7 mins

5 of the best walks in the Chilterns and Thames Valley

Rolling hills, pretty villages and glorious riverside paths – the Chilterns and the Thames Valley certainly pack a punch when it comes to fantastic walking routes. Some easygoing, others quite steep...

Goring Weir, Thames Valley (Shutterstock)

1. Chenies to Sarratt

Chenies (Shutterstock)

Chenies (Shutterstock)

This three-and-a-half mile circular walk takes you through Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. The little village of Sarratt has featured as a location in films such as Murder Most Foul (1964), starring Margaret Rutherford as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and in John le Carré’s fiction as the location of an agent training school and interrogation centre for the British Secret Service.

From Chenies village green, take the footpath to Mountwood Farm. At the end of the paved lane, the pathway goes around the farm via a clearly marked track to the right then, shortly after passing the farm, it skirts round the woods to the right. At an opening in a fence, the path bears left heading downhill towards the right corner of the field. On entering the wooded area, go through an old stile, then straight ahead across the marsh beds at the valley bottom.

After crossing the river, turn right at a signpost, going along the valley floor following the signpost direction towards Chorleywood. After 200 yards, pass a small row of cottages on the left, taking the pathway over the stile leading out of the valley. At the top of the field cross a stile and then go straight across a private drive to rejoin the path as it wends its way around some houses to the Church of the Holy Cross.

Walk through the churchyard to a gate and stile at the rear where you will join a footpath; keep the hedge close on the left. After 200 yards, at a signpost, continue straight on down the avenue of trees. At the end, the footpath bears left across a field. Look for a stile midway along the hedge ahead; go over this and, after about 100 yards, cross another stile which brings you to Dawes Lane.

Turn left along the road and follow it round to the right; continue along it until it turns right again. Take the path to the left. Soon you will see some watercress beds on the left, run by E Tyler & Sons. Water supply permitting, you can buy some watercress from the self-service shack, and even dip into a chest freezer for an ice cream (payment by honesty box).

Next to the watercress beds is a ford and a footbridge across the River Chess; cross this footbridge and follow Holloway Lane back to Chenies.

2. A stroll around Medmenham

View of Hambleden Valley (Shutterstock)

View of Hambleden Valley (Shutterstock)

This four-and-a-half mile circular walk takes you to Mill End, with woodland and views of the Hambleden Valley on the way, ending with a splendid stroll along the banks of the Thames.

From the Dog & Badger car park, cross the road and turn right along the A4155. After about a quarter of a mile, cross the road to a gate and follow the public footpath between two wire fences uphill. The path runs alongside and then into woodland. At the fork, take the uphill right-hand path. At the top of the hill follow the waymark arrow round to the left.

The path goes round to the left and emerges into open fields. Walk across the field to the next gate. Cross the stile, with Burrow Farm to your right. At the far end, turn right and continue along a narrow path between the field and a wood. When you reach the far-left corner of the field, turn left and walk 20 yards to where there is a junction; turn left into the wide path, marked ‘Shortcut’. Follow the path gently downhill through the wood.

After about 130 yards, turn half-right through the woods. If you reach a sign saying ‘No Public Access’ you have gone too far. At the end of the wood, cross a stile into a field. Follow the path along the right-hand edge of the field and out into a lane by the gate to a water treatment plant. Turn left down the lane and follow it down to a T-junction, crossing the Hamble Brook.

You will reach a T-junction; turn left along the road until you reach the junction with the A4155 at Mill End. At this point, turn left past Mill End Farm B&B. Cross the road and take the first turning on the right, Ferry Lane. Follow it round to the left and straight on for a quarter of a mile.

When the lane turns right at the end, go through a kissing gate and into a field with a sign that reads ‘Footpath to river’. Turn right immediately towards the river. Follow the path left along the bank of the Thames. You now walk along the river for one-and-a-half miles. At length, you will reach a monument to the Medmenham Ferry, and turn left into Ferry Lane, which will take you back to the A4155 opposite the Dog & Badger.

3. Coombe Hill to Chequers

Coombe Hill's National Trust sign (Shutterstock)

Coombe Hill's National Trust sign (Shutterstock)

This four-and-a-half mile route is one of our favourite walks, a family tradition on Boxing Day but also glorious in summer. It’s moderate in difficulty (some steep climbs and descents, including some steps), but you’ll want to allow around two-and-a-half hours.

Start at the Coombe Hill National Trust car park, go through the gate and take the footpath to your left. This will take you downhill through the woods. Take care, as the path is quite steep in parts. At the bottom, you emerge on to a lane. Cross the road at the junction with Missenden Road, cross, turn right, and after a short distance, take the footpath on the left, which crosses a field. Ahead you can see the distinctively shaped grassy mound of Beacon Hill.

