Front Page Titles (by Subject) 30.: Walking Tour of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and Surrey 3-15 JULY, 1828 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVII - Journals and Debating Speeches Part II
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVII - Journals and Debating Speeches Part II
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
30.: Walking Tour of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and Surrey 3-15 JULY, 1828 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVII - Journals and Debating Speeches Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVI - Journals and Debating Speeches Part II, ed. John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Walking Tour of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and Surrey
MS, Yale University Library, John Stuart Mill Papers, Box 2, MS 350. On this tour Mill’s companions, in addition to Horace Grant, who had also accompanied him on the previous tour (see No. 29), were Francis Edward Crawley (1803-32), and Edwin Chadwick (1800-90), the latter a close associate of Mill’s from this time throughout life. Chadwick and Grant left Mill and Crawley on 14 July to return to London. As not published in Mill’s lifetime, not listed in his bibliography.
Thursday 3rd July 1828
Set out from town this morning with Crawley, Chadwick, and Grant, on a tour to the Stoken-Church and Chiltern Hills. We set off from the Black Lion, Water Lane, by a Reading coach, which leaves that inn at half past eight, and which we chose as well for its early hour, as because it possesses the privilege of driving through Windsor Great Park. The road as far as Staines Bridge is tame and common place enough but becomes interesting immediately on entering Surrey. The river to the right, St. Ann’s Hill to the left, Cooper’s Hill and the high ground of Windsor Park in front, compose a pretty enough ensemble. Shortly after passing through the neat town of Egham, we left the great western road, and ascending a hill to the right, came upon some high flat ground intersected by waste and plantations, not like any thing which I ever remember to have seen. We passed through Englefield Green, a pretty village surrounding a common, and composed chiefly of gentlemen’s houses and gardens, and we shortly after entered the Great Park. This is composed of a large tract of sand hill, gradually sloping down toward the Castle and Town, and forming in its descent some exceedingly fine broken ground, the whole (with the exception of some copse and shrubbery about the Royal Cottage of which we could but just see the chimnies over the trees) beautifully laid out in the forest stile with large trees and glades. Our road led us along the brow of the hill, and afforded us numerous shifting views of the castle and town, which are situated on a hill at the northern extremity of the Great Park. The castle is at the top of the hill; the town on its side, and like all towns so situated, very striking. We saw it, first by occasional glimpses through the trees, then in full view, then down the fine avenue called the Long Walk, of which it formed a magnificent termination. The Park, with the exception of this Walk and some other avenues, has completely the air of a forest, with the common deer and the red deer with their noble antlers moving about it or reposing themselves. When we left the Park, we descended the hill, and found ourselves in a corn country the greater part of which was to appearance newly inclosed, and had indeed been taken in from Bagshot Heath at no very long interval. It appeared to yield tolerably good corn, and there were some fir plantations on it, but these were less good, the quantity of other trees intermixed and profiting by their shelter not being sufficient. We left Ascot Race Course to our left, within sight, and rejoined the Bath Road at the village of Bracknel, a place on a hill, which, as we observed in most of the places which we passed through, resembled more a town in the West of England, than those near London, the houses being smaller and less ornamented, and the general appearance of the place not so neat. The truth is that we were now out of the range of the houses and white cottages of persons living in London and passing a day or two days of the week in the country. The ground near us continued for some distance further, to be nearly of the same character as before, but it gradually became more woody, and at the approach to Oakingham a fine view opened to the left. Bagshot Heath appeared to form a fine long ridge dropping suddenly down at its western extremity near Sandhurst, and two round hills appeared between it and Oakingham, one of them nearly bare, the other with a large tree or clump of trees at the top, bearing a considerable resemblance in shape to the round volcanic hills of Cette and Agde on the coast of Languedoc.1 One of these hills I remember is called Edgeborough Hill—and from one of them, but I forget which I have when living near Sandhurst College,2 looked down upon Oakingham.—The town of Wokingham or Oakingham, like the village of Bracknel, has more the appearance of a West of England town than of one in the south eastern counties. In the outskirts, the houses are shabby enough: in the centre there is a large open market place, on which several good houses look out, although rather in the old stile, and one of them (that of the surgeon) so like an inn, that we looked about us for the sign. From Oakingham to Reading it is a common-place corn country, not ugly, nor very beautiful. We crossed the Loddon, celebrated in Pope’s Windsor Forest,3 and about three o’clock arrived at Reading, seeing to our right the valley of the Thames, and the beautiful chalk hills beyond. Reading is an exceedingly large country town, with a considerable number of long wide streets, neatly built, and apparently of rapidly increasing size, long rows of new houses in the London stile appearing on the different avenues to the town. We here met M. d’Eichtal, the friend of Eyton Tooke,4 who being at Newbury had ridden over to meet us, and who guided us over the town. We went down to the old bridge at Caversham about a mile from the town, and explored the chalk pits and hills on the other side of the river: We found no plants, but had a magnificent view of the river and its valley. The valley is filled with beautiful meadows very like those at Marlow: a range of chalk hills cultivated at the top comes close to the river on the north side; on the south the hills are lower and more remote. We found near the bridge a plant which I believe is the Myagrum sativum.—We dined at the Horse and Jockey an inn quite at the extremity of the town in the road towards Pangbourn5 and Wallingford:—and after dinner we took our leave of M. d’Eichtal, and descending to the bridge, followed the towing path to Pangbourn. The meadows, as I have already observed, are exactly like those at Marlow, and the hay is just cut, in some places not yet carried. The immediate fringe of the river is just beginning to come into its highest beauty; the towing path is nothing more than a pretty footpath through a meadow, and therefore takes away nothing from the beauty of the scene. The river is broad, but quiet, and not very deep, as is proved by the rushes and other weeds from which in some places no part of the channel is free. The valley becomes presently deeper and closer; the hills on the left approach to the river, leaving at last only a small strip of meadow between. The side of the hill on our left is covered with a beautiful wood, and the chalk hills on the right become woody instead of cultivated. The river first approaches to the road, and comes so near that we could see at the top of the hill, a house on the road, and could hear and see carriages on it. The river then makes a bend to the right, and the towing path crosses for a short time to the Oxfordshire side in order to avoid a pretty house and pleasure ground on the declivity of the hill. At Mapledurham lock, one of the most beautiful spots on the river, it again bends to the left, and the valley widens, being still filled with meadows. The ridge of high chalk hills to the right now changes its character, becoming bare and irregular, and resembling less the chalk hills of Surry6 than the descent from Salisbury plain. It was almost dark when we arrived at Pangbourn, where we stopped for the night, at the “George.”
