Start: Chesham tube station, Metropolitan line, zone 9, Buckinghamshire
Finish: Wendover station, Buckinghamshire, Chiltern Railways
Distance: 9 miles/ 14 km (16064 steps)
Time: 5 hours (max)
Map: OS Explorer sheet 181 (Chiltern Hills North)
This walk takes you to another world, a world where skylarks and bleating sheep provide the background music and where the air smells of wildflowers rather than diesel. Less than two hours from central London the predominant colours are green (all around you) and blue, hopefully, (overhead).
The Chilterns are prime agricultural land and people are trying to earn a living here: crops and livestock are all around you on this walk, and should be treated with respect. Dogs should be under control at all times.
The route roughly follows two established paths called the Chiltern Link and the Ridgeway National Trail. They go in a straight line across country, but I have changed the route in a couple of places to make it a little more interesting. There are a couple of lovely old country inns along the way, but its safest to carry some food and drink with you; as, for example, the Cock and Rabbit at Lee is closed in the afternoon. The climbing is not difficult on this walk but the surface is rough in places and this walk cannot be recommended for wheelchair users or pushchairs/buggies.
Some trains on this line only stop at a few of the stations on the way out of London. Chesham is at the end of a line, but Amersham isn’t: the Chiltern Railways train to Amersham and Aylesbury from Marylebone can drop you off at Chalfont and Latimer and you can catch the tube to Chesham from there, thus saving time. (See a tube/railway map for more details.)
Chesham station has free toilets. Our route goes out of the station door and down Station Road on the left, but if you want some provisions there is a Waitrose just a few yards away if you go straight ahead out of the station, along The Backs.
At the bottom of Station Road turn left along the pedestrianised High Street. On Saturdays there is a busy market here with excellent food and drink on sale.
Just before the clock tower and a peri-peri chicken shop, turn right along a short street to St Mary’s Way dual carriageway. The traffic here goes fast so cross the road at the zebra on the left. Come back along the other side crossing Church Street as you go. Immediately pass into Archena Gardens on your left and on into Lowndes Park with its pond and big grassy bank. Walk uphill past the end of the pond, keeping close to the wall on your left. As you join Bury Lane take a moment to walk down it to look at the cottages on the left. Their walls are made of a very durable local material – flint. Farmers to this day are only too happy for builders to come and remove flint pieces from their ploughed fields. A plaque on the end wall tells its own story.
[The Sixpenny houses]
Carry on up the hill passing the church which is hidden behind a high wall on the left. Opposite the entrance to the Chesham Bowling Club on the right, pass a metal gate and keep to the left of the tarmac lane on a parallel footpath. Go straight ahead on a clear path with a wood on the left and a sloping grass bank on the right. Near the end of the field the footpath goes downhill into the woods. (In May there were several clumps of Cowslips at this point.)
As you emerge from the wood, fork left and go down to the lane. Cross to a kissing gate and on the other side fork left and head for the gate into a second field. Skylarks can be heard here. Go half left to a lane with a kissing gate then right along the lane for 100 yards to a finger post pointing uphill to the left where we go next.
This is the first diversion away from the Chiltern Link path which we shall rejoin in about half an hour. The path here is like a tunnel with coppiced hazel on both sides meeting overhead and violets and bluebells at ground level in the spring. At the top where there are gates on both sides go straight ahead into a beech wood. When you emerge from the trees onto a tarmac surface turn right immediately down a tarmac track to the valley bottom. Here turn left, along Herberts Hole; eventually reaching a cottage of the same name. On passing in front of the cottage look out for a narrow footpath climbing up beside its garden. At the top is a high fence on the left then a gritty drive and a finger post ahead where the drive turns right. Don’t climb the stile and go straight ahead. Instead turn left through the gate then immediately right through a small metal gate after an inconspicuous little pond. A clear footpath lies ahead with a hedge on the right.
On reaching Bellows Wood on the right, the Link path goes left, but we go straight ahead to the bottom of the valley, first outside the wood then inside it. At times this wood is very silent but at other times I have heard it bursting with bird song which is why I have diverted down here, just in case! Turn left at the bottom left hand corner through a kissing gate and follow the path along the field edge towards a white house in the distance.
