I did this walk with my friend Tim Bertuchi. We started walking from the car park at Coombe Hill at about 10.15, Tim having had to drive there from Walthamstow. The walk was similar to the one I did two weeks ago with my brother Tim, except we extended it from Whiteleaf Hill through Parslow’s Hillock and Great Hampden before going to Little Hampden. This extension was part of the walk I did from Pulpit Hill a month or so ago, but in the other direction. We were lucky with the weather – overnight rain had cleared away, and we had bright sunshine and blue skies throughout the walk.
I chose this walk to do with Tim as he had recently enjoyed walking through this area at the start of the South Bucks Way. In fact, from the car park we soon picked up the route of that path, and followed it away from Coombe Hill, through a nice beech wood with a field to the left. We went right on a road for a couple of hundred yards, then continued left through another beech wood, walking from one marker post to the next, the fallen leaves obliterating the path. The path had been fairly level so far, with a descending slope on our right, but we now turned right on a good track and went steeply downhill. Near the bottom of the slope, the South Bucks Way went left, but we continued ahead, following the route of the Ridgeway. We saw the first Red Kite of the day about here.
We crossed a field and then went past the security cameras as we crossed the drive to Chequers, the PMs country home. We continued across a large sheep pasture, then turned right with a wood on our left. There was a nice view along here, towards Chequers with Coombe Hill behind it. We went across a large empty cattle pasture, where views opened up ahead over the Vale of Aylesbury. We continued through another pasture, that was on a slope and contained some scrubby bushes in places. After a quick look at the view from the small eminence of Chequer’s Knap, we passed the start of the North Bucks Way and continued on a level path, contouring round the wooded slopes of Pulpit Hill on our left. We saw both a Buzzard and a Kite here.
We reached the road at Cadsdean, but only followed it right for a few yards before taking a path by the pub on the right, and starting the long and fairly steep climb through the trees to the top of Whiteleaf Hill. I showed Tim the Neolithic barrow and the top of Whiteleaf Cross carved in the hillside below us, and we admired the views over Princes Risborough and the Vale of Aylesbury. We only followed the Ridgeway a short distance further, before turning left on a bridleway. This went through another lovely beech wood, descending steeply into a valley on our left, with a field a few feet to our right.
We turned right, to follow a path in the wood along the far edge of the field, then went left on a bridleway betwen the wood and another field. We then again took a path through the wood going right, with the field on our right again. This took us to a minor road, where we turned left. After about 300 yards we took a bridleway on our right – initially there was a wood on our left and a feld to the right, and again we saw a Buzzard and a Kite here. The bridleway then went slightly left through the wood, now withe the steep north escarpment of the Chilterns on our right.
The bridleway took us to Parslow’s Hillock, with the Pink and Lily pub (the one associated with Rupert Brooke). We took the lane beside the pub for quarter of a mile, then went a few yards left on the route of the Chiltern Way, before turning right. This path took us through another lovely beech wood, parallel to the lane we’d been on, with a couple of grassy fields a few feet to our right (I’d walked this path for the first time, in the other direction, on my walk north from Bledlow Ridge the Saturday before last). We turned left at a fence, which we followed through the wood to reach a crossroads (walkers keep to the left of this fence, horse riders keep to the right). Another short path through woods took us to the cricket ground at Great Hampden Common, where we stopped to eat lunch on a bench.
We then continued, following a path across fields and sheep pastures to reach the church at Great Hampden. We turned left, then turned right onto the Chiltern Way again to pass in front of Hampden House (once home of John Hampden, the leading Parliamentarian in the struggle against Charles I). We followed the Chiltern Way through Lady Hampden’s Wood (passing a Redwood tree of some sort, and spotting a Muntjac deer) and then across a large field to the bottom of the broad valley of Hampden Bottom. Across a road (Chequers was now about half a mile to our left), the path continued uphill through a long thin belt of trees, then went right, crossing a small empty pasture with good views back over the valley. We soon went through yet another wood, then joined a track that took us to the solitary lane in Little Hampden.
At this point the Chiltern Way goes ahead, sharing its route with the South Bucks Way as far as Cobblershill, but we went left along the lane as far as the Rising Sun pub, then turned right onto a bridleway. This went a long way through another beech wood, gradually descending to the bottom of a valley. It seemed a bit steeper going up the other side. Near the top, we turned left (my brother Tim and I had failed to find this path the other week, we missed it by just yards – there is a waymark post, but it was a few yards away from the path, and hidden by a bush looking from the direction we had come).
The path led us by a garden on the left to the bridleway from Cobblershill to Dunsmore. We followed it left to Dunsmore, and continued on a lane through this attractive and remote hamlet. This soon became a bridleway and re-entered the beech woods. We followed it for about a mile, beside a stout iron fence. Where this went slightly right, we followed a path through the trees (marked by yellow arrows) to a kissing gate on the edge of the wood. We then followed the path through scrub land to the monument on top of Coombe Hill. It was now about 3pm, and the light was already beginning to fade slightly so the views weren’t quite as wonderful as usual, but still impressive nevertheless. We the made our way back the third of a mile to the car park where we’d started from.
Tim and I both really enjoyed the walk, and will do another walk together sometime, probably in the new year and possibly in the Chess Valley area.
This is the fifth or sixth walk I’ve done in this area in recent months, so I apologise if you’re bored with reading about it! I really do think it is one of the best areas for walking in the Chilterns – there are great views from the escarpment at places like Coombe Hill and Whiteleaf Hill, lots of paths through typical Chiltern beech woods, lots of ups and downs as you cross the hills and valleys running south-east from the escarpment, quaint and remote hamlets such as Little Hampden and Cobblershill, and plenty of historic interest too. I absolutely love it! (Whoops! I nearly forgot to mention the Red Kites and Buzzards!).