Having seen yesterday that there was much ground worth exploring on the north side of the river, and wishing to pass another entire day in the vicinity of so beautiful an object, we resolved to dine at Pangbourn and not proceed further than Streatley tonight. We accordingly crossed the river by the wooden bridge which connects Pangbourn with Whitchurch, and after passing through some meadows by the river side, we commenced ascending the first woody hill in the direction of Reading. We crossed the wood by a very beautiful path, and came to a deep dell, filled with corn fields and woods, which with one or two fallow fields composed a mixture of light green, dark green, and red, of extreme beauty. We found the corn fields quite full of the Iberis amara, or candy tuft, which is here one of the commonest of all weeds. Having crossed this dell, another small wood, and a beautiful sandy green, we came out upon a high range of corn fields on the ridge of the hill, overlooking not immediately the valley of the Thames though turned towards it, but a dell, the bottom of which was mostly filled with wood, which ascended from the valley of the river near Mapledurham, and turned round to the left. Over the declivity of this dell, which was covered with fine wavy corn fields, we saw the chalk hills of Berkshire sloping away to the south and beyond them a high range of bold sand hills shaped like those of Leith Hill, which on enquiry we found to be called in this neighbourhood the Hampshire hills, and the highest of them Scoddington Hill. We descended to Mapledurham, a neat little village with a church, like all in this neighbourhood, furnished with a square tower, of a tesselated appearance. We loitered for some time in the beautiful meadows about the river, explored another woody hill something like the wood of Denbies near Dorking, and returned by the bottom of the woody dell before mentioned. After dining at Pangbourn, we proceeded to Streatley, for the first two miles by water as the towing path crosses the river about half way, and it was doubtful whether the ferry boat would be on the right side for us to push ourselves over by the chain. On leaving Pangbourn we had to the left a fine steep bare chalk hill, like those formed by the refuse of the chalk pits. The road from Pangbourn to Streatley was close to the river, and at the foot of this hill. It is a road considerably frequented, as we had reason to observe, having seen several stage coaches stop at Pangbourn which go from Brighton to Oxford and Cheltenham through Reading and Wallingford. To the right there were rich meadows and gentlemen’s houses between the river and the hills. This continued for some time, with the exception that the hills on the left approached the river, and then receded when the hills on the right approached it, forming a fine line of beech wood, to which the last gleams of the setting sun gave a rich yellow colour. We here left the punt in which we had ascended thus far, and took the towing path on the Oxfordshire side. The hills on the right now receded and appeared gradually to drop down, while on the left they grew high and steep, and came close to the river, leaving scarcely room for a pretty house and small pleasure ground between the river and the steep part of the ascent. Near the end of these hills are the villages of Goring and Streatley, the former on the north, the latter on the south side of the river: we crossed by a ferry, and took up our abode at the upper extremity of Streatley, which is a very neat village, and the main street of which, by a gentle declivity, ascends the chalk hill.
Before leaving Streatley, we climbed the hill above it, by an old road commanding a magnificent view of the valley of the Thames down to Pangbourn and up almost to Wallingford, as well as of the sloping sides of the Stoken Church Hills, on the other side of the river, which commence at Chinnor and end here. The river in this place runs nearly north and south. To the north of us on the Berkshire side we could perceive no more than one elevated slope, with wood at the top and down on the side next us, which joins a little higher up, the hill which we were upon. To our left, at the top of the hill, was an extensive wood which covers the entire top of the hill overhanging Streatley: We found a path which led us directly through it, and to the edge of a dell running up from the valley of the river, filled with corn fields, and the opposite side of it covered with a thick and extensive wood. In a field in this dell we found a rare plant, the Bupleurum rotundifolium. We returned into the first wood, and crossing it in another direction, came out on the crest of the hill directly above Streatley, on what is called the High Down, a fine chalky and grassy slope like that of Brockham Hill.—After breakfasting at the Bull, Streatley, we recrossed the river, passed through the village of Goring, and commenced ascending the Stoken Church hills, taking a fine view of the hills on the Berkshire side of the valley, as we ascended. Turning off to the right from the direct road to Woodcote on the top of the hill, we got into another of the woody dells which so beautifully run up from the valley of the Thames into the chalk hills on both sides. By following this dell we reached the top of the hill, and had a fine view to the east, in several places, seeing the Hampshire hills in the distance, and the plain of Oxfordshire and Berkshire between, with some hills which we imagined from their position to be those of Henley. We pursued our course through corn fields and woods to Nettlebed, along the top of the hill, which runs from S.S.W. to N.N.E. The summit of the range is tame enough, like most table land, and it had even lost the character of chalk, being covered with clay to a considerable depth. In ascending the hills, all the woods we had passed through were of beech: but as we advanced they were of oak and beech, or oak alone. The woods are the great beauty of this country. They are real woods, not copse, that is, they are not cut down for fire wood, but allowed to grow into timber, though not to any great age, nor are there as far as we could perceive, many very large or fine trees among them. Towards Nettlebed, we had to cross some deep dells, which appear to run up into the hills on the eastern side: which was the cause of our seeing Nettlebed (which lies high on the top of the hill) long before we came near it. In one of the woods we found that elegant and rare plant, the Pyrola media. We passed through the hamlet of Woodcote and the village of Checkendon,7 but the last is the only place which can be mentioned as having any beauty, either in itself or its vicinity. We stopped at the White Hart, Nettlebed, for the night, and in the evening walked down the hill by the Oxford road towards Henley. It passes through a fine forest-like beech wood, and on the whole the ascent to Nettlebed from Henley is far more beautiful than any thing else which we have seen in its vicinity.
On leaving Nettlebed, we still kept the line of the hills, crossing over occasionally from one side of the ridge to the other, but in general keeping close to the side next Oxfordshire, and descending as often as we could into the woods which skirt that side of the hill. The summit of all these hills is clay, the foundation chalk, the sides are consequently chalk, and the woods mostly of beech. We only had an occasional peep of the plain until we came out upon the brow of the hill just above Watlington, a large market town which does not appear to lie on any thoroughfare from London. The plain as seen from this point, appeared a flat tract of corn land, with scarcely any hedgerows, but studded with numerous villages surrounded by trees; like some parts of France, particularly the Haute Normandie. There is on this part of the hill a park of some extent, called Watlington Park, one corner of which we cut off by a footpath. Here for the first time the sides of the chalk hill seemed to be bare and grassy, and the plain to come quite up to the foot of the hill; a small range of low hills having appeared at the last place where we observed the plain, to intervene between it and the great range of hills. Just before we met the other Oxford road, by Beconsfield8 and Wycombe, we passed above a projecting elbow of the hill, sloping gradually down into the plain in a manner which need not be described to any person who has seen chalk hills. On meeting the Oxford road we turned to the right, and followed it to Stoken Church, a little village on the top of the hill, where we dined at the King’s Arms. Before proceeding farther on our route I left my three companions at Stoken Church, and went in quest of a place of some botanical celebrity called Penley Hangings.9 I took the road towards Great Marlow, which passes through a