Feb 032024
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
view near Chinnor Barrows as mist clears across the Vale of Aylesbury 1 view near Chinnor Barrows as mist clears across the Vale of Aylesbury 2 view over Chinnor as mist clears across the Vale of Aylesbury Icknield Way near Bledlow 1 Icknield Way near Bledlow 2 Wain Hill from Icknield Way Icknield Way near Bledlow 3 winter evening at Church End, Bledlow Lions of Bledlow PH view near Chinnor Barrows as mist clears across the Vale of Aylesbury 3

An ice-cold breeze coming east off the Chiltern Hills stung my eyes with wind tears as I followed the puddled track of the Icknield Way out of Bledlow. The low winter sun topped the trees on the crest of Wain Hill and threw the medieval ridge-and-furrow of the fields below the slope into sharp relief.

The Icknield Way, ancient thoroughfare across these chalk lands, ran at the feet of the hills. Soon I turned off on a carpet of wind-blown beech and oak leaves, into a steep holloway that rose up the escarpment in the chilly shade of a yew grove.

Near the top a fat ginger tomcat on a cold tin roof yawned massively as he watched me go by with supreme indifference. A path at the crest of the ridge brought me to a wonderful viewpoint over the Vale of Aylesbury where the sun was sweeping up the last of the morning mist and spreading golden light like butter over thirty miles of low-lying country.

A flock of goldfinches, softly twittering, flitted away from the thistle heads where they had been feasting. I passed the Bronze Age burial mounds of Chinnor Barrows, smothered under juniper and bramble, and dipped down another slippery hollow to the feet of the scarp once more.

The Ridgeway, companion to the Icknield Way, ran here in a succession of snaky curves under beech and ash. Silver birch trunks, their heartwood rotted where they lay, were no more than empty cylinders of bark where spiders and tiny beetles lay in their winter inertia.

The pearlescent sun swam down between the bare treetops of Thickthorne Wood. I followed a footpath over the grassy billows of the lower slopes before setting back across bare, silent stubble fields. A red kite wheeled down to land nearby and pick up a worm, short commons in the hungry months of the year.

Back in Bledlow with its beautiful old Church of the Holy Trinity and charming cottages of brick and timber framing, I ducked into the Lions of Bledlow pub. Literally ducked – the place was full of scalp-scraping beams, a properly cosy pub for sitting and replaying this perfect winter walk.

How hard is it? 5 miles; easy, but muddy, sticky and slippery in places!

Start: Church End, Bledlow HP27 9PD (OS ref SP 778021)

Getting there: Bus 320 (Chinnor – Princes Risborough)
Road: Bledlow (NB – not Bledlow Ridge!) is signed off B4009 between Chinnor and Princes Risborough (A4129/A4010)

Walk (OS Explorer 171): Beside Lions of Bledlow PH, through gate (‘Footpath only’), across field, right along Icknield Way/IW (775017). In ½ mile at Hempton Wainhill, follow IW/Ridgeway between two houses and on (770012). In 600m fork left uphill (767009, ‘Bridleway, Wildlife Walk’). At top of rise, left over barrier (767002, ‘Chinnor Barrows’) and on. In ⅔ mile, back at Hempton Wainhill, right (IW). In 100m in front of house, fork right (770012, ‘Ridgeway/IW/Bridleway’). In ½ mile, just past track crossing, right (778011, gate, ‘Footpath’) across fields, soon with trees/fence on left. In ½ mile, just before crossing hedge, left (782006, gate). Right; in 20m, right (gate, ‘footpath’); cross field; cross Wigan’s Lane (784004). Down driveway; in 400m on right bend, left (787001, blue, yellow arrows). In 100m path bends left; in 300m, before waymark post (787004), left through hedge; recross Wigan’s Lane (785005). Follow fence; in 300m pass ‘Footpath’ gate; in 20m left (782006, gate); right along hedge. In 200m fork right through trees (781008); cross IW (781011); path by hedge to Bledlow.

Lunch: Lions of Bledlow PH (01844-343345, thelionsofbledlow.co.uk)

Accommodation: Inn at Emmington, Sydenham OX39 4LD (01844-351367, theinnatemmington.co.uk)

Info: chilternsaonb.org

 Posted by at 02:09

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