A little way west of the hills we visited last week is an attractive area with the unlikely name of Sharpenhoe Clappers.
The name refers specifically to a steep, wooded hill just south of the village of Sharpenhoe. It's not an isolated feature but one of a large number of fingers of higher land jutting out from the main ridge of the Chiltern Hills, separated by steep short valleys. The surrounding country is criss-crossed with footpaths, some marked on the map but many unmarked, making every walk an adventure.
The Sharpenhoe Road climbs over the escarpment and there's a car park at the highest point, so you can enjoy a variety of routes and views without any significant climbing having to be done.
Needless to say this makes the area very popular, which is why my brother and I got there as early as we could and walked the most obvious paths first.
The "bird of the day" must have been the Skylark, as there were dozens of them singing high in the sky over the meadows.
Also fluttering over the grassland were many butterflies, including this Marbled White.
There were plenty of these about too: Common Spotted Orchids.
Sunshine blazing through woodlands is one of those glorious sights which doesn't take easily to being transferred to a photographic image; there's always too much contrast between sunlight and shadow. But it's fun to try anyway!
I'm trying to make a date in my mental diary to return here when Autumn colour visits this beech woodland.
And that's the village of Sharpenhoe resting down there among its green fields.
There's more walking to be had by just toddling across the road and investigating the meadows and woods leading towards the Sundon Hills.
A large bracket fungus that must have measured more than a foot (more than 30cm) across.
The woodland path eventually led out to more meadows rich with wildflowers.
This though is just common Knapweed growing beside one of the arable fields as we looped around back to the car.
Someone's bound to ask:
Sharpenhoe just means " a steep hill". The "hoe" part of it derives from the same word as "how", "haugh" and "hough" which turn up in the name of hills in various parts of Britain. It actually means a "heel" and to understand it you have to picture someone lying on their front, the heel of the foot then sticks up steeply with the foot sloping gently down towards the toes. Many hills with one of those elements in its name will be found to have that shape. I think I remember reading that the same word also lives on in a "hock" of bacon.
Clappers, on the other hand occurs in very few place names, which is surprising because it's an old word for a rabbit-warren. "Warren" occurs in lots of places, but as far as I know this is the only "clappers". Rabbit farming was once very important with both the meat and the fur being much prized. Special banks of loose earth were raised up to encourage the rabbits to burrow and these can still be seen in some locations and often have names like "Giant's Pillow" or "Giant's Grave". Their official name is still pillow mounds, but that's what they are: bedrooms for bunnies.