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Chess Valley, England.

For two short years in the early 1990s, I lived in Chorleywood, a village in the Chiltern Hills north-west of London.  The reason I say "short" is that it remains the best place I have ever lived for interesting running courses, and I would have enjoyed living there for much longer.  There was no limit to the number of public footpaths, public bridleways and country lanes that could be cobbled together to make a course of any length, many of which avoided any significant road travel at all.  An added bonus were the tiny villages, hedgerows, country churches, historic mansions, fairy tale woods and rolling fields that made up the Chiltern landscape.  For those unfamiliar with English public footpaths and bridleways, they are historic rights of way, often crossing fields or passing through farmyards, that crisscross the English countryside.  Most are very runnable, though the less frequently used can become overgrown with weeds and nettles.

Chess Valley watercress beds.

It was easy to come up with a different and interesting course for every morning of the week, and despite my relatively short life there, the memories still live large.  All the morning "garbage" runs were good, but if I had to choose a favourite, it would be a regular 13km which captured all of the best local elements.

Starting from home in the village, the route ran along a lane and a couple of back streets before turning onto a farm road and passing by some stables.  From there it crossed the dark Carpenter Wood, with its leaf-littered undulating floor, and under the rail line to London through an old brick arch.  Much of today's Chorleywood village was built by the owners of the railway as a means of encouraging population growth and consequently commuters, though signs of settlement date back to the Paleolithic era.

Chorleywood Common.

The route then travelled along a bridleway which could get muddy after rain, before crossing a road and skirting the historic village of Chenies with its Manor House.  From there it followed a bridleway overlooking the Chess River Valley then descended through West Wood and over a field to cross the river beneath
historic Latimer House.  The next five kilometres followed the river downstream on beautiful and well-travelled public footpaths, through green pastures and passing a water cress farm before crossing the crystal clear river again on a small footbridge and climbing out of the valley through woods and parklands.

Chorleywood Common.

After crossing a busy road, it traversed the superb Chorleywood Common, to reach the village and a solid climb along Shire Lane to home, completing a run that changed with the seasons, and I never tired of doing.  One of the things on my bucket list is to go back and spend a few months, or longer, staying somewhere in Chorleywood, running and walking through the surrounding countryside, and making the easy commute into London to enjoy its attractions.

Today's exercise was the customary Friday golf game, and I was pleased to get around without any of the breathlessness and heart palpitations I experienced last Friday.  After the game, I visited the medical clinic to get my weekly blood coagulability tested, and the doctor checked my pulse.  She thought I was on some kind of medication, it was so slow, but seemed happy when I told her it was usually around 40bpm.  Her opinion was that I could exercise so long as I didn't get my heart rate near maximum, but I'll stick to my plan of only walking until the end of next week.