood boundaries, passing through a gate onto a grassy path which led us back to the lane, opposite the car park which had been our starting point. It had been an easy walk in lovely conditions, finished off with an ice cream. And there was still time to get in front of a television set to see Bradley Wiggins win the Tour de France, while bringing in Mark Cavendish for his fourth Champs-Elysees stage win in a row.