Archive for December, 2007

South from Maidensgrove Common

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

Another exploratory walk in the Chilterns today, about 11 miles along a circular route going south from Maidensgrove Common. Maidensgrove is a remote hamlet near the village of Stonor in Oxfordshire. The common – a vast flat area of grass almost entirely  surrounded by woods – is shared between Maidensgrove and the neighbouring hamlet of Russell’s Water, both hamlets being on the route of the Chiltern Way.

I started walking about 10.15, following the southern edge of the common eastwards into Maidensgrove and following a short dead-end lane. I then followed part of the Oxfordshire Way, going south on a track between hedges. This was muddy in one or two places as it ran beside a wood on the right. The track then descended through Freedom Wood and then between hedges again to join a lane in the valley of Bix Bottom. I saw several Buzzards and Red Kites together here.

I soon passed the ruined church here, familiar from my walks on the Chiltern Way – I now followed this route a short distance, turning right from the lane and passing through Valley End Farm. The Chiltern Way soon went uphill to the left, but I continued on along the bottom of  a side valley, soon going through a cattle pasture and then following the edge of a wood for a while. The path then entered the wood, and near its far side the path turned left and went uphill through the trees. I then turned left on a bridleway, following the edge of the wood and then entering it again. There were no waymarks here at all, and I had a little difficulty following the route of the bridleway shown on the map, but eventually reached the far side of the wood at the correct point. I followed a muddy track across a field of winter wheat and then turned right (back very briefly on the Chiltern Way) across the field to reach a main road in the village of Bix.

Across the road I left the Chiltern Way again, and took a byroad instead, soon turning left onto a fenced path along the edge of a wood (with the Chiltern Way running along the far side of the field on my left). Near a farm the path headed further into the wood and soon joined a grassy strip along a valley bottom with woods either side. After almost half a mile, the path went right, crossing a bridleway and continuing with a field containing Highland Cattle on my left.

I then turned left on a path that went steeply uphill a short distance to a stile, then continued between hedges and fences to reach Rocky Lane. A path continued almost opposite, running between fences and descinding into a valley and rising up the other side to reach the attractive little hamlet of Shepherd’s Green. I turned right and crossed the green to a stile. I turned left, and followed the hedge through a field of rough grass to another stile. There were three more Highland Cattle in the next field, then I crossed a couple of horse paddocks to a wood.

I soon came to a path junction, marked by a yellow cross on a tree, but the path to the right was initially a little hard to follow as it was obscured by fallen leaves. I then crossed another lane and a small field to enter a wood called Holly Grove – the next mile and a half would be in woods. I soon turned right and then left, and stopped for lunch on a section of fallen tree. I then turned right again in the wood, and followed a clear path almost to the edge of the wood, where I went left along a bridleway. I passed a house in the woods, with a section of parkland to my left, then turned right down the drive to a large house I’d seen across the parkland.

Near this house I joined another footpath through the woods. I forked right at a junction – initially I wasn’t sure this path matched the one on the map, but I soon realised it was correct and followed it until I reached the A4130 east of Nettlebed. I crossed over and followed a lane opposite, passing through the hamlet of Catslip and continuing the short distance to Crocker End.. The latter was familiar from my Chiltern Way walks, and I now followed another short section of that route across some parkland near Soundess House (reputed to have once been home to Nell Gwynne).

I turned off the Chiltern Way when it turned left, and continued on  a byway that soon brought me to the BBO Wildlfe Trust’s Warburg reserve. I followed the bridleway through the woods of this reserve, and then followed a steep track between hedges back uphill to my starting point at Maidensgrove Common.

I was lucky with the weather – I’d started walking in bright sunshine but it clouded over and I had a very brief and gentle shower just before lunch, then when I drove home it poured with rain almost the entire journey! Lucky the walk was only about 11 miles and that I finished it when I did, about 2.15.

Not a bad walk by any means, but nothing spectacular. A few nice views in places, some Buzzards and Red Kites, and lots of pleasant woodland sections. I briefly followed the Chiltern Way in two or three places, but the vast majority of the walk was new to me – there is a large section of the Chilterns in South Oxfordshire that I have not walked through, and this walk has at least started to fill that gap in my knowledge of the area.