For today’s walk I’m driving out into the Buckinghamshire countryside about 13 miles from home. Just a short drive, but an adventure in itself, as these country lanes were not built for two cars to pass. Winding along with high hedges either side there’s no chance of seeing what’s ahead. I just hold my breath and hope for the best.
No wonder Caractacus Potts ran Truly Scrumptious off the road here! Yes, today I’m walking around Turville, scene of one of my favourite childhood films, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The famous windmill where Grandpa Potts had his workshop sits up on the hill above the village. It’s actually called Cobstone Mill and was built in 1816 to grind cereals. It dominates the landscape for miles around. Just looking up at it makes me want to sing…’Oh, you, chitty chitty bang, pretty chitty bang bang, we love you…’
You may not have heard of Turville or the surrounding villages, but chances are you’ve seen them on the telly at some point. The lovely old Church of St Mary the Virgin was renamed St Barnabus in The Vicar of Dibley.
Miss Marple has been filmed here, as has Lewis, and more recently Killing Eve. The scenes of Little Britain featuring barman Daffyd Thomas were shot here – he was the only gay in the village, this village!
The Bull and Butcher is the village pub. Yes, it’s closed. This is getting very tedious now, a thirsty walker needs public houses to be open. A bottle of wine is a bit too heavy for the backpack! A plaque outside the door proclaims the fact that the pub has starred in various episodes of Midsomer Murders. I bet my Mum recognises it.
Cute as the village is, I’m not here to hang around. My walk starts just by the entrance to the churchyard, along a lane and onto the Chiltern Way through a tunnel of green.
Looking back, the windmill stands proud above the lush countryside. I can feel another song coming on, maybe ‘Hushabye Mountain’ this time? I wish my sister Gill was with me, she’d sing along, and she knows all the words, we must have watched that film 100 times!
The paths climbs up through woodland and fields full of sheep. It’s lambing time, so all you can hear is bleating. And me singing, of course. Luckily there are very few people around to object, and the sheep don’t seem to mind.
I pause at the top of the hill to catch my breath – it’s quite a steep climb. Sure enough, there’s the windmill again, gleaming in the distance. Not for the first time, I feel really thankful to have such amazing countryside to explore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still looking forward to my next flight out of here, but for the moment these walks are satisfying my need to explore. On we go, back into the trees.
The pathway turns downhill towards the next village of Skirmett, which looks pretty idyllic down in the valley.
I’m startled by something moving behind a fence, but it’s only two very friendly horses, who come up close to check me out.
In the next field, I spot a large herd of very content looking deer and stand to watch them for a while, it’s quite relaxing.
Skirmett itself is just one street beside a stream, with lots of chocolate box cottages and a pub, of course. It’s quiet, but a few locals shout ‘hello’ as I stroll past.
My route circles back across fields behind the village and past the very aptly named Watery Lane. At this point I begin to question the appropriateness of my Birkenstocks – comfy they are, waterproof they are not. Damp feet it is then!
I’m heading across open fields now to my final destination of Fingest. Just me, with a soundtrack of baas and birdsong and ‘It’s the posh, posh travelling life, the travelling life for me’. Wishful thinking…
Fingest was the location of The Monuments Men but unfortunately I can report that neither George Clooney nor Matt Damon was anywhere to be seen on the day of my visit.
The village church of St Bartholomew is worth seeing though. It dates from early Norman times and is absolutely beautiful. My Mum would love it, in fact this walk could have been designed for her.
Outside the Chequers pub, another plaque proudly announces that Midsomer Murders has been here too, several times. He likes his pubs, that Chief Inspector Barnaby. Mind you, there have been 21 seasons since 1997, so I guess he’s had plenty of time to get around.
Back towards Turville we go, along a path which seems designed to trip up a clumsy walker like me. Tree roots everywhere, just lying in wait… I decide to stop singing and concentrate. The husband will not be impressed if I go home covered in cuts and bruises (it’s been known to happen in the past).
Emerging from the trees, there’s that windmill once again overseeing the landscape. I cross a meadow and down a lane back into strangely-familiar Turville. Another walk done and dusted, and very lovely it was too. As I keep saying, get out there.
Back in the car, I realise I have to face those hair raising roads once more. Yikes! Maybe another song will help? Something upbeat. ‘Toot Sweets’ it is then. If you haven’t seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, then you must.