Turn left in front of its hedge and down the steps. This is Ballinger Bottom. When you see a sign for the Chiltern Link path follow it right along the tarmac. Turn left at the T junction by Rose Cottage, then at the next T junction cross the road and enter the beech wood in front of you.
On reaching a gate go left staying inside the wood and proceeding in the same general direction. Ignore footpaths going off to the left and right. The broad-leaved edible Ramsons (Wild Garlic) grows here, and on a warm day it can be smelled in the air.
Join a wider track coming in from the right. At a lane turn right then right again to reach Lee village green. The Cock and Rabbit is open at lunch time and in the evening, but is shut from 2.30 to 6 p.m. They specialise in Italian cooking.
Walk past the inn, i.e. left in front of the green curving round to meet the lane on the other side of the green. There are some attractive old houses here.
At the corner pass Daffodil Cottage, and go left along the lane past a small brick church set back from the road. Just past the double metal gates on the right there is a finger post pointing through the hedge on the left. Cross a field heading to the left of a black and white cottage. After crossing a stile, some gravel and another stile fork right across a field to a gate and a stile in the corner. Immediately past this is a cross tracks. Go straight ahead towards the wood in the distance, keeping the hedgerow on your left. Pass the small wood on your right and carry on in the same direction with a hedge of coppiced hazel on your right. In May the larks were singing here and Orange Tip butterflies patrolled the white flowers in the hedge.
At the next field go straight ahead, not left, and at the next field corner after that go left for 50 yards then right again to continue in the same general direction. As you walk along the next field edge a white house is visible across the field on the left. If you were to walk in that direction you would be on a popular path leading to Princes Risborough. Instead we are heading for Kings Ash Farm which is just over the stile in the far corner of this field. Walk diagonally across 2 paddocks to a stile next to a large gate. Cross the track and straight through the small gate opposite. Bear left onto a concrete drive and follow it out onto the lane. If you felt like you were on private property there, wait till you cross the lane: the path beyond the kissing gate now leads right through someone’s back garden, chickens, hutches and all. It’s a public right of way, so don’t hesitate!
Leave the garden by means of a metal kissing gate and walk along the side of the hedge towards the wood ahead, specifically to the stile in the corner. Cross the next field diagonally left, aiming for the solar panels on the roof of the building next to Concord House which is a large white building. Pass the front door on a gritty surface, then over grass to a kissing gate. Now we start our descent to Wendover which lies a mile and a half ahead at the foot of the Chilterns.
In the beech wood, an interesting old sunken track comes in from the left. It must have been worn down by generations of herdsmen and their flocks going to market at Wendover. The name, Hogtrough Lane, suggests that pigs were driven this way as well as sheep. After the two tracks join there is a house on the right and we are walking on a broad drive. To the left is a beautiful long avenue of beeches.
We keep straight ahead on the Ridgeway National Trail, a delightful long distance footpath, running 85 miles from Overton Hill near Avebury Ring to Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring. It is one of the oldest ‘green roads’ in Europe, and at its ends it joins onto other LDFP’s making one continuous footpath from the south coast at Lyme Regis to Cromer on the Norfolk coast.
The road becomes a sunken track with high banks and a poor surface for a while before becoming regular again. At the cross roads go straight ahead. Notice the clever brickwork turning a house corner into a curve on the left (1735 vintage). On reaching a large church on the left, turn right by its lych gate down to attractive Hampden Pond Conservation Area. Rest awhile or just walk round the pond and back out onto the road again, turning right at the T junction.
Pass a skateboard park on the left and the King and Queen pub on the right. The houses on both sides are very old and have front doors opening directly onto the street which is called South Street. At the mini-roundabout turn left uphill on Pound Street to the signposted station on the right. If you’re looking for shops and cafés head downhill first instead. The last building before Wendover railway station is a large inn, the Shoulder of Mutton. The Chiltern Railways train from Aylesbury that you catch connects with the underground system both at Amersham and at Marylebone, its ultimate destination.
“I hope you enjoyed this walk as much as I did!”
Peter Turner (May 2016)