Foraged feasts and BFG footprints: my car-free break in the Chilterns

New bus routes make it easier to explore the rural idyll that inspired Milton, Roald Dahl and David Bowie. Last autumn our author immersed herself in the woods and fare of Buckinghamshire

Sunlight slants through the woodsmoke. Inside a big, fairy-lit tipi, tables are decked with candles and fresh maple branches. I’m just starting a five-day car-free break in the Chilterns, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) with easy access by train, Metropolitan Line tube, and two new bus routes that started in August 2021. My favourite car-free walk in the area is a circuit from Tring station up the Ridgeway to Ivinghoe Beacon and back via the Ashridge Estate. I’m hoping for woodland walks, country pubs and seasonal produce, so a gourmet lunch under the trees feels like a perfect beginning. Outdoor dining company Nomadic has been hosting elegant meals here in Shrubs Wood for three years, sourcing fruit, veg and herbs from its garden nearby.

Today’s fungi-themed feast starts with a walk through the trees. Professional foragers Izzy (@rightsforweeds) and Ru (@londonwildfruits) lead us from glade to glade like woodland elves, pointing out edible and deadly toadstools with equal delight. They are particularly enthusiastic about a little row of hare’s-foot inkcaps, which range from a bullet-shaped bulb to a tall, upturned parasol, showing the “stages of mushroom morphology”. Lunch includes truffle-laced shiitake soup, hen of the woods on toast, roast halibut topped with ceps and chanterelles, and a pear and apple compote from the orchard. It’s clearly a winning formula: despite the eye-watering price tag of £99, everyone I talk to here to has been at least once before. Nomadic plans to kick off 2022’s feasts with some Valentine-themed meals in February and regular lunch dates from March, including events surrounded by April bluebells.

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Buckinghamshire holidays, England holidays, Public transport trips, Short breaks, Weekend breaks, Green travel, Walking holidays, Travel UK news | The Guardian

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