Coombe Hill, Whiteleaf Hill and Hampden

Today’s walk was shorter than usual at about 10 miles. For the third time in less than a week my brother Tim went with me. The walk was also unusual for me, in that it seemed to ‘evolve’ as we went along – the walk we ended up doing wasn’t anything like the one we’d set out to do!

We started at the car park for Coombe Hill, near Wendover. I originally planned to do a similar walk to the one I did at Coombe Hill a few weeks ago, so instead of taking the path to the monument on Coombe Hill we started by following a path going further left, until it reached the Ridgeway path. We turned left along the Ridgeway until we reached the road to the car park, where we turned right and then took a path on the left after a couple of hundred yards.

We were still following the Ridgeway as we walked through the beech trees. The leaves on the ground completely obliterated the path, and I managed to go slightly wrong at one point, but generally we were OK heading from one waymark post to the next. After a few hundred yards the Ridgeway turned right to head steeply downhill. I had planned on turning left near the bottom of the hill and following the South Bucks Way to Little Hampden, but Tim had expressed an interest in walking past Chequers (the Prime Minister’s Country House), so we continued along the Ridgeway.

We crossed a road (where a man was doing something to a security camera) and followed a fence through a grassy field, then crossed the drive to Chequers by another security camera. We followed another fence through a grass field, slightly uphill, then turned right along the edge of a wood. Soon we had a view to our right of Chequers, with Coombe Hill and its monument in the background. At the end of the wood, we continued across a large empty cattle pasture, with views over the Vale of Aylesbury opening out ahead and to the right of us. We continued through another large pasture and passed the point where the North Bucks Way starts.

Again we changed the route here – I had thought of going over Pulpit Hill and on to Little Hampden, following part of the route I’d used through the Hampdens a couple of weeks ago, but Tim mentioned that Whiteleaf Cross was mentioned in a song by one of his heroes, the legendary John Otway (‘Beware of the flowers …’,’Really free’), so we decided we’d follow the Ridgeway as far as Whiteleaf Hill.

We continued through a rather scrubby area at the foot of Pulpit Hill, where I’d been looking for wildflowers in the summer and where I first got interested in wildflowers last year when I saw what turned out to be a Common Spotted Orchid. Tim spotted a Red Kite here, the only one we’d see today (he must have better eyesight than me, because it was him who first spotted the two deer we saw today as well!). We crossed the road at Cadsden, and then followed the Ridgeway as it gradually climbed through the trees to Whiteleaf Hill – one of the longest bits of uphill I know in the Chilterns. We stopped for some water (and a breather) just before the top, then emerged from the trees onto the grassy top of the hill.

We had  quick look at the neolithic barrow on top of the hill, at the chalk carving of Whiteleaf Cross, and at the new information boards that I noticed when I was here a couple or so weeks ago (sadly there was no sign of Louisa on a Horse … ). We admired the view over Princes Risborough and the Vale of Aylesbury, and I pointed out Waddesdon Manor, Brill Hill, Bledlow Cop, Quainton Hill and a few other features I recognised from my walks.

We then followed the Ridgeway for another quarter of a mile, before finally leaving it and turning right on a bridleway. This took us back into the beech woods, going round the top of a wooded valley called The Hangings on the map (we’d seen it from the far side as we’d struggled up Whiteleaf Hill). At a fork we took a path going slightly left, then joined another bridleway. We soon turned right, leaving the woods behind and following a path alongside a hedgerow through a series of fields growing winter wheat (I was now retracing the early part of the circular walk I did from Pulpit Hill recently).

We crossed a road (Chequers was now a short distance up the valley to our left) and went down a private drive, following a permissive path that avoided going through a garden, then continuing uphill to enter another wood. The path went slightly to the right through the wood, and on emerging from the trees followed the edge of a field to the right. In the field corner we switched to the other side of a hedge and at the end of that field entered more woods, where we shortly turned right to reach Little Hampden by The Rising Sun Inn (we’d gone past here on our Saturday walk as well).

We took the footpath going left here, descending steeply through more woods, and then along a hedgerow across the valley bottom (we saw a female Muntjac deer here), then climbed steadily through more woods up the opposite side of the valley. We turned left at a crossing path, and enjoyed a section of path between rather scattered beech trees, giving glimpses of the attractive valley topped by woods on our left. Near the end of this path we saw a male Muntjac deer.

We then joined a bridleway (we’d walked on part of it from Cobblershill on Saturday) which took us to the remote and attractive village of Dunsmore. We continued on the other side of the village, following a bridleway through more glorious beech woods for a mile or more, before bearing right and following a path that emerged from the trees onto the scrubland at the top of Coombe Hill. We sat and ate our sandwiches at the monument, before walking the short distance back to the car park.

This was a very enjoyable walk on a cold but lovely day – we started off under clear blue skies, though it clouded over later. The temperature was only 6-8C, and this was the first time this autumn that I wore my warm Paramo coat.

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