most delightful forest-like beech wood, by far the finest which I had yet seen on these hills. By enquiring of the woman who keeps the first turnpike, I discovered that it was necessary here to leave the road, and crossing a part of the above-mentioned wood, and an extremely green and beautiful meadow to enter another and thicker wood, on the side of a deep dell, one of the most secluded and romantic spots which I had seen even in this country, and of which I had taken a fine view from the meadow through which I had previously passed. Descending through this wood, which was enriched with the finest vegetable productions of a chalky soil, by a path so steep as to be almost precipitous, I came into a grass field less fertile than the other, but completely embosomed in woods, and full of the Chlora perfoliata and other beautiful creataceous plants. At the lower end of this field, which was still on the declivity was the wood called Penley Hangings, which I was in search of, and which must be of very considerable length, since I followed a path which led through it along the bottom of the dell, for nearly a mile. I here found the Paris quadrifolia; and this with the Linaria monspessulana (or repens) which I had found near Nettlebed in the morning, formed all the botanical acquisitions of this day. The wood called Penley Hangings appeared to cover one declivity of the dell entirely, and a small part of the other, and is one of the finest beech woods in this country. I returned to Stoken Church nearly by the way I came from it, and we reached the brow of the hill by so beautiful a path through fields and woods, that we may readily pronounce the environs of Stoken Church to be very delightful. From one part of this path we had a distinct view of what we had only seen by glimpses in our way from Goring; that the range of the Stoken Church hills is a double range, having a valley in the midst, and a narrower at first a lower line of chalk hills parallel to the other on the side next to Henley. When we attained the summit, we had a splendid view of this immense plain, illuminated by the horizontal sun, by which alone this country should be surveyed as it casts long shadows, and by the contrast between gleams of bright yellow, and deep shade; gives to the large expanse that variety which it would otherwise want. Another and smaller elbow, feathered with wood to a considerable depth, here runs out into the plain: this we crossed, keeping as near the edge as possible, and obtained in one part a glorious peep of the fields close under the foot of the hill, through a very romantic spot in the wood, where the trees being not so close together, left room for us to see through them, and allowed gleams of sunshine to penetrate the leaves and illuminate the fine chalky turf at their feet. We then issued out upon the bare top of the hill, and came to the edge of it, where the range of the Stoken Church hills nearly drops down to the ground, and the low hills which succeed it after forming a semicircular basin, rise again into the higher and more beautiful range of the Chiltern Hills. Here we stopped and surveyed on the one hand, the line of hills which we had passed, and which formed a segment of a circle with the concave side turned towards the plain, the elbow of the hill on the other side of the Oxford road being the other extreme point: on the other hand, the beautiful jutting out elbows of the part of the hill we were upon called Chinnor Hill, and the hill which follows it called Wain Hill, or as the people of the country pronounce it Wynle Hill, a woody hill which recedes from the other hills, and ends the Stoken Church range. The plain below us was the rich vale of Aylesbury, bounded in the right half of the prospect by a series of low hills, near the foot of which was Aylesbury itself: while a line of villages at the foot of the hill, Rowant, Aston, Crowell, Chinnor, and Henton, running parallel with the hills, and surrounded by trees, gave to this country something of the appearance of the plain of the Garonne seen from the Frontin and Pompignan hills, with trees marking the course of the river across it. We descended the hill, admiring the beautiful woods on Wain Hill to our right, and a tongue of land which descends from it gradually and to a great length, leaving the side towards us as nearly perpendicular as the Devil’s Dyke near Brighton. It was now becoming dark, and we saw little in the remainder of our route. We however crossed the brook which separates Oxfordshire from Buckinghamshire, and passed through several villages in the semicircular basin of which I have spoken already. The generality of the houses appeared far less neat and elegant than at Pangbourn and Whitchurch, where every cottage had its pretty and well-kept strip of flower garden, and had an appearance of neatness and modernness about the whole building. Here, on the contrary, the cottages were hovels, and appeared to be almost falling down. The churches are extremely large, for such insignificant places, and in a very superior style of Gothic architecture: every church which we saw, in this evening’s walk and that of the following day, with one exception, were on the same model, having a Gothic, generally a square tower and a large aisle, terminated by a smaller aisle. In every village, or close to it there was one, and but one, very large house and grounds which reminded us of a French village and the château of its seigneur, and no doubt originated the same way. We put up for the night at the old decayed town of Prince’s Risborough, at the foot of the first hill in the Chiltern range, which hill is distinguished by an immense cross which is formed on it by taking off the turf and leaving the chalk bare. We stopped at the Cross Keys.
We walked to Wendover before breakfast, along the foot of the Chiltern hills, which present to the plain a singularly irregular and diversified edge, shaped in some places very oddly. We passed through or near a multitude of villages, each with its church after the fashion of those mentioned yesterday. Many dells run up into the line of hills, but of these I shall have occasion to speak more fully hereafter. Having arrived at Wendover, we took up our headquarters there (at the Red Lion) for two or three days. Wendover is an old town, situated at the northern entrance of a long valley which intersects the Chiltern Hills from Amersham or “Agmondesham” on the other side. It is of tolerable dimensions, though appearing very small when seen from the high ground above it. The people seem poor and miserable, as is usually the case where the British lace manufacture (as it is termed) exists—and here it exists universally every female having her pillow and bobbins. We breakfasted at Wendover, and then ascended Combe Hill, being the first hill of the range towards Prince’s Risborough, and extending out into the plain, with a fine bare chalky down on the declivity; and a beech wood on the top. Beyond this hill a dell runs up from the plain, in the middle of which are the house and park of Chequers, formerly belonging to Oliver Cromwell, now to Russell, the member of parliament for (I believe) Bletchingly, who is descended from Cromwell in a female line.10 We went over the house, which is in the stile of the period, both externally and internally—with triangular roofs, battlements, strong sided window frames without sashes, cornices in the same stile, oak floors and staircases, etc. Of the park we saw only the part next the house reserving the lower and most celebrated part for another day. It contains fine trees, and being surrounded by woody hills, it is pretty, although finer when seen from Combe Hill than from the valley. Viewed from above the trees of the park being prettily grouped, and backed by a rather thick wood of the same large trees, had a fine effect. We ascended the dell, which above Chequers continues well wooded and pretty but without anything very striking, to Hampden, the estate and house of the celebrated John Hampden, and of his descendant the present Viscount Hampden.11 This is a very large old house, without much pretension to beauty, on the further side of the dell. The ground about it is in the usual character of these hills, which in the interior much resemble any other chalk hills, their peculiar beauty consisting in the edge. We returned over Combe Hill, and in the evening ascended Halton Hill beyond Wendover which projects from the range to a very great length towards the plain. It is steep, with fine turf on the sides and beech woods on the top, commanding a fine view of the plain, of the valley of Wendover, and of a dell which intersects the hills, from the valley of Wendover towards Tring in Hertfordshire. I found no plants in this day’s walks, although all the common vegetation of a chalky soil was most abundant.
