Buckland Common and The Lee

Yesterday (Wednesday, 3rd December 2008), for the first time in what seems ages, I did a new walk – but as it basically linked together sections of three previous walks, there were only a couple of short sections that I’d never walked before. I’d spotted the walk on my maps a couple of weeks ago – on my older copies of the OS Maps for the Chiltern Hills I have highlighted the long-distance paths that I walked, and I noticed a roughly triangular route consisting of parts of Walks 5 and 6 of the Chiltern Chain Walk and part of the Chiltern Link.

I started in Buckland Common, where Walk 6 of the Chiltern Chain Walk starts and where I have twice started the penultimate walk of the Chiltern Way. I’d been late in leaving home and didn’t start walking until about 10.15, but it was still a freezing cold and quite misty morning as I set off. I had to take care not to slip on ice as I followed the lanes out of Buckland Common, following the route of Walk 6 but in the opposite direction. Though it was grey and murky, I was just glad I could see anything as the previous time I’d walked the route in this direction I’d been in thick fog.

I turned right, down the drive to Dundridge Manor, but soon took a field path on the left. After a hundred yards or so I turned right, crossing a field and passing to the left of Dundridge Manor farm. I continued on along the farm drive, with gloomy views over the fields and valleys to my right. The drive went up and down a slight dip, then when it turned I carried on ahead over an area of rough grass beside a small quarry to reach a narrow wood. On the far side of the wood I took a path going left, then followed a hedgerow going right and uphill. This brought me to Arrewig Lane, beside Erriwig Farm.

I went a few yards to the right along the lane, before going left on a bridleway on a track. This soon turned right, but I continued on along a footpath beside a hedge on my right, descending another small dip and rising up the other side, before descending again into a small valley with a wood now on the right. The path continued up the opposite slope, between a hedge and the wire fence of a paddock. Near the top of the hill I reached a pasture, and followed the hedge on my left to a gate in the corner.

Here I reached a T-junction of lanes or minor roads, where I took the road ahead of me. The mist and murk had now cleared and the skies were gradually clearing up and turning blue. After a few hundred yards I took a path on my left, along the left edge of an empty pasture with a farm across to my right. There were several mature trees along the field boundary. I went through a kissing-gate in the field corner and crossed another empty pasture to reach Lowndes Wood.

The path now ran through a succession of woods for about three quarters of a mile, the direction gradually curving from east to almost south. The nature of the woods varied, some parts being typical Chiltern beech woods, others consisting of other deciduous trees. I passed a lot of holly bushes. The path was perfectly clear, though a bit muddy in places. I crossed over the route of the Chiltern Heritage Trail at one point. A bit further on, there was a large pasture on my right as I continued on a bridleway just inside the edge of the wood. Walk 6 of the Chiltern Way soon turned off left into the wood, but I continued straight on.

When I reached the corner of the pasture, I turned right on another bridleway – I was now just inside another wood, still with the same pasture just to my right. I spotted a yellow fungus growing on a fallen log on the ground here, which I later had identified on the ‘Wild About Britain’  web site as a Sulphur Tuft. In the corner of the wood, the bridleway turned left to go steeply uphill – I’d originally planned to go that way, but now decided to continue ahead on a footpath. This would mean more time on paths new to me and a bit less time repeating part of the Chiltern Link route. The path ran between a wire fence and a hedge on my right, with a sequence of sheep pastures on the other side of the fence. As I followed the path along the valley, a Buzzard flew out of the hedgerow ahead of me, and then did so again a few hundred yards further on.

The path took me to a small number of houses on the edge of Ballinger Common, where I joined the route of the Chiltern Link (which I walked three years ago).  I crossed a road, and took a path that ran through a long narrow section of woodland, where I saw a couple of dogwalkers. I went over a stile where the path briefly left the wood and ran along the edge of a large pasture, before re-entering the wood and following a clear path that joined a track running along the far side. The track soon took me into the village of The Lee, close to a road junction by The Cock and Rabbit pub.

I followed a lane round one side of the large village green, passing a big lump of Hertfordshire Puddingstone. I didn’t see anyone in the village – not surprising really, I think the inhabitants have all been bumped off in the numerous episodes of Midsomer Murders that have been filmed here! 🙂 Still following the route of the Chiltern Link, I passed the village church, and then took a footpath on the left, crossing a paddock and then a pasture.

