Coombe Hill and the Hampdens (not again!)

Yes, today’s walk took me back to one of my favourite areas of the Chilterns yet again, Coombe Hill and the various Hampden villages. This was basically Walk 12 of the Chiltern Chain walk (see http://www.petes-walks.co.uk/Chiltern%20Chain%20Walk/CCW12/ccw12_b.htm) with a few minor alterations and an extension tagged on at the end.

There was some drizzle or light rain as I eat my breakfast and while I drove to Coombe Hill, but it had stopped by the time I started walking about 9.40am. The forecast indicated that the rest of the morning would be dry, but there would be showers arriving about 3pm.

From the Coombe Hill car park, I made my way to join the Ridgeway which I followed south through a beech wood back to a road.  A short distance down the road, I continued along the Ridgeway through more beech wood on the other side. I followed a sequence of waymarks and fingerposts through the trees, eventually joining a broad track that headed downhill to another road. I crossed over and continued on over a field and across the drive to Chequers, over to my right. Beyond a large pasture I turned right on a good path following the edge of a wood.I could now see Chequers over to my left with Coombe Hill behind it.

I crossed a couple of cattle pastures (yet another nasty incident with an aggressive dog in the first one – at least the owners of the uncontrollable mutt that barked and danced angrily around me had the grace to say ‘sorry!’). I then followed the charming path contouring round below Pulpit Hill, through¬† a couple of large flower-decked meadows. After passing the pub at Cadsden came the long ascent up Whiteleaf Hill – I’m really unfit, this climb seemed longer and harder than usual! There were a couple of walkers at the top of the hill, admiring the view out over Prince’s Risborough, Monks Risborough and the Vale of Aylesbury – apart from a few dog walkers, these were the only walkers I’d see all day.

I then took a slightly different and longer route to Parslow’s Hillock – it involved a bit more road walking than usual, but also took me through a section of woodland I’d not seen before. From there I took my usual route, along Lily Bottom Lane and then through Monkton Wood and Hampden Coppice to Hampden Common. It was too early to stop there for lunch (I’ve sat on the benches at the cricket ground before) so I carried on across the fields to Great Hampden, and then on through Lady Hampden’s Wood and down into the wide valley of Hampden Bottom.

Part way up the other side of the valley I stopped for lunch on a bench cut out of a tree trunk, with a nice view back over the valley. There had been threatening grey clouds a little earlier, but now it was much brighter. A Red Kite came across the valley to within about a hundred yards of where I sat. I then took a shorter route into Little Hampden, instead of following the Chiltern Way which is the route I’ve always used before. This footpath brought me out next to the Rising Sun pub, saving me a quarter mile walk along the lane through the village.

Back on my usual route, I followed the long bridleway downhill through another beech wood and up the other side. Near the top of the hill I took a short cut, by going left on a path that cut a corner off my usual route. I then turned left on a bridleway into Dunsmore, with its tiny chapel and its duck pond. I continued on the bridleway the other side of the village, following it through more woods for about a mile.

Where the bridleway goes slightly right, I normally go straight on along a path, then turn left to reach the monument on Coombe Hill. Today I extended my walk by continuing along the bridleway, which soon started a gradual descent through the trees for over a mile, almost to a road on the edge of Wendover. Just before the road, I turned very sharply left at a path junction, rejoing the route of the Ridgeway. I now had a very long but very gentle ascent over Bacombe Hill to the monument at Coombe Hill – this is a very plesant path, mainlythrough grass and bushes with an assortment of wildflowers, and good views to the right over the Vale of Aylesbury. As I passed the monument on Coombe Hill, a couple of Red Kites flew by! I then just had a simple level stroll back to the car park.

I think the walk was about 14-15 miles – it took me 5 hours and 20 minutes of walking. I was lucky with the weather, as the predicted showers in the afternoon never materialised. I’d felt as if I was struggling a bit before and after lunch, feeling low on energy, possibly because I’d not slept well for a couple of nights. But I’d perked up by the time I got to Dunsmore, and didn’t think twice about extending the route for a couple of miles down and back up Bacombe Hill.

It was a great walk – there was a wide variety of scenery, lots of woodland walking, plenty of ups and downs, a variety of historic interest (Whiteleaf Hill, Hampden House). The scenery was good almost every step of the way, with the possible exception of a couple of short lane walks. It was nice to vary the walk slightly and to extend it’s distance slightly – I’m sure I’ll do this walk or a version of it many times in the future.

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