We set out from Wendover this morning to explore that part of the Chiltern Hills which is beyond it. We took the road to Tring, which goes round the foot of Halton Hill (the further side of which is called Aston Hill). The bare part of this hill I have described: Beyond the most projecting point it recedes and forms itself into a magnificent amphitheatre of wood, at the other extremity of which it again projects forward into the plain, and we here left the road, crossed a field or two, and climbing the hill at the edge of the amphitheatre, found that it became again bare on the sides and woody at and near the top. We skirted the wood to its further extremity and then ascended to the top of the hill, from which we had an entirely new prospect. The direction of the hills here changes—and as the elbow near Stoken Church had once been the boundary of our prospect, and Chinnor Hill and Wain Hill afterwards, so now Aston Hill became, as long as we continued on this side of it, the limit of our view. The view from the top of this hill was the noblest we had yet seen. Another valley here opens through the hills, and beyond this valley a long line of them again projected forward into the plain, still further into it indeed than Aston Hill. The two last of these were bare, steep, and sinuous, like the South Downs, and were terminated by the Beacon Hill above Ivinghoe which was destined to be the extreme point of our this day’s walk. We could distinctly perceive, at the foot of the last mentioned hill, the little town of Ivinghoe and a great number of villages with their churches together with several considerable pieces of water serving as feeders to the Grand Junction Canal which passes through these hills by Tring and Berk Hampstead. There is a Navigable Feeder which runs from Wendover to this canal, and conveys thither a large quantity of water which rises from beneath the chalk. The low range of hills which we had seen beyond Aylesbury, here comes nearer to the chalk hills, and we perceived several little hills which seemed to possess considerable beauty, particularly two bare round ones between Ivinghoe and Aylesbury. Having enjoyed this view for some time, we quitted Aston Hill, an arm of which descends to a prodigious length and with a very curious shape into the plain; and taking a footpath to the right through the wood, we came out on one side of the woody dell described in my yesterday’s journal as intersecting the hills from the valley of Wendover towards Tring. This dell was extremely irregular and beautiful, covered with corn fields and woods with occasional patches of bare open corn fields in the midst of the wood, and surrounded by it on all sides. This opened into the valley of Tring, at which place we speedily arrived. Tring is a considerable town, situate on the high road from London to Aylesbury, in the gap of the hills above spoken of and in a long strip or tongue of Hertfordshire which here runs up into Buckinghamshire from Berkhampstead almost to Wingrave. The high hills about Tring form a sort of natural basin, overlooking that town and its valley. We crossed the valley, the canal, and a fine large clear brook which runs close to it, and crossing several fields and slight elevations, ascended a chalk hill of considerable height, which, seen from Tring or from Aston Hill, appears to be one of the range of hills projecting towards Ivinghoe but which in reality stands out from them an insulated hill in the midst of this very wide gap or valley.—We ascended this hill through a wood, one of its sides being wooded—we had seen no hill as yet which had not an extensive beech wood somewhere; and skirting the ridge of it, which projects as usual a considerable distance into the plain, we crossed the gap which separates it from the two bare hills which we had seen from Aston Hill, and ascended the first of these. I have called it bare and so indeed it was on the side next us, and at the top being an extremely fine chalky turf, resembling the edge of the South Downs toward the plain of Sussex—Its shape too resembled that of the South Down range, in its sinuosities—but when we reached the top we found, that besides a large clump of trees in one spot, which serves as a landmark to a distance, the other side of the hill was covered with a noble wood of full grown trees, the first which we had yet seen of that character. Here for the first time on these hills we found box growing. On the declivity turned towards the wood, was a thicket of box—and we could perceive other similar thickets lower down. Beyond this hill was another gap or valley, after which the range of chalk hills rose again, and pushed itself forward to a great distance into the plain as before. These are in Bedfordshire, and are called the Dunstable hills, from the town of Dunstable at the foot of them on the other side—the vicinity of which was also indicated by the appearance of straw plaiting in the cottages instead of the manufacture of “British lace.” These hills, at the end next us, appeared somewhat triste, but those which projected farthest out into the plain were bare, turfy, and shaped like Brockham hill, having much of the same sort of beauty, and we should have desired to explore them, but that we probably saw them to greater advantage from the opposite hill than if we had been upon them. We now crossed a little bottom, much like those of the South Downs, which separated us from the Beacon Hill, the highest and most projecting of all. Through this gap the Icknield Way, an ancient British road which had run along the foot of the hills almost if not entirely from Goring to this place, now cuts over the hill towards Dunstable. We ascended the Beacon Hill or rather its higher summit, for it has two summits connected by a waving line, and is the only absolutely bare hill which we had seen. From this we saw not only over the descending arm of Aston Hill quite to Wain Hill and Chinnor Hill beyond Prince’s Risborough, but far eastward into Bedfordshire, and the considerable town of Leighton Buzzard in that county, due north of us at no great distance. There is much beauty at this point in the plain itself, which besides the open corn fields and villages surrounded by trees, offered a considerable variety of gentle eminences, which although insignificant when seen from the high chalk hills, must be sufficient to give no inconsiderable beauty to the details of the country. We descended the Beacon Hill in order to return to Wendover by the foot of the hills; and passed close to the town of Ivinghoe, the church of which though bearing a general resemblance to the ordinary Gothic stile of the village churches in this neighbourhood is still more beautiful, being in the cathedral stile, with two aisles crossing one another in the middle and a steeple rising from the point of intersection. The road to Wendover from this place, and the footpaths with which we occasionally varied it, are extremely beautiful. Towards the foot of any range of high hills it is usually found that the ground gradually rises to a considerable height, before the hills can be said to commence; and this road, being an old road now very little used, was carried over these eminences in order to avoid the plain, which must formerly have been a marsh incapable of being crossed except on causeways. We had thus the pleasure of overlooking the plain, and at the same time observing closely the beautiful and often singular shape of the hills; and our satisfaction would have been unalloyed had not an extremely heavy rain come on, accompanied with thunder, which had just time to soak us thoroughly to the skin before we arrived at Wendover.
We had intended this day to explore the line of hills between Wendover and Prince’s Risborough, but were prevented by the rain, which continued all night and with very slight intervals all day. This however did not altogether prevent us from taking exercise, though it induced us to confine ourselves to the roads. We took the road towards London, which runs along a valley intersecting the hills in their widest part. Two lines of hills, sometimes gradually sloping, sometimes precipitously ascending, were on the right and left, and were not hid even by the thick clouds which covered the whole sky. Rather more than three miles from Wendover on this road, is a village, as it is termed, though it is fully as large as Wendover, called Great Missenden. It is the prettiest village we had as yet seen in this district. A short distance before arriving at this town, there rises in the valley a clear stream or brook of considerable size such as is rarely seen in a valley bounded on both sides by chalk hills. Beyond Missenden to the left a portion of the side of the hill, as well as of the valley, is inclosed, and forms a park, in which stands a place called the Abbey, which could be seen from the fields adjoining the road, and appears a handsome but not very large building. The brook, or little river, the Misbourne as it is called, runs by the side of the road, constantly increasing in size. It runs into the Coln some miles further. Had we continued in the valley, we should have shortly reached the old town of Amersham or Agmondesham, a place of considerable dimensions: But we turned off to the right a short way before arriving at the village of Little Missenden, and entered into a pretty lane, which winds over the hill. The soil, we here found to be sandy, and we were led over a great variety of grounds over little commons and deep woody dells, never seeing more than a hundred yards before us till we came out upon Wycombe Heath, a piece of sandy table land, of no particular beauty of situation, about three miles from High Wycombe. We returned by the way we came, and the rain now coming on violently we were again soaked.—This road, being a high road (except the lane to Wycombe Heath) is well made, as is the great Aylesbury road by Berkhampstead and Tring: All the other roads which we have seen in this country are extremely bad. On this account it is perhaps to be desired that the district should be a place of more resort. Cockneys, though they destroy seclusion, have this advantage that they cause increased traffic and consequently improved communications.—At the entrance of the town on this side we passed to the right, the house and pleasuregrounds of Lord Carrington, the patron of the borough.12 They are small and insignificant, and probably are only valued by him because they happen to be combined with and situated on the borough property. Missenden fortunately for itself is not a borough, and therefore looks thriving and increasing in size. In Missenden there are new houses, in Wendover none, or next to none; all appears old and decaying. There is but one inn and one or two public houses in the place; a large house at the bottom of the hill on which the town stands, was once an inn but is now deserted. A great quantity of beautiful water comes up in different places close to the town, from under the chalk, and supplies the navigable feeder
