First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A misty, moisty morning in the Chiltern Hills, with a wintry nip in the air. A group of hikers were enjoying thermos coffee and tupperware cake in the porch of the Church of St Mary le Moor at Cadmore End. Inside, strong colours glowed from the Victorian glass in the lancet windows, and a statuette on the font cover depicted a mother offering up her baby to the country in its hour of need – a very poignant memorial to First World War patriotic sentiment.
Mist hung in the trees and puddles made obstacle courses of the chalk and gravel tracks through the hills. A flock of starlings skimmed round in close formation before settling on a field to pick insects and worms from the sodden furrows. The countryside was a palette of washy greens, oranges and browns, pale and insubstantial in the moisture-thickened air.
In the margins of Hanger Wood a squirrel leaped overhead, knocking raindrops down to rattle among the hazel leaves. Acorns carpeted the path, none so much as nibbled. Maybe squirrels dine on caviar in the Chilterns.
Down in the valley by Harecramp Cottages a fleet of Land Rovers bounced towards their day’s shooting. I followed an old green lane among hips and haws, then climbed a steep little path to emerge at the crest of Turville Hill beside the white smock and skeletal sails of Cobstone Windmill, cleverly sited to catch every available wind.
Down below, Turville stretched along the valley bottom, picture perfect in mellow red brick. Here played out the extraordinary story of farmhand’s daughter Ellen Sadler, who fell asleep at home in Turville in 1871, aged 11, and could not be woken. Doctors, clerics, newspaper reporters and nosy celebrities attended her bedside, expecting to catch her out as a fraud, but nothing disturbed her Sleeping Beauty slumber until she awoke naturally some nine years later at the age of twenty.
There’s a gruesome fascination in the village inn’s name, the Bull & Butcher. The signboard displays a manically grinning butcher, cleaver in hand, with an apprehensive bull looking on. The pub itself proved warm, beamy, brick-floored and full of dogs – just the place for a nice pint of Brakspear’s golden nectar before the homeward plod by way of charming Fingest and the hollow bridleway through Hanger Wood.
How hard is it? 5 miles; easy; one short steep descent.
Start: Cadmore End car park, HP14 3PE (OS ref SU 786926)
Getting there: Car park is off B482 just east of Cadmore End school, between Stokenchurch and High Wycombe.
Walk (OS Explorer 171): cross road and green; left along lane. Opposite church (784925), right on track (‘Bridleway’). In 250m fork right by spinney (782925). In 450m at foot of slope, fork left into trees (778926, white arrow). In 700m cross road (773923); cross field to style (770925); left down lane. In valley bottom, left on green lane (767924). In ⅔ mile, nearing road, hairpin right (774917, yellow arrow/YA); in 50m fork left uphill to road (770915). Dogleg right/left past Cobstone Windmill; steeply down to Turville. 50m before road, left (769917), kissing gate/KG); half left to KG (771911); on to cross road (774910, ‘Chiltern Way’/CW). In 100m fork right (775911, YA, CW) to road (777910). Left; left up Chequers Lane; right by Sundawn * house (777911, fingerpost). In 100m fork right. In 250m, KG (780913); ahead up lane; in 300m fork left uphill (783914, blue arrow) to Cadmore End.
Accommodation: Chilterns Fox, Ibstone Rd, HP14 3XT (01494-504264, thechilternsfox.co.uk)