Chiltern Chain Walk – Walk 11

A draft of my journal entry for Walk 11 of the Chiltern Chain Walk, which I did yesterday.

Walk 11 21/05/08 – Cobblershill and Little Kingshill (12.5 miles approximately)
Parked in picnic site car park near Cobblershill.

This was a fine day for a walk – pleasantly cool (varying from11C when I started to about 16C when I finished) and bright, despite there being a lot of large clouds in the sky.

Mine was the only car in the car park as I set off from the picnic site near Cobblershill at about 9.45am. I took the bridleway heading uphill – straight away I saw a wide variety of wildflowers beside the path: Garlic Mustard, Herb Robert, Yellow Archangel, Wood Spurge, Goldilocks Buttercup, Bluebells. The flowers and undergrowth soon disappeared as the bridleway steepened, climbing steadily through a beech wood with a few holly bushes and just dead beech leaves underfoot. I passed an area near the top of the hill where there was a plantation of young trees in plastic tubes, and the bridleway continued through a slightly older plantation of young bushy trees, before returning to the beech trees. I ignored paths going off either side, crossing the route of the Chiltern Way at one point, and stayed on the bridleway until it reached the edge of the wood at a junction where five tracks met.

I took the second turning on the left, following a bridleway between hedges with cows and calves in the first of a sequence of yellow-speckled fields to my right. I soon passed a house on my left and continued on between the hedgerows, where again there were numerous colourful wildflowers. Over the hedge on my left I had a nice view across a wide Chiltern valley, the northward continuation of the Misbourne valley (the river doesn’t actually rise until near Great Missenden, and flows south from there). The bridleway then passed through a small wood and came to a fork, where I went right to continue along the hilltop west of the valley. There was now another cattle pasture on my left. I soon came to a wood, where I turned left on a pleasant path through the trees – I got a glimpse of a Muntjac deer here. The path exited the wood, and turned right in a large sheep pasture, following the edge of the wood.

There was a nice view ahead across the valley here, and I had another wildlife sighting, a Buzzard circling over the sheep pasture. I soon came to a path junction, where I went right over a stile, back into the wood. A narrow but clear path led through the trees, going downhill at an easy gradient. Beyond the wood, it ran between a long garden fence on the left and a tall hedge. It then continued along a drive, where there were nice views along another valley that I was now crossing (the continuation of Hampden Bottom, which I’d cross again later). At the end of the drive, I turned right along a minor road for a hundred yards or so, then took a footpath on the right. This passed a house on the left, then continued between the fence of a paddock with a solitary white horse and a tall hedge on my right. The path then entered a wood, again with a good selection of wildflowers including Yellow Pimpernel, Woodruff and Wood Speedwell. The path rose uphill through the wood, and on the far side I turned left, alongside the wooden fence of some paddocks on my left. I passed a farmyard on the left, and followed its drive to a road in Prestwood.

The name Prestwood is a corruption of Priest-Wood and dates back to Saxon times. Prestwood was originally a large common, spread over several different parishes, and the village only acquired parish status in the late 19th century. The village grew throughout the early 20th century, but the biggest expansion came in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee once lived in Prestwood, before moving to nearby Great Missenden.

I turned left, and soon came to a crossroads in the village where I went straight on. After another hundred yards or so, I turned left along a narrow alley. Where it ended, I continued along a narrow street ahead of me. Ite ended at a T-junction on the edge of the village, where I turned right but very shortly turned left, along the drive to another farm. I was now on the route of the Chiltern Heritage Trail again. Before reaching the farm, the path went right, through a metal gate and continuing between a garage and garden on the left and some orchards on the right. Through another metal gate, I turned left to follow the edge of a large arable field. This turned left and then right, and took me to Atkins’s Wood. I followed the path through this beech wood for about 100 yards, then forked right at a junction marked by arrows painted on trees. The path descended gently through the trees, the route indicated by further white arrows. On the far side of the wood I went through a metal kissing-gate in a fence, and turned right on a bridleway. This ran along for some distance between hedges on either side, to reach a tarmac farm drive which I followed to a lane.