We left Wendover finally this morning, and set out on the most delightful day’s walk which we had hitherto experienced in this tour; whether the beauty of the country, or the agreeable temperature produced by the bright sun and high wind, be considered. Before proceeding further on our journey we resolved to explore the hills between Wendover and Prince’s Risborough, and the dells which run up into the range of hills within this space. I have already intimated that Chequers stands in one of these dells, which is bounded towards Wendover by Combe Hill, towards Risborough by another long and high hill, which descends very gradually into the plain. I had not however previously mentioned that at the embouchure of the dell, between these two hills rises another hill, round and insulated, presenting a mount-like form to the plain, which like the hill over Ivinghoe and no doubt for the same reason, is called Beacon Hill. This, which is covered with the finest and most mossy turf I have ever beheld, we ascended from the village of Ellesborough at its foot, one of the numerous villages on the road from Wendover to Prince’s Risborough. Between this hill and the furthermost of the two hills between which it stands, we now perceived the finest hollow which we had yet seen. It is a little ravine, flat at the bottom, and running up between two hill sides, until stopped by the almost perpendicular ascent. I have known several such in the Surrey chalk hills, especially about Box Hill, but never one so deep, and so long, or with three of its sides so precipitous. The whole of the further declivity of this beautiful hollow is covered with box, as thick as in the thickest part of Box Hill, and interspersed with beech. On the other side, and at the extremity, the box and other wood was not so thick, but left several spaces nearly bare and chalky. At the foot, and in the flat part of the bottom, lay a fine green turfy lawn, which has received the well merited name of Velvet Lawn. After going nearly round this beautiful hollow, we descended into it, by a path through the box, and enjoyed it in its whole extent. We then reascended the further side. That side of the hollow which is formed by the Beacon Hill, descends to a flat grassy table, which gently rises at the further extremity and forms a low grassy steep hill, on which there is an old Roman camp. The opposite side forms itself into a variety of fantastic shapes, and slopes in several lines down to the plain leaving several deep ravines between. The first of these is thickly wooded with box and other wood; this is only separated by a single ridge from the Velvet Lawn. Above it is a flat down of some extent spangled with flowers, which we crossed and went down the side of the dell to some distance, and then crossing another ridge, came to a ravine of a very different character. This is extremely bare and stony both at the bottom and on the sides, although with occasional thickets here and there. It is extremely deep, but rises rapidly, and divides itself, about the middle, into two parts, leaving a round bare hill between them. A chalky path is practised in the side of the hill we were upon, looking towards the ravine. We followed this path until we came to the place where the ravine divides itself and forms a fork: Some distance above this point we crossed one of the two divisions of the ravine, climbed the intermediate bare hill, went round the other prong of the fork, and went down the opposite ridge, which is covered with a mossy turf, to a round insulated eminence which it forms at its extremity overlooking the plain. At this point we rested some time, and took our last view of the Vale of Aylesbury, previously to departing for the south. As this was the part of these hills in which I had observed the greatest variety of plants, although none which to me, who have explored the Surrey chalk hills, were rare or curious, I will enumerate the plants which a young botanist may expect to find here: Buxus sempervirens, the staple of the county, Sedum acre, Hyosciamus niger, Atropa belladonna, Reseda luteola and lutea, Conium maculatum (which I mention, because though common in most places I have never seen it in the Surrey chalk hills) these in the bare parts of the hill. In the turfy parts are the Orchis pyramidalis, Epipactis ovata, Ophrys apifera, etc. In the woods, Hypericum hirsutum in immense quantity, Valeriana officinalis, Cornus mas, etc.—From this point we saw the hill so often mentioned, Chinnor Hill or Wain Hill, stretching out into the plain, with the valley of Risborough passing through the hills on this side of it, bounded by the high and long hill called Risborough Hill, and between which and the hill we were on, was another deep valley. We followed the edge of the hill we were on, cut off the corner of a wood, and came out on one side of this last mentioned valley; which is deep, and extremely diversified and beautiful. Directly opposite to us lay Risborough Hill, the same which, on its side next the plain, has inscribed on it the large white cross which has been mentioned in a previous part of this journal. On the side next to us, it is an irregularly wooded hill, with all the sinuosities of ridges and hollows, so common in chalk hills—with tongues of land covered only with down, projecting out from the wood, while the intervening dells, the side of the hill and even the declivity of these tongues are covered with wood. The general effect of this is extremely beautiful—while in the valley there was on a smaller scale as much diversity of hill and dale as would have sufficed to form a prettily diversified country if the larger hills had been taken away. We here met a road, which, after winding along the side of the hill, and through a wood, conducted us to the bottom of the valley; which we found in due time to be the same which we had crossed three days ago, in going from Wendover to Hampden: and in fact it is a valley which intersects the hills, and divides itself near Hampden into two parts, one of which is the valley of Chequers, and the other, that into which we had now descended. In taking the field path to High Wycombe, we now had an opportunity of again passing Hampden House, to which we ascended by the path which we had before taken in descending from it, and which I am thus enabled further to describe. The house stands on the top of the ridge on the right hand, that is, west, and south, of the valley in which we were. There is no immediate beauty of prospect from the house: Its ornament is a number of fine trees, and some very rich meadows. We ascended the hill along a line of stately beeches; and going round the further side of the house, saw some very fine cedars and limes. The church of Great Hampden is close to the house, or rather to the solid and old looking stables, which are in full view of the windows but shrouded by a belt of high trees. Passing between the house and the stables, and between the house and the church, we came out into a sort of park-like meadow: for park properly so called this house does not possess: but in this meadow, which is one of the finest whether for beauty or pasture which I ever beheld, is a long irregular avenue of the most magnificent limes. We crossed this field and several others and coming to the edge of the hill, beheld another deep valley: it was not however that of Risborough, but one which either branches out of it, or does not go entirely through the hills but ends near Hampden. We were now on the sand, and there was consequently a brook in the valley, which in this high part was covered with brushwood and fern on both sides to the very top, like the valley of Broadmoor on Leith Hill, to which it bears a great resemblance. We could see the valley for the length of miles before us, winding down towards the plain, among cornfields and woods, until stopped and closed by the high chalk hill beyond Wycombe. We kept for some time the top of the hill which bounds this valley on the left, and which forms part of Wycombe Heath. We then followed the side of this same hill, by field paths and roads, and at last got into a road which runs along the bottom, close to the brook before mentioned, which has here attained a considerable size. In this manner we reached High Wycombe, a town embosomed in hills, and decidedly larger and more thriving than any we had seen except Reading. It is indeed a large and handsome place. It is bounded on the north by the hills which we had now descended; on the south by the high chalk hill called Wycombe Hill, the greater part of which is inclosed to form a beautiful park about a fantastic looking building called Wycombe Abbey. We dined at Wycombe (at the Crown) and within sight of the church, with the beauty of which we were much struck. It is in a very superior stile of Gothic architecture, containing many of the beauties peculiar to that stile, without any frippery or meretricious ornament whatever. The steeple especially—which is high, square and pointed like those of Westminster Abbey—is a model which it were much to be wished that our stupid race of London architects had consulted before they had deformed the capital with a race of new churches, the ugliest surely which ever were built by man. This church is extremely old, but they have restored two large windows and are repairing some other parts in a taste entirely conformable to the original. We now took the direct road to Great Marlow, crossing the chalk hill, and the table land at its summit, and descending gradually into the valley. I was now upon ground familiar to me, and have therefore the less occasion to be extremely particular in the description.
