Dibley - a Secular Outing
Southern Section diary
Southern Section diary
By Bob Melvin
Before Mrs.M. was Mrs. M. I lived in High Wycombe, an area blessed with many excellent watering holes both in town and in the outlying villages. Amongst them were West Wycombe with its Hell Fire Caves and a couple of pubs, and the village of Turville, with The Bull and Butcher. Roll forward a few years and The Vicar of Dibley hit the TV screens of Britain with exterior locations looking like a very familiar - Turville!
Alton Station - the ubiquitous starting venue
Turville is tucked away, deep in the Buckinghamshire countryside, to the extent that even some locals don’t know of its existence. Rest assured however, the film industry location researchers have found this charming hamlet with credits including, VoD, Midsomer Murders, Killing Eve, Jonathon Creek, and an early staging for the 1942 propaganda film, Went The Day Well? For those on the ride-out, just keep your eyes open in the future and I’m sure you’ll see Turville’s distinctive architecture pop up again.
Sunday, 6th June saw a respectable 10 am start from Alton Station Café but with a questionable weather forecast in view. We had wanted somewhere different but, moving the start to say, Newlands Corner, meant that the North-Westerly route would have seen us tangled with the likes of Woking and Bracknell, instead of the country lanes from Alton. We had a good turnout with 8 bikes with the Robertsons joining us at Turville.
My Garmin Nav V satnav gave its usual reliable performance failing to fit the route to the roads, resulting in a series of straight lines joining the .gpx file’s waypoints. As tail-ender, we were fortunate not to get too far back from the group, rendering the Nav V’s shortcoming academic. The route took us along a series A and B roads, through the countryside to Hook and Riseley before heading West to Burghfield Common and skirting around Reading. With Mike’s skilled planning, we hardly noticed our proximity to such a centre of population instead, finding ourselves dipping through the Thames Valley and Wind in the Willows country. We crossed the Thames over the Whitchurch Bridge, one of the few privately owned toll bridges over the river, before climbing the slopes of the Chilterns.
It was in a very recent conversation with Mike and Lesley that we threw the idea of Dibley into the hat, just slotting nicely with the suggestion that we should put a ride-out together the following weekend as part of the post-lockdown, Club ‘re-building programme’. Post code for the Bull and Butcher presented to Mike, et viola – a ride out.
The roads were becoming more interesting, with narrowing tree-lined, lanes with just a hint of gravel and grass down the centre for added interest. The woodlands adjoining the route became more of the classic beech trees associated with the Chiltern Hills, as we finally descended into Turville.
The Village is dominated by its pretty row of 18th and 19th Century, red brick, timber framed cottages. Whilst at its heart lies the Village green, little more than a small triangle of grass in front of the quaint, flint and chalk built, St. Mary’s Church, some of which dates back to the 12th Century. Although arriving relatively early, the draw of his pretty village was already becoming apparent with cars queuing in the vain hope of finding a vacant parking place. Unfortunately, with the combination of popularity and Covid restrictions, we were unable to enjoy the charms of the Bull and Butcher, the village centre pub.
The final cherry on the top was meeting 3 successive, mountainous tractors, filling the road, hedge to hedge, coming in the opposite direction. With so many bikes and a couple of random locals in cars, chaos ensued! Tucked into a small junction and miscellaneous farmyard entrances, we managed to squeeze past, stirred but unshaken.
Excitement in the Chilterns
And finally, picnic in the park
Poster and a film still from Went the Day Well (1942)
A good turnout despite uncertain weather forecasting
The classic beech trees of the Chiltern Hills
Dibley and not a vicar in sight
After a brief stop-over, we headed off for the short ride to High Wycombe and our picnic break. Except, the access road to Wycombe was closed. The signed diversion, like so many, was anything but straightforward leading us around parts of the countryside I had never encountered in my time in the area. Initially we were weaving our way along pleasant B roads, overlooking fields and rolling wooded hills with only the lightest of traffic. Things were going well until a left turn took us onto a minor, hedge lined, gravel centred lane before giving way to ever-more imposing hedges and higher mounds of gravel.
Following a tour of the outskirts of High Wycombe before descending Marlow Hill to a network of roundabouts marking the edge of the town centre, we finally arrived at The Rye, an area of parkland and sports fields, just right for our picnic.
There was a second phase to the ride-out planned but, post-picnic, with folks having some return distances, we went our separate ways.
Our thanks go to Mike and Lesley for their route planning talents and bike-to-bike photography, Lesley Robertson and Mrs. M. for additional photography, and to everyone who joined us.