I turned right – the lane was narrow with no verges, and I had to press myself into the hedge when cars went by. But I only had to follow it a short distance as it currved round to the left, before I took a path on the left. This followed a hedge on my right for a while, then continued on across a field towards a corner of a wood, where I went half-right on tractor tracks through an arable field with woods on three sides of it. In the field corner I continued for a short distance through the wood, then the path ran between hedges and fences again, with more fields speckled by yellow buttercups and Dandelions on my right and cattle pastures on my left. The path ended at a pub on a road in Little Kingshill. I crossed over and took the path on the other side. This ran between two houses and then along the right-hand edge of a playing field to reach another road. At this point I met the route of my previous walk (which had just passed the Baptist chapel along the path opposite me).

I turned right here, leaving the route of the Chiltern Heritage Trail which went left (as had my previous walk). I crossed a road junction by a pub and after another 100 yards turned right into a small modern close called Shepherd’s Gate (the footpath sign here was half-buried in a holly hedge). The path went over a stile and continued beside some small paddocks or enclosures on the left, then reached a very large field. I followed the hedge on my right, until it turned right, at which point the path went half-left, crossing the large field diagonally to a distant corner. The first half of the field had a young arable crop in it, but the second half of the field seemed to have been left fallow this year – there were numerous wildflowers amongst what looked like last years crop, including beautiful Field Pansies everywhere – there must have been thousands of them in this field.

In the field corner the path passed between some bushes to reach a wide track, where I turned right. After a short distance I turned left through a gate, the path running along a hedge on my right through a large area used for market gardening. There were numerous different crops here in small strips, including cabbages, blackcurrants and strawberries (covered in straw, appropriately enough). I saw a Green Woodpecker here, as I followed the boundary on my left as it turned to the right, now with a mixture of small conifers (presumably future Christmas Trees) on my right. I reached a gate in the fence on my left, and went through it into a wood, almost immediately turning right at a junction and following a path through the trees to a minor road.

Across the road I followed a bridleway for about half a mile through another beech wood, the edge of the wood being a short distance to my left. The bridleway wasn’t too bad today, but had been pretty muddy when I came through here on one of my exploratory walks. On the far side of the wood I turned left, following a fenced path between paddocks obn my left and another wood. This soon came to a drive, beside a stables on my left, which I followed a short distance to a road. This was another bit of Prestwood, with the village church and an infants school on the opposite side of the road.

I followed a path that started beside the infants school. It soon reached an attractive meadow that went up and down either side of a small valley – I spotted a couple of Muntjac deer in the meadow, one quicly ran off but the second remained stationary as I followed the edge of the meadow on my right. The path then went through another small wood – as I reached the far side I saw another Muntjac running off through a field on my right. There were nice views to my left now, as I followed a wire fence along a headland between two fields – the cattle pasture on my left sloped downhill between woods, and I could see across to the far side of a distant valley. I then reached yet another beech wood. Here the path initially went to the right, before turning left alongside and old fence and descending very steeply. This was quite painful for my old knees, but I soon got to the bottom of the slope (probably the steepest section on the Chiltern Chain Walk) and followed the path through a meadow to a lane.

I turned right here – the lane was reasonably wide, but there was no verge so I needed to be careful about the occasional vehicles that passed. I didn’t have far to go anyway, before turning right along a tarmac farm drive. I stayed left at a fork, to pass the farm on my right, and a bit further on continued ahead on a footpath when the drive turned right. I was now following the edge of Nanfan Wood, generally with meadows just a few feet to my right. Again there were a variety of wildflowers in the wood – Greater Stitchwort, Bluebells, Herb Robert, Wintercress (at the start, by the drive), Wood Avens, Yellow Archangel, Woodruff. This was a very pleasant part of the walk, as the path almost imperceptibly went uphill along the bottom of a very shallow valley. Beyond the wood I continued through two very charming and colourful meadows, full of buttercups and Dandelions, most of the latter having turned to seed heads. The path then crossed a more overgrown meadow to reach a lane, where I turned right for a couple of hundred yards to reach a minor junction, in a part of Prestwood once again.