Marlow is a considerable town containing some good houses and one very broad and neat street, with another long and somewhat ugly one perpendicular to it at the extremity. It lies upon the Thames, which is here a broad and clear but not a rapid river. No part of the valley of the Thames, except that from Streatley to Reading, can be compared in beauty to the valley of Marlow: but as the hills are much less bold and high than those which we had recently seen, we were not so much struck with this country as I had been in 1821, or as it is probable we all should have been, if we had taken it in an earlier part of our walk. The south side of the valley is formed by a very long and steep, though not very high hill, which for about a mile is entirely covered with wood saving in two places in each of which a field of oats peeps out. The river, in a part of this line, runs immediately under this hill; in the remainder, it winds away from it, having some fine meadows, and the little village of Bisham, between. These meadows we crossed and reached the wood, which, as seen from the meadows, is one of the finest objects in the neighbourhood. A broad excellent path is practised in the hill very little above its foot, and runs along the whole line, until it joins a road which comes over the hill and unites itself to the road from Marlow to Maidenhead and London at Bisham. We here struck into the said road, which slopes up the hill, and from one point (where one of the corn fields intervenes) commands a fine view of the valley and the opposite hills from considerably east of Marlow, to a sudden bend of the valley and river at a place called Newlock above Marlow, above which place the hills bounding the river still higher up can be seen forming a fine and somewhat bold line, over the tops of the gentler eminences near Newlock. Having reached the top of the hill, we turned back, and explored the other extremity of Bisham wood, striking into a path which runs between the river and the base of the hill under an old quarry, and climbing to the top where it becomes bare, and takes the name of Winter Hill. From the two views which we had taken of the opposite hills from these two elevated points it appeared that, although ascending gradually and gently, they rise to no mean height, and had, or, when seen from the opposite hill appeared to have, sufficient boldness, to be endurable even after the Chiltern hills. The hill on which we were, as it gradually descends towards Maidenhead, turns round to the right, the river here making so great a bend, as to run in a retrograde direction almost parallel to itself. We went down to the edge of this hill, (which abounds in that pretty plant the Dianthus armeria) from whence we saw the village of Cookham on the river, and beyond it the long and fine line of wood appertaining to Hedsor and Clifden,13 which skirts the river for a considerable distance, rising suddenly from it to some height. We crossed the river at Cookham ferry, and followed the towing path as far as we could: for, after passing directly under the foot of the beautiful hill and wood for a considerable space—which from the beautiful bends in the wood, the clearness and tranquillity of the river itself and two pretty houses and grounds on the opposite side, may be justly held the finest spot on the Thames (and where I found the Helleborus foetidus and Dipsacus pilosus)—it is at last stopped by the Clifden inclosure. Some of our party however climbed over the palings, and explored several walks which are made in the wood along the side of the hill, affording now and then a fine peep of the river, meadows, and opposite hill: we then got over the palings at the other side, and rejoining those of our friends who had remained without, struck into the lane which leads up and along the hill to Clifden gate. In a chalky and grassy thicket by the side of this lane, on the brow of the hill I found the Astralagalus glyciphyllos. We peeped in at the gate, but could see little except the house, which consists oddly enough of wings without a body, the centre part having been burnt down and not rebuilt. We returned to Marlow by the villages of Woburn14 and Little Marlow, finding the Borago officinalis by the way. In the road there is nothing remarkable; but we took a path from Little Marlow which led us by the side of Westrop, a house and grounds belonging to Sir George Nugent,15 with some very fine trees and particularly some cedars, one of them the largest I think I ever saw.—In the evening we went up the river by the towing path through beautiful meadows and passed Bisham Abbey on the other side of the river (a place belonging at least in 1821 to Mr. Vansittart uncle of Lord Bexley),16 and somewhat small considering its name, but Abbey is no uncommon name for a country house in this part of England. We crossed the river near the copper mills and somewhat commonplace but immense dwelling house of Owen Williams, Mr. Grenfell’s partner and the patron of the borough of Great Marlow.17 A little above this is Harleyford, belonging to Sir William Clayton,18 a handsome old English brick house, with a very pretty park and woods, and a lawn coming down close to the river, or rather to a non-navigated arm of it, which forms a handsome appendage to the park and estate. A large willowy island intervenes between this and the navigated arm, on which stands a house of a very different appearance, called Lady-place, near Hurley, an extremely old and old looking manor-house, with which some historical recollections are connected, as a vault or cellar under it was the place of the secret meetings of the men who called over William III from Holland.19 Just above these two houses is the bend of the river at Newlock; chiefly beautiful from a sort of chalk cliff of some length and height, sprinkled with trees which occasionally hide it, and skirted with them almost all along the summit or edge. At the foot of this cliff, close to the river, is a cottage, to which it is fashionable among the Marlow people to come up by water and drink tea. We crossed the river, ascended the cliff, and returned to Marlow by the Henley road, which passes through a wood of full grown trees belonging to Harleyford, and descends several rather steep declivities to Marlow. Rain came on in the evening, and we reached Marlow somewhat wet.
We went to Newlock by the route by which we returned from it on the previous evening, finding the Thlaspi arvense, or perfoliatum, in the way. We here crossed the river and took the opportunity of a shower which rendered a place of shelter desirable, to go over Lady-place and see it. This ancient priory (for such it was, having been founded about the time of the Norman Conquest) is now, and has been for the last ten years, entirely uninhabited, and is so much out of repair that it probably will never be inhabited again—although indeed it is just about to be sold. There are an immense number of rooms in it, most of them small, others very large and handsome, with oak wainscots and floors, the walls and roofs often painted, in several different stiles and tastes, with a very fine entrance hall and staircase. In a vault under the house, we saw an inscription on the wall, to the effect stated in my journal of yesterday. Leaving this place, we followed the winding of the river, and soon arrived at Medmenham Abbey, the place where Wilkes and his Hell-fire Club held their celebrated orgies20 —it is a very small place, not much larger than a large cottage, but a part of the wall formerly belonged (as we were told on the spot) to an Abbey and the remainder which is modern was built of the old materials. It is situated in an extremely beautiful part of the river, and the hills round it, particularly on the Buckinghamshire side, come closer to the river and are bolder and steeper and of a more beautiful shape than on the other side of Newlock. At this place it is usual for parties to dine, and a room looking out upon the river is kept on purpose for their accommodation—the place being uninhabited, except by the woman who keeps it. From Medmenham we crossed the river, and followed a very beautiful path, which keeps the side of the river for some distance, and then crosses the hills on the Berkshire side in order to save a bend of the river. We crossed Culham Court Park, passed the house, a large regular brick mansion, and after passing through several fields amidst the rain, which pursued us the greater part of the day, we struck into the London and Maidenhead road just before it descends the steep chalk hill to Henley. On the declivity we found (as it is set down in the books)21 the Linaria repens; but this is a common plant here, as I found it in several places about Streatley and Baseldon. We crossed Henley bridge and took the towing path on the Oxfordshire side, to get a full view of the chalk hills on the other, which here descend very precipitously towards the river, forming the grounds of the celebrated Park Place—which consists of two elbows descending very steeply from the hill to the river, with trees of many kinds very handsomely grouped thereon, and the hollow between them covered with chalky turf. Beyond the furthest of these elbows the side of the hill formed a wood chiefly composed of large trees, hanging directly over the Thames, and skirted on the water’s edge by some very large white looking trees which seemed to be willow, poplar and ash. We soon arrived at a place where the towing path is stopped on the Oxfordshire side by the very pretty grounds of an old house, which seven years before, when I was last there needed to be propped up by buttresses, but we did not however approach near enough to it to see whether it had made any further progress to decay. We now made the best of our way to the turnpike road from Henley to Reading, which led us along the heights over the valley of the Thames, with occasional glimpses of the river, and one fine view of Park Place behind us, but no particular beauty of any other kind, and keeping along this road we arrived at Reading, where the doubtfulness of the weather induced us to remain for the evening.