At the end of the field, emerge on to a lane and turn right. At the end of the lane you can cross the road to make a detour to the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Ellesborough, where prime ministers sometimes worship. Turn left along the road and take the footpath on your left through a grazing meadow. Look back for views of Ellesborough village and church. After passing through a gate, continue uphill and slightly to the right around the side of Beacon Hill. The earthwork to your right is the remains of a medieval motte and bailey castle, known as Cymbeline’s Castle.

Pass through a gate and on to a fenced path through a wooded area – the largest native box woodland in the country. Ignoring the private driveway, take the path to the left (the path to the right will take you towards Pulpit Hill). After a while you will see Chequers to your left.

Take the gate on the left and follow the path through the Chequers Estate, before emerging on a bend in the road. Cross the road with care. To your right is Buckmoorend Farm Shop, where you can enjoy refreshments – even canine companions can enjoy a few homemade dog treats. Follow the path up through the wood, and when you reach a junction, turn left, following the path through the wood.

You will emerge on the road, where you should turn right and after a short while take the footpath on the left. This will cross the path you originally took down the hill. At this point you can turn right to return to the car park, but if you continue straight, you will reach the Coombe Hill Monument, with wide-ranging views across the Vale of Aylesbury.

4. Hughenden Church & Flagmore Wood

Hughenden's Church of St Michael and All Angels (Shutterstock)

Hughenden's Church of St Michael and All Angels (Shutterstock)

This walk combines three of our favourite things: history, nature and cake, in an easy route that is perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll, or for combining with a visit to Hughenden Manor.

Starting from the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Hughenden Park, follow the driveway uphill, passing the entrance to the stableyard on the right and the manor on the left. Ignore the turning to the right, signposted to the Ice House, and follow the path into a wood. After about 110 yards, the path forks. Take the left path, shortly emerging from the wood into a field.

The path joins a wide track with a hedge to the left and a view across the field to the right. Follow this track for about 325 yards until you come to a signpost. Turn right on to the permissive bridleway towards Naphill, and follow the path across the field and through a gate, ignoring the paths to the left and right.

After about 310 yards the path enters Flagmore Wood. Turn right and follow the path uphill for 210 yards and when the path branches, turn left. At the end of the path, when you reach a National Trust sign, turn left and follow the path through the wood.

After 550 yards you will rejoin the path on which you originally entered the wood. At the end of this path, turn left uphill rather than returning through the field. At the top, turn right along the hillside. Along the bank to your right are the stumps of some ancient box trees, some of them sprouting again.

Continue along this path as it re-enters the wood to return to the manor and retrace your steps to the start.

5. Exploring Goring

Goring weir (Shutterstock)

Goring weir (Shutterstock)

This five mile walk combines woodland, meadow and chalk grassland with excellent views of the rolling Chiltern Hills, ending with a stroll along the Thames towpath.

Beginning at the public car park near The Catherine Wheel pub, turn left along the path that runs along the top of the car park, which will bring you out to the High Street. Turn right and follow the road up over the railway bridge. At the T-junction just after the railway bridge, turn right, then shortly afterwards turn left. Take the second right into Whitehills Green, and follow it around to the left. At the end you will see a footpath on the right, running between two hedges.

At the end of the footpath is a recreation ground, following the waymark for the Chiltern Way. Cross the recreation ground diagonally, making for a gap in the hedge in the far-left corner. Turn left and follow a path skirting the left edge of a field. Continue following the path uphill into the next field. At the far-left corner, follow the path round to the right and downhill.

At the bottom follow the path uphill towards a wood. Continue following the path through the wood. Cross a farm track, and then you come to a junction. Turn sharp right and follow the path through the wood and out into a field. Keep following the path towards the farm buildings in front of you.

When you reach the edge of the field there is a waymarked kissing gate. Follow the waymarked path around the edge of Upper Gatehampton Farm, until you emerge into a lane. Turn and follow it down to where it turns right. Instead of continuing down the lane, take the track to the left. Enter Hartslock Nature Reserve and follow the path uphill to the left. The gate at the top will take you to an inner part of the reserve, where between April and August you may see some of the seven species of wild orchids including lady orchid, monkey orchid and a new hybrid of the two.

Otherwise, turn right and follow the path down the hillside (very steep), but do take time to enjoy the view of the river as you do so. At the bottom you will reach the Thames Path. Turn right along this path and follow it all the way back to Goring. When you reach the bridge and Goring weir, turn right up the High Street to return to your starting point.

Find more walks in Slow Travel Chilterns

These walks were taken from Slow Travel Chilterns and the Thames Valley, written by Neil and Helen Matthews, and published by Bradt Guides.

Bradt is offering Wanderlust readers a special 30% discount on ALL its books. To claim your discount, visit the shop on Bradt Guides and enter code CHILTERNS30 at checkout. Offer valid until 31 October 2020.

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