From the much-loved Cotswolds to the picturesque Lake District, there are so many amazing nature parks and reserves in England. But I like Chiltern Hills best, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Firstly, because it's very close to London. And secondly, because it's accessible by the Metropolitan Line.
Contrary to the fears of Londoners, here's a myth: Britons are no worse off in Zone 9 than they are near Hyde Park. The locals don't even want to move closer to the centre. They're fine outdoors, especially in the midst of a pandemic. One of the reasons they don't mind being outdoors is the Chiltern Hills Conservation Area - a string of rolling hills crowned by expansive fields of sheep grazing and lush forests of wild blackberries. If you tire of the commotion on Oxford Street, there's an easy way to get out into the great outdoors on a budget (about £15). Covering over 300 square miles, the Chiltern Hills Nature Reserve stretches northwest of London. The woods start by the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, stretching across Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire before ending at Hitchin in Hertfordshire.
You don't have to go straight to Zone 9; you can still experience country life in Zone 7. But I recommend a walk through the old town of Chesham at the terminus of the Metropolitan Line first. Note that the Purple Line runs in four directions: you can also take it to Amersham, Axbridge and Watford.
Chesham is an idyllic place where one would probably like to spend his or her old age. It's a small, cosy town where residents meet at weekends for coffee to discuss the latest news. It is famous among the Brits for its four B's: boots, beer, brushes, baptists. As far back as the late Middle Ages small industries began to appear here, which over the years of the Industrial Revolution grew into large factories before falling into decline due to the war. Nevertheless, the locals still remember their great past.
There are several restaurants and pubs on the local High Street. You'll also find butchers' shops and family-run bakeries like Darvell's. Remarkably, the last one on Church Street was founded back in 1838 by William and Sarah Darvell, and in 1906 their son opened a second branch of the shop on the high street. You'll find sweet apple and ginger bread, Cornish pasties and freshly baked brownies there.
At the very end of the High Street stands the clock tower - you'll see it from afar. The tower was built in 1992 because the old town hall that stood in its place was demolished. Although the internet says that the new one is its original reconstruction, and the clock that runs just under the dome dates back to the mid-19th century.
Don't be afraid to step outside the main street: be sure to see the church, the school building and the oldest surviving house in Chesham, which has stood there since the 14th century (its address is 56 Church Street). It shouldn't take more than half an hour (or 45 minutes for the more curious).
Walking is always physically demanding. And hiking in the hills is doubly so, because you have to climb uphill. But you can sacrifice beauty for the local scenery by dressing comfortably and practically, paying particular attention to footwear. Also, take a bottle of water and perhaps a light snack: there are hardly any cafés or shops along the way (unless you make a detour into town).
Если вы были внимательны, то наверняка заметили, что через городок протекает небольшая река Чесс: она тянется через садовые участки и пробирается прямо в лес — кристально-чистая, прохладная и совсем мелкая. Длина ее — 11,1 миль (или 17,9 километров). Так что местные сообщества по охране природы, наследия и прочих важных вещей придумали пешеходный маршрут — из Чешама в Рикмансуорт, что на юго-западе Хартфордшира (или в обратном направлении) — и назвали его «Chess Valley Walk». Найти тропу вам помогут зеленые указатели с надписью «Chess Valley Walk» (искать на каждом столбе). Но если вы, как и я, не очень хорошо ориентируетесь в пространстве, объясню проще: от башни с часами, которая стоит в конце главной улицы, нужно повернуть налево и следовать по направлению к деревне Уотерсайд мимо старых фабрик. Как только попадете в лес, вы увидите и небольшой водопад, и тарзанку, и подвесные самодельные качели. А позже перед вами откроются вдохновляющие виды на холмы Чилтерн — их точно невозможно пропустить.
By the way, the trail does not have to be completed in its entirety. You can start from any point, as well as end the journey. If you decide it's time to go home in the Latimer area, be sure to take a look at the village and De Vere Manor. It's now home to a pretty hotel with a terrace overlooking the stunning scenery of the surrounding countryside.
The nearest station to go home from is Chalfont and Latimer. To reach it, you have to walk down the hill from the estate and cross the woods (prepare to take on another high ground). You've only to walk up the quiet lanes of Little Chalfont and take the train to Baker Street - you'll hear the loud clatter of the wheels.