Having a day to spare, and that day being very fine, we resolved to pay another visit to Pangbourne and Streatley. We accordingly walked to the former place by the towing path, as before described. The beauty of the scenery lost nothing by repetition; on the contrary, we had never thought it so beautiful as now when we came to it from the bolder scenery of the Chiltern Hills. At Pangbourne instead of going up to Baseldon by water as before, we ascended the bare chalk hill, resembling those formed by the refuse of the chalk pits, which as I formerly mentioned, overlooks the river, with only the Oxford road between. Its summit forms a narrow strip of chalk down: and if we had thought this hill fine when seen from the river, we thought the river and adjacent objects still finer when seen from the hill. We could see not only the country on the other side of the river up to the tops of the hills, but (by the aid of a bend in the river and valley) the whole range of hills on the side where we were, first woody, then bare, as far as Streatley High Down, to which we now directed our course: We struck into a path in the side of the next hill, a thickly wooded one: the path, near the lower edge of the wood, just overlooking the Oxford road, and commanding a view through a narrow belt of trees into the valley, reminded us of the long walks at Wotton. Beyond this hill we took one of the dells which run up into the range of hills, and came out upon the table land, which is as uninteresting as any other table land we had been on—but intersected by several woody dells, which we crossed and at length came into the most beautiful of them all, the winding dell into which we had looked down from the edge of the wood on Streatley Hill. We ascended this dell, first at the bottom and next on its right-hand hill, till we came to the spot at which we had issued out into the wood; commanding all the way, a continually changing prospect of this beautiful dell, which from its depth, the frequent bends in its course, the quantity of wood, and the beauty with which the wood is disposed in it, well rewarded the time we spent in it and would be worthy of a more minute exploration. We here entered the wood and came out as before on Streatley High Down, from whence we descended not to the village but to the Oxford road, and went to Pangbourne by that road, which passes through the pretty village of Baseldon, between Baseldon Park and the river, which it constantly overlooks except where it is obliged to turn the house and pleasureground of the right bank of the river mentioned in a former part of this journal. We dined at Pangbourne, and returned to Reading in the evening, partly by the towing path and partly by the road.
This morning at five Grant left us for London and it may be as well to remark that a coach leaves Reading at that hour, from Williams’s coach office, which reaches the White Horse Cellar at ½ past 9 and the city at ten. We breakfasted at Reading, and proceeded at nine o’clock by one of the London coaches to Oakingham,22 where Chadwick also left us, going on to London. The remainder of our party, which was now reduced to two, being Crawley and myself, resolved to take this opportunity of exploring Bagshot Heath, and the range of high heathy hills between it and Farnham, before he returned to London and I proceeded to join my family at Walton-upon-Thames. We therefore left the coach, and took the road to Finchampstead, through a flat commonplace country, and when we had arrived within sight of that place, turned to the left and soon came upon Bagshot Heath, which in this part wears the most dreary and desolate aspect conceivable. The immense tract of country called Bagshot Heath, is situated in three counties, Berkshire, Hampshire, and Surry: the Berkshire part of it consists chiefly of wild irregular heathy hills, without any cultivated spots, and consisting entirely of bog and waste, new planted here and there with small groves of stunted Scotch firs. We soon came in sight of the two round hills mentioned in my first day’s journal: The smallest of the two has a clump of trees on the top, and is called, as I believe from recollection, Edgeborough Hill: this lies close to our route, and we ascended it: from the summit we could see on two sides nothing but waste, on a third (being that from whence we came) waste near at hand, and a tame cultivated country beyond, bounded at a considerable distance by the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire hills, of which, lying due north, we could easily distinguish those of Marlow. On the remaining side, which was the west, we saw the valley of the Blackwater river, which intersects the Bagshot heath hills from south to north, forming a strip of cultivated land chiefly meadow, across this unprofitable waste.—Some trees of no great size, scattered over it, contributed to render it not absolutely ugly, which is the utmost that could be said for any part of our present prospect. In this valley we saw the village of Yateley, and the valley almost to Eversley, beyond which the western part of Berkshire towards Newbury seemed gradually though tamely to rise to a considerable height. To the east, amid a dreary waste, and sandhills of no very remarkable shape or appearance, was the other of the two round hills before alluded to: This which I believe to be Crowthorn hill, is considerably larger than Edgeborough, though not much higher. This also has a clump of trees on the top but much smaller and less conspicuous than those on Edgeborough—the sides also appear to be almost entirely bare, with no vegetation or any thing except the gravelly sand, whereas the sides of Edgeborough are covered with heath and furze, and various other of the plants commonly growing in the less barren parts of this immense waste. We descended the hill, and continuing on our former road, which here skirting the edge of the cultivated country, becomes a lane bordered by very high hedges, we passed through the little village or hamlet of Sandhurst, and soon came to the Military College, where I revived my old recollections by wandering about the semi-cultivated ground in front of the College, about the Governor’s house,23 and on the margin of the first lake—for the ponds on the heath at this point are sufficiently large, and their banks sufficiently ornamented, to deserve that name. We here came out upon the great Western Road, and struck into it towards London. After passing the College, this road gradually ascends a long heathy hill, passing to the right a knoll planted with wood, at the top of which there is an old obelisk, a conspicuous landmark to the surrounding country. This hill forms part of the long line of heathy hills called here Chobham Ridges, and subsequently assuming the name of Romping Downs, which extends from a little to the north of this place, to Ash between Guildford and Farnham, and which we now designed to explore. At the top of this hill is the public house called the Jolly Farmer, better known by its old name of the Golden Farmer. Here one of the Southampton roads, by Farnham, separates itself from the Western road. Looking eastward, we could not see Bagshot, which was hid by a corner of the hill, but could see an extensive portion of the heath beyond it towards Egham with a high healthy hill (probably Virginia Water Hill) in front of us, and the cultivated country to the left towards Windsor. On the other side we saw down into the Hampshire part of Bagshot Heath on the other side of the Blackwater: into the valley of which, we now gradually descended by the Southampton road, leaving the Chobham ridges to our left, which have here a somewhat irregular and varied edge. We quitted this road at the village of Frimley, near the Blackwater. This place contains some pretty ornamented houses, and though not very beautiful, may be considered as one of the prettiest spots in this dreary country. We crossed the Basingstoke canal, and ascending the Romping Downs, kept on the top of them for two or three miles further. On the left we could see down into the valley of Woking and Pirbright, almost the only ugly and commonplace district in Surrey: but the healthy sandhill, at this edge, assumed a variety of pretty shapes, like St. George’s Hill at the extremity adjoining Cobham.24 On the other side the hill descends very gradually to the valley of the Blackwater, with long ugly heathy dells running up through the hill to the very top: Of the valley itself we could see little or nothing, and the hills beyond it in Hampshire were a mere barren heathy waste, without any of that beauty of form which in some parts St. George’s Hill and even the Romping Downs possess. To the south, however, as we approached the southern extremity of the Downs, we could perceive the long chalky ridge called the Hog’s Back, which extends from Guildford to Farnham, and which our present course would nearly have bisected at right angles: and beyond it the ridge of sandy hill ending with several irregular peaks, which is north of Hindhead, and which seen from St. George’s Hill appears directly in the gap where Guildford stands. To the left of this we saw the Guildford gap, and the line of Merrow and Effingham downs, with part of the great Surrey sand hills (the Leith hill range) beyond them. The Romping Downs are perhaps the barrenest tract in all Surrey (except Blackheath near Albury). It produces scarcely any thing but heath—no fern grows there, and even in the boggy parts there is not soil enough for any of the usual bog plants; nothing is to be seen in the water but the bare black peat earth. Near the end of the hill we descended towards the east, and passed through some miles of the tame common place country forming the valley of Woking, Worplesdon, and Pirbright. There was nothing worthy of notice in this space until we arrived within a mile of Guildford, where the declivity of the Hog’s Back and other hills to the right, and Merrow Downs to the left, are interesting enough. We remained at Guildford for the night.
