I've been taking a keen interest in the debate over the high-speed rail link that would cut right through the Chilterns. Not because I live in the Chilterns, but because I go there to cycle, and so magical is the landscape that I can fully understand why the plans have caused such an outbreak of Nimbyism.
There are five types of ride that I do from my north-London front door: the daily commute; training round Regent's Park; hill work on the steep Swains Lane in Highgate; the time-honoured "northerly", when my friend Lewis and I meet up in Hampstead and toil through the suburbs; and finally, when we've got a few hours to spare, the real treat – the Chilterns run.
The Chilterns run begins just after 7am at Finchley Road Tube station. We buy coffee and croissants and climb aboard the 7.16am to Amersham (no bikes on the Tube after 7.30am). We're in Amersham by 8 o'clock, and we're bowling along remote, high-hedgerowed lanes by 8.15am.
Not that bowling along is our main purpose. We go to the Chilterns for the hills. The routes up them are steep and winding and wooded, and the best way I can describe the views is to refer you to a 1950 painting by John Nash, Chilterns, that you can see on the London Transport Museum's website. The work is Modernist in spirit but it captures something both timeless and English.
I don't know exactly where Nash painted it but it looks like it could be the top of a fierce climb that Lewis and I like to tackle just outside Princes Risborough, called Whiteleaf. Heart pounding, you emerge from under the cover of trees to see the land falling away and then another line of hills in the distance. That's Oxfordshire. There's a right turn and you plunge down Kop Hill, an unusually straight descent for these parts. Don't touch the brakes and you can hit 40mph.
Whiteleaf and Kop feature on a wonderful sportive called the Chiltern 100, which takes place every June. I'll be back again this year. There is simply no more beautiful place to ride a bike.
I'm all for the high-speed rail link but does it really have to go through the Chilterns?Reuse content