Tuesday, 23 June 2020

A Visit To The Clappers

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.

Take care.


  1. Fascinating as ever John - and if there is a sky lark singing then there is no competition is there?

  2. A lovely post, John. This appears to be great walking country, and, based on your photos, I think I would be willing to settle in the village of Sharpenhoe tomorrow. Skylarks are not native to North America, so what we know of that species usually come from the English poetry we studied in school. We do have horned larks, which I see quite often. We also have meadowlarks, which, notwithstanding the name, are not really larks. They belong to the blackbird family.

  3. England is full of unlikely names, and I am always fascinated by them! The common weed is still a beauty, and so it that view of treetops and sunshine. You had a good day for a walk that must provide views at every turn.

  4. What a beautiful walk that is there, John. I may have to send a link to this post to my twin brother. It will make him want to move to England even more than he already does. Thank you for all of it, the beautiful photos and the details.

  5. It is quite likely that you could meet my youngest son and his wife up there, it is a regular haunt of there's too.
    I read somewhere that barbers in earlier centuries used to use the bracket fungus to sharpen their blades and knives because it is very tough and acts like a leather strap.

  6. This is a fascinating and beautiful post.
    Thank you.
    I think you did an impressive job capturing the sun streaming through the trees too.

  7. Love those forest scenes especially John. An autumn visit is warranted!

  8. Wow! Another awesome hike! I do love the bright purple Knapweed - so vibrant! Thanks so much!

  9. Living in the middle of a large city, I so love seeing your country walks!

  10. You are obviously having wonderful weather to enjoy those lovely walks. The little village of Sharpenhoe looks delightful.

  11. I am very envious of your wonderful countryside, and at the same time so love your descriptions of the land and your walks through it. Have never seen a knapweed bloom, - lovely shade of purple and it makes up for the troubles the knapweed brings to fields and orchards.

  12. Thanks John - loved the photos ... England at its best. Thank you for the know-how about the village and the hills or rabbit warrens. That knapweed is delightful. Gorgeous - enjoy some shady walks this week ... take care - Hilary

  13. So many shades of green. A beautiful area for hiking.

  14. Glorious English vistas John, I'm already looking forward to seeing them in autumn.. don't want to wish away your summer to soon though 😉

  15. Wow, what a gorgeous countryside. The views are so serene. And the wildflowers, oh my, God did not leave anything out of the beauty here. Those bunny bedrooms bother me though. I can't stand the thought of hurting the bunnies. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  16. A walking wonderland! Great photos, great views! Thanks, John.

  17. Thank you for taking us walking with you! Your photos are so wonderful :)

  18. I have a bad habit of going to google maps, and traveling down roads...you know how you click the little yellow man...and then click a place on one of the highlighted roads. So I go do that and forget to comment...I love seeing your photos, they are better than the ones I see on there.

    1. I'm not surprised; that little yellow man should get off the roads and explore the lanes and footpaths!

  19. Wonderful walk and photos, I love the names of the places you visit on your travels:)

  20. It doesn't matter what season it is a very picturesque area. Love the shot of the village nestled among the trees and fields. So English!


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