Friday, 28 September 2018

More From The Hills

Last time I showed you my walk through part of the eastern extremity of the Chiltern Hills, which included the spectacular views from the Pegsdon Hills, Deacon Hill and Knocking Hoe. Needless to say such a location, in such crystal clear weather, induced a frenzy of shutter-clicking. So here are a few more photos of that day, interspersed with more or less random thoughts.

When our medieval ancestors had any sort of dispute they called a meeting to thrash out their differences. They had a building specially for the purpose, it was called a Moot Hall. The word "moot" exists today only in the phrase a "moot point", meaning something which is in doubt and needs debate. Before they had Moot Halls people had the curious habit of calling such meetings on hill tops, moot hills. Since most of their disputes were about land ownership this makes perfect sense; in a time with no accurate maps, from up here you could simply point to the lands, boundaries or tracks which were being discussed.

The Chilterns are named after the Cilternsaete, who were an early tribe who inhabited this area, probably living in the valleys along the northern edge and grazing their animals and also burying their dead on the higher land. Before the Romans came building their roads across the country, the top of this ridge provided the safest and easiest way across the country but by the medieval period things had reversed and these hills provided a refuge for bands of robbers and outlaws.

On top of Deacon Hill stands this concrete pillar which is a remnant from the map-making activities of the Ordnance Survey. From the top of the pillar they would take bearings onto all the prominent landmarks, then they would transfer their activities to other hill tops, which were a known distance away. By taking bearings from these other points they could then painstakingly calculate the exact position of every feature of the landscape in order to make their maps. Nowadays these pillars are redundant as aerial photography and satellite-mapping have taken their place.

Lilley Hoo, the wide ridge by which I approached this area was once a racecourse for horses and King Geoge IV and other rich and noble people were known to attend. There's still a lot of horse-riding in the area today, though of a rather more sedate nature.

Robin Andrea asked via a comment about our English footpaths and how come we can walk about on private land. Very briefly, in past centuries when most people travelled everywhere on foot there was a dense network of tracks and paths. Although there have been many changes of land use since those times, English law upholds the right of all citizens to wander where they have "since time immemorial". Thus there are "rights of way" which traverse all kinds of land - moorland, agricultural land, meadows, woods, forests, clifftops, even sometimes across people's gardens. I wrote a bit about it back in 2014 and I'm gradually collecting photos for another look at our footpath heritage which I might put together on some long winter's evening.

A convenient seat for an old chap like me to sit down. I like to think I'm still about 25 but the birth certificate disagrees and I find myself a gentleman of leisure. Increasingly I receive appropriate little acts of kindness from the general public - doors are held open, bus drivers wait for me to be seated before they move off, and if I take anything back to a shop I'm listened to with patience and understanding. Quite why we can't behave like this to everyone all the time I'm not sure. The irony is that I used to be a hard-working member of society doing a very necessary job, whereas now I'm a sort of idle parasite living off a pension. I think I'll sit down for a while anyway.

I've been thinking about that heap of rubbish we saw that was rather spoiling the landscape at one point in my walk. Looking at the map it's too far from a road to be fly-tipping - though there's certainly plenty of that around the countryside. This seems to have been dragged there perhaps by the owner of the land. I would be tempted, on reflection, to think they might be going to set fire to it, except that there's a toilet included.

As I walked from the village of Lilley
The weather was sunny but chilly
If you followed the path
For nine miles and a half
You'll find it decidedly hilly.

Take care.


  1. I feel as if I could step into any one of your photos and enjoy the scenery and a light breeze, and then walk along the same paths. It's good to see fields which have been plowed, and I wonder what crops were planted there...not too seriously however. Just gives me a sense that farming is still alive and well there.

  2. Hi John - wonderful photos as you say ... a great day for photography. England is wonderful on days like that. Wonderful commentary as you take us along your relaxing pensionable day - thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading your footpath post in due course ... cheers Hilary

  3. I find your explanation and history of the trail system and access to be interesting and a very practical situation. I wish we had something similar. We have so much to see but little access.

  4. Another great wander. The countryside is breathtaking!

    I like that you can wander anywhere. So much property here is provate and inaccessible.

  5. Thank you so much for answering my questions. I love that there are historical "rights of way." It does make for truly beautiful wanderings. I laughed out loud about your idle parasitic self. Yes, we old folks on pensions do get shown a lot acts of kindness.

  6. Decidedly hilly indeed but so beautiful.

  7. I think the OS maps we use are indispensable when it comes to finding footpaths and rights of way, shape some landowners seem to have their own ideas on this. Trianglation pillars like the one you photographed are marked on them as well. A great walk you had with superb scenery

  8. Beautiful ancient hills... as I exclaimed when we drove from the airport at my first sight of England. My husband and son thought it quite funny .. as I guess all hills are ancient.
    But I was thinking of all that had gone before.
    Love the thought of all those trails and footpaths.

  9. The Chilterns are a fascinating landscape. As I understand it, Scotland has even more interesting rules about public access than in England.

  10. I always learn a lot when reading your posts. The English rights of way are fascinating! Not sure we have anything like that in the US, other than the occasional easement. I also enjoy seeing your beautiful countryside!

  11. This is an incredible looking view. I love the wonderful looking scenery. Really great photos. Thanks for the share, have a fantastic rest of your day. Keep up the posts.

    World of Animals

  12. The countryside is stunning. Lovely views everywhere you look. I'm glad that you wander around and share your findings with us with your fantastic images.
    Thank you!

  13. One of the pluses of growing old is that you see the best of people in their thoughtfulness and consideration for the elderly. I find this quite comforting!!

  14. I enjoyed a virtual walk on those hills! Lovely collection of views and a few interesting facts thrown in too :)

  15. I bet moot hall or hill meetings got a bit rowdy! Fantastic photos!


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).