Walking in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire, a county of delightfully varied landscape, sits astride the beech covered Chiltern Hills which effectively divide it's northern and southern areas. The Chilterns are designated an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). The grandeur of a dramatic scarp along the north-west edge contrasts with landscape of a more intimate nature in the south; woods, hedge-rows, deep valleys and charming villages. To the north of the Chilterns lies the Vale of Aylesbury, a rich well irrigated agricultural region with clay soils and many dairy farms. Here the county town of Aylesbury has retained some of the character of a market town within it's historic centre. The narrow alleyways and courtyards around the market square, church street and the churchyard of St. Mary's provide a pleasant stroll.
To the north of the Vale of Aylesbury lies the valley of the Great Ouse River and the original county town of Buckingham. It was Alfred the Great who made Buckingham a county town in 888AD, a distinction it retained until 1725 when, during a period of decline after a terrible fire, it lost out to Aylesbury. Nevertheless the old town has charm and is worth a visit; it also provides a good base for walking in The Claydons, a particularly quiet and lovely area just south of Buckingham.
To the south of the Chilterns are the Thames and Colne valleys where the Buckinghamshire border is crowded by the urban sprawl of Slough and Maidenhead. Villages and towns in the south of the county are London commuting communities but many have retained an authentic Chiltern character. With the exception of the Thames valley most of southern Buckinghamshire comprises the low chalk ridge of the Chiltern Hills, famous for glorious beech woods. Cool and shady in summer with a canopy of dense green foliage, and providing a stunning blaze of flaming russets and golds in autumn, it's no surprise that the Chiltern's many footpaths are a walker's paradise. In springtime too, when the woodland floor is carpeted in bluebells, and shafts of sunlight create a blue mist, the Chilterns are a joy to walk.
Hambleden is a pretty Chilterns village which gives the impression of being stuck in a time warp. It's not surprising therefore that TV and film producers have been drawn to it with Disney's '101 Dalmations' and TV's 'As Time Goes By' and 'Midsomer Murders' amongst its credits. The village green is enclosed by Georgian houses, including the rectory, and old cottages have been transformed into village shops. There is still a village pump under tall chestnut trees in the centre of the square. The fourteenth century church of St Mary the Virgin dominates its surroundings.
A Walk from Hambleden [SU 785865]
This walk takes you through the village and up into magnificent beech woods. A few climbs are rewarded with extraordinary views, including the valley below and the Thames. Look up and you may catch a glimpse of a red kite, recently reintroduced to the area. From Hambleden the route heads roughly north through Great Wood towards Upper Woodend Farm and then through Gussetts Wood to Luxters Farm. This is a Vineyard and Brewery which you can visit to learn about the wine making process and also taste the wines. (you must book ahead tel: 01491 638330). The route returns to Hambleden in part following the Chiltern Way.
Best Pub for this walk
Stag and Huntsman, Hambleden Tel: 01491 571227 (Good Pub Guide)
This handsome brick and flint pub is 400 years old and near to the river. It offers an extensive menu of wholesome pub grub. There is an extensive garden and a modern restaurant.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Pub Walks for Motorists - Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire' by Nick Corble.
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