When we ascended the chalk hill above Guildford this morning, and still more when we reached the top of Martha’s Chapel, although the view was not new to me, and although I had recently come from the fine country described in this journal, the valley of Godalming and the surrounding hills appeared to me more beautiful than ever. There is so much variety in the arrangement of the hills one behind another, and so much richness in the appearance of the country, studded with large full grown trees instead of the woods of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, with the bold ridges of Hindhead and the peaked hill forming the background to the right, and the Leith Hill range to the left, that the Chiltern hills are entirely eclipsed by it. I shall not describe the vale of Albury, as it was familiar to me before. We dined at Dorking, whence Crawley proceeded by coach to London: I accompanied him as far as Leatherhead, when the chalky edge of the Norbury Park Hill appeared to me much finer than the finest specimen I had seen in the Chiltern hills even of this which is the peculiar stile of scenery of those hills. From Leatherhead I walked to Walton by Claremont Land, and Esher. And here “ends this strange eventful history.”25
I shall insert an account of our expenses in case we or any others should wish to go this journey hereafter.
[1 ]For the basis of the comparison, see No. 1 above, entry for 12 October, 1820.
[2 ]The Mills had been at Bagshot in the autumn of 1818.
[3 ]Alexander Pope, Windsor Forest (1713), in Works, Vol. I, p. 175-7 (ll. 171-218).
[4 ]Gustave d’Eichthal (not d’Eichtal) (1804-86), at this time a Saint-Simonian apostle propagandizing in England. In his diary d’Eichthal records for 3 July: “Diner à Reading avec M. Mill et ses amis.” William Eyton Tooke (1808-30), another close friend of Mill’s at this time, committed suicide two years later.
[5 ]Later in this journal Mill uses the more common spelling, Pangbourne.
[6 ]As noted in No. 29, Mill uses both this and the more common spelling, Surrey.
[7 ]Mill appears to have written “Chakesden.”
[8 ]Usually Beaconsfield.
[9 ]See, e.g., early accounts in Robert Plot (1640-96), The Natural History of Oxfordshire (Oxford: n.p., 1677), pp. 146-8, and John Ray (1627-1705), Synopsis methodica stirpium Britannicarum (London: Smith, 1690), pp. 174-5; a nearly contemporary reference is in James Norris Brewer (fl. 1799-1829), A Topographical and Historical Description of the County of Oxford (London: Sherwood, et al., 1819), p. 308.
[10 ]The owner was in fact Robert Greenhill-Russell (ca. 1763-1836), M.P. for Thirsk 1806-32, not his cousin, William Russell (1798-1850), M.P. for Saltash 1822-26, and then for Bletchingly 1826-27. Chequers came into the Russell family when John Russell, son of Frances, the daughter of Oliver Cromwell, married Joanna Thurbarne Rivett, whose father had acquired it by marriage.
[11 ]The house had been owned by John Hampden-Trevor (1749-1824), 3rd Viscount Hampden, who had died without issue, and who was the great-great grandson of the John Hampden famed for his opposition to Charles I. When Mill saw the estate, it was in the hands of George Robert Hobart (1789-1849), the Earl of Buckinghamshire, who took the name of Hampden on inheriting the Hampden estates in Buckinghamshire.
[12 ]Robert Smith (1752-1838), Baron Carrington.
[13 ]Normally Cliveden, though Mill consistently writes Clifden.
[14 ]Now Wooburn.
[15 ]George Nugent (1757-1849), who had been Commander-in-Chief in India 1811-13, was M.P. for Buckingham 1819-32.
[16 ]George Vansittart (1745-1825), M.P. for Berkshire 1784-1812, was uncle of Nicholas Vansittart (1766-1851), Baron Bexley, who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1812 to 1823, when he entered the Lords but remained in the Cabinet.
[17 ]Owen Williams (1764-1832), actually M.P. for Marlow 1796-1832, a member of the family which was joined by Pascoe Grenfell (1761-1838), M.P. for Great Marlow 1802-20 and for Penryn 1820-26, in developing the mining industry in Cornwall and Anglesey.
[18 ]William Robert Clayton (1786-1866).
[19 ]The inscription mentioned by Mill below indicates that John Lovelace (ca. 1638-93), then owner of Lady Place, held private meetings in the vault, including “several consultations for calling in the Prince of Orange,” later William III (1650-1702), who replaced James II on the throne in 1688.
[20 ]John Wilkes (1727-97), the demagogic politician, had been inducted in 1762 into the notorious “Franciscans of Medmenham,” or “Hell-Fire Club” by its founder, Francis Dashwood (1709-81), Chancellor of the Exchequer. Wilkes joined fully in the “orgies,” being expelled after releasing a baboon in Satanic insignia during a black mass.
[21 ]E.g. in James Smith, Flora Britannica, Vol. II, p. 659.
[22 ]As Mill notes earlier, also (and more commonly) Wokingham.
[23 ]At this time the Governor was Edward Paget (1775-1849).
[24 ]Elsewhere Mill writes correctly Chobham.
[25 ]One assumes an ironical reference to Shakespeare, As You Like It, II, vii, 164; in The Riverside Shakespeare, p. 382.