The next three quarters of a mile or so was a very pleasant but straightforward section, following a long hedgerow through a succession of fields. The path soon switched to the left of the hedge, and initially the fields on my side of the hedge were ploughed, with stubble in the fields on the far side. Later on the fields were stubble on both sides. There was the occasional mature tree dotting the hedgerow. At one point a gap in the hedge marked where I crossed the route of the Chiltern Way (heading for Lee Gate, a short distance to my right. The path along the hedgerow was very flat, but across the fields on my left I could see the ground start to drop into a valley, with the top of the opposite hillside in view (though rather hazy, despite the mainly blue skies).

The path turned slowly from northwest to north, and eventually I crossed a paddock to reach the hamlet of Kingsash. Here I left the route of the Chiltern Link (which continued ahead to reach Wendover via Hogtrough Lane), and turned right along a minor road for a few hundred yards. Where the road turned right, I followed a bridleway ahead for a few yards along a green lane, before taking a footpath on my left. This ran alongside the right-hand hedge of a very large pasture, occupied by numerous black sheep (rather uncommon in this area, at least I don’t remember seeing them too often). There were a couple of horses here too.

When I finally reached the corner of the pasture, I continued ahead on a clear but muddy path through a wood. I soon came to a staggered junction, where I went a few yards to my right then continued on a path in the same northerly direction as before. I was now on the route of Walk 5 of the Chiltern Chain Walk – there had been a glorious display of bluebells here when I did that walk, no sign of them on what was now a lovely December day! The path curved right, and headed northeast, soon running close to the line of the ancient earthwork of Grim’s Ditch. The path was soon running through Baldwin’s Wood, sometimes with fields close by on one side or the other, and occasionally a view out through a gateway across the stubble.

After about three quarters of a mile, I reached the end of the woods at a lane junction. It was just after 1pm, but there was nowhere to sit to eat my lunch so I had a second Alpen bar and carried on. I took the lane going ahead, with steep banks either side that had had a good display of wildflowers when I did the Chiltern Chain Walk. The lane ended at a minor road (which I’d driven along earlier to reach Buckland Common), where I went left for a few yards and then turned right. The path here was initially along a drive but soon ran between a hedge and a wire fence that separated the path from an empty pasture. A bit further on the hedge receded, and I followed the fence through a small area of long grass, where I briefly spotted a Fox. I continued through a small area of woodland, then followed a hedgerow through a couple of pastures to reach a lane.

Almost opposite was a bridleway on a good track, running along the county boundary between Hertfordshire (on my left) and Buckinghamshire. There were pleasant views across the fields on my right to a large pond with woods beyond. After some distance I passed some dwellings on my right and then came to another lane. A few yards to the left, I took a path on the far side, following a hedge on my right. In the field corner, I went through a gap and turned right to where a long belt of trees headed off along another section of Grim’s Ditch.

I had intended to follow part of the Chiltern Way the short distance back to Buckland Common from here, but it seemed too early to finish the walk just yet. So I turned left and followed the path through the tree belt,which was mainly beech and holly. At the end I turned right onto a good track between hedgerows, leaving the Chiltern Way but again following the route of Walk 6 of the Chiltern Chain Walk. The track soon led me to Shrubb’s Wood and then High Scrubs Wood. The clear track through the very pleasant woods seemed to go on much longer that I remembered, and I stopped to check the map. I also finally stopped for lunch as it was now 2pm, sitting on a fallen tree trunk.

I nearly missed the path I needed, that turned right and left the wood, following a hedge on the left that occasionally had horse jumps in it. Across Shire Lane I saw a sign saying ‘Montana’ – I’d walked further than I thought! 🙂  I followed a path between the backs of some stables on my left and a garden on my right, then along the edge of a wood with paddocks on my left.  I turned left at a junction, following a hedgerow at the end of the paddocks, then passing through another small wood and an area of bushes to reach the iron-age hillfort of Cholesbury Camp.

I went straight through the hillfort, rather than follow its banks and ditches, passing the old church on my right. On reaching the road through Cholesbury, I took a path almost opposite, which ran between gardens, and then followed the edge of a pasture down into a valley. Here I left the Chiltern Chain Walk, and turned right along a path I’d not walked before. This was a straightforward section following field boundaries along the slight valley for a few hundred yards.  On the far side of a massive field on my left I met up with the Chiltern Heritage Trail again, which I followed a short distance to my right between garden fence again to rejoin the road. It was then a short distance along the road to my left to return to my parked car.

This was another delightful walk in the Chiltern Hills, on a cold but very pleasant winter’s day. Much of the route was familiar to me, though it is over three years since I’d walked the Chiltern Link section. There was a good mixture of woodland walks and field paths, and while there were no outstanding views the scenery was almost always very attractive, a nice mixture of woods, fields, hills and valleys.

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