I turned left, and followed the road a short distance, passing some interesting cottages on the right. Beyond the village, a wood started on the right with a fingerpost indicating tow paths going through it. I took the leftmost path through the trees, and followed it for about half a mile. It very gradually started to descend, usually staying close to the edge of the wood on my left. I ignored several paths going off on either side, just kept straight on along the same path. Eventually it turned to the right and a few yards further on reached a path crossroads in the trees. Here I sat on a convenient bench to eat my lunch, before continuing on my way, turning left and following a new path further downhill through the trees. Near the bottom of the hill, I left the wood and crossed a narrow strip of grass called The Glade, with Hampde Housen visible along it to my left.

On the far side I entered another wood, where I was delighted to see a solitary Lesser Celandine flower. For days now I have only seen their dying-off leaves – like the fading Bluebells, an indication of the passing of the seasons. I can’t believe summer is almost upon us – the years just go by quickere and quicker! There are two paths through the samll wood, but today I only saw waymarks for the leftmost one, the one I wanted (though both end at the same point on the far isde anyway).

I turned left along a minor road, the one that runs through the wide valley of Hampden Bottom (I’d crossed the same road earlier just before reaching Prestwood for the first time). There was a good wide verge, recently cut, on the left. After a few hundred yards, where a wood ended on the right, a footpath went right, initially alongside the wood and continuing beside a left-hand hedge, very gradually going uphill. I saw a Red Kite quite nearby here, but failed to get a decent photo. It was a long steady plod, the path beside the hedge very gradually going uphill. After a while the path switched to the left of the hedge, but continued slowly uphill. There were nice views back over Hampden Bottom to the partially wooded hillside beyond, and also over to my left to a wooded hill between Little Hampden and Cobblershill. The path eventually levelled out and reached a track or drive between houses where I turned right to reach the single dead-end lane that services the remote village of Little Hampden.

I turned left, and followed the lane for about a quarter of a mile to near its end. Opposite the Rising Sun pub I turned right, and followed a footpath descending quite steeply through another wood. The narrow path twisted and turned between the trees as it went downhill, then turned right and rose again slightly to reach the edge of the wood. Here I followed a hedge down into the valley bottom (there is a good track to the right of the hedge, but the right-of-way is actually on the left). I saw some more Wintercress growing close to the far end of the hedge, where I entered yet another wood. A good path carried on here, going up the opposite side of the valley, climbing quite steeply through the trees. There was again a very good collection of wildflowers here – Herb Robert, Garlic Mustard, Bugle, Yellow Pimpernel, Bluebells, Woodruff, Wood Spurge, Greater Stitchwort and Germander Speedwell (which is now possibly the flowere I am seeing most often). Near the top of the slope, I crossed another footpath, and a few yards further on reached a bridleway running along the top of the hill, just inside the edge of the wood.

I went left for a few yards, then went over a curious double-stile arrangement to enter a corner of a very large meadow. As usual, this was yellow with buttercups and Dandelions. There was a very attractive view, across the sloping meadow and over the continuaution of the Misbourne Valley to the hillside opposite. The path now followed the left-hand hedge of the meadow for several hundred yards as it gently descended into the valley. About 100 yards before the end of the meadow, the path went over a stile on the left and crossed an artificial horse gallop.

I am fairly sure I recognised this spot on an episode of Midsomer Murders recently – ITV have just been repeating numerous episodes in the afternoons, and I’ve recorded and watched most of them (well, there’s been nothing else worth watching on the box!). It’s not the best of Detetctive series, but it’s interesting to me as much of it is filmed in the Chilterns, so I enjoyed trying to recognise the locations used. Bledlow has appeared in several episodes, as has The Lee and Chenies Manor (which I went past on Walk 8).

I went through a gate on the opposite side of the gallop, and turned right and followed the fence beside the gallop – there were about four black cattle some way away in the buttercup-filled meadow I was walking through. After a few hundred yards, I went through another gate and re-crossed the artificial gallop to a stile. It was then just a short stroll to the right to return to the car park, and I got back to my car about 2.15pm.

This was another very enjoyable walk, on a very fine day indeed. A really good mixture of field paths and woods, alternating in quick succession. The variety of colourful wildflowers at this time of year added to the pleasure I got from the walk, and the yellow meadows and pastures considerably enhanced the attractions of the scenery.

Total distance: 133.4 miles

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