Bulstrode Park and Burnham Beeches woods, the Thames, and Stanley Spencer
Bulstrode Park, Burnham Beeches & Spencer
15.4km (9.6 miles), 4 hours 30 minutes. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow 7 hours 30 minutes.
2 out of 10 (more in winter when muddy.
Explorer 172 or Landrangers 176 & 175. Gerrards Cross, map reference TQ 002 887, is in Buckinghamshire, 9km north of Slough and 12km east of Cookham, which is in Berkshire.
Near the start, this walk crosses Bulstrode Park and from there, past woods and lakes to a cratered moonscape where the route crosses the M40. Then it goes through the Hedgerley Green Nature Reserve to the church at Hedgerley, and on through Egypt Wood and Burnham Beeches to a pub in Littleworth Common. 8.8km (5.5 miles) of this walk is covered before lunch. In the afternoon, there are more woods and fringes of woods, with an optional detour to the hilltop Church of St Nicholas in Hedsor for a fine view over the Thames Valley and across to a late eighteenth-century folly, a ruined castle. The walk ends alongside the Thames, going over Cookham Bridge to Cookham Church, the Stanley Spencer Gallery and tea and then across the National Trust’s Cookham Moor to Cookham Station.
A good time of year to go on this walk is early November when leaf colour in the many beech woods should be at its best. Later, when winter sets in, many of the bridleways can be muddy.
There are no convenient bus services on the route but you could get a taxi from the lunch pub. To lengthen the walk, you can either continue the walk from Cookham into Marlow, along the Thames Path, starting on the southern bank of the Thames and crossing over to its northern bank at Bourne End, to add 3.5 miles to the walk, or you can head along the Thames Path in the other direction, into Maidenhead, to add some 4 miles to the main walk.
The 400 acres of Bulstrode Park were bought in 1686 by Judge Jeffreys who built a house here. It was confiscated when he was sent to the Tower of London. The present manor was completed by the twelfth Duke of Somerset in 1870. Since 1963 it has been the headquarters for the missionaries and admin staff of the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade.
Egypt Wood is thought to be so called because it was an oft-used encampment for gypsies prior to 1880 (the name ‘gypsy’ derives from ‘Egyptian’, although gypsies probably originate from India). Since 1880 Egypt Wood (which is a part of Burnham Beeches) has been owned and managed by the Corporation of London.
The Church of St Nicholas was mentioned in land records in 1218 and is unusual in that it is entirely set within the grounds of the landowner, Lady Wantner, with the only right of access being for walkers. The church is open on Sunday afternoons in June, July and August.
Cookham was inhabited by ancient Britons, Romans and Saxons. In the Domesday Book it is listed as containing ‘32 villagers, 21 cottagers, 4 slaves, 2 mills, 2 fisheries and woodland at 100 pigs’. In 1140 a Norman church was built on the site of Holy Trinity Church, Cookham. The north wall of the church is built of chalk blocks, probably quarried at Cookham.
The artist Sir Stanley Spencer (1891–1959) lived in Cookham and there is a memorial stone to him in the graveyard. Spencer was born in a Victorian semi-detached house in Cookham High Street and he attended services at the Wesleyan Chapel in the High Street, which is now the Stanley Spencer Gallery (tel 01628 471 885; open April–October daily 10.30am–5.30pm, Nov–March Thurs–Sun 11am–4.30pm). The admission fee (2020) remains at £6.00.
Take the train nearest to 10.15am from Marylebone Station to Gerrards Cross. Journey time 21-30 minutes. Trains back from Cookham to Paddington are hourly, changing at Maidenhead. Journey time just over an hour.
As the two stations are on different lines you cannot get a return ticket for the full walk. Instead, either:
For the same reason, this walk is not good for car travel. You can travel back from Cookham back to Gerrards Cross via 2 buses, #37 to Loudwater, then #740 to Gerrads Cross, a 10 min walk from the station - check Travelline South East (link below).
For an early lunch stop if you have started out late or for a morning coffee the White Horse (tel 01753 643 225) at Hedgerley, is open from 11am on weekdays and from noon on Sundays, serving food from midday until 2-30pm. This pub specialises in real ale, of which there is an extensive selection, and bottled and draught ciders, making it a popular watering hole for the discerning drinker.
The suggested lunchtime stop is the Jolly Woodman pub (tel 01753 644 350) in Littleworth Road, Littleworth Common, which has a good menu and quick service from midday to 2.30pm daily (Sunday to 4pm). Groups of more than seven people should phone to book as it gets busy, particularly on Sundays. Closed on Mondays.
A more than acceptable alternative, particularly for individual walkers or small groups, on the eastern side of Littleworth Common, is the Blackwood Arms (tel 01753 645 672), a homely, walker-friendly country pub, which serves a good selection of light meals, sandwiches and delicious main courses for lunch, Tuesday to Friday from midday to 2pm, and Saturday and Sunday from midday to 5pm (closed on Mondays). Booking ahead is essential as this pub is very popular.
The suggested stop for tea in Cookham High Street is Infusions (tel 01628 528 537), a delicatessen with a garden where you can eat your purchases.
Other options are the seventeenth-century hostelry, the Kings Arms (tel 01628 530 667), open daily until at least 9pm (serves food from noon) and the Bel and the Dragon pub (tel 01628 521 263), both also in the High Street.
In addition, there are two pubs which you pass on your way to the railway station, and the Countrystore shop opposite the station. On the western side of the level crossing you will find a Costa Coffee .
No major changes. This edition January 2020.
An earlier version of this walk was published in Time Out Country Walks near London volume 1. We now recommend using this online version as the book is now dated.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
The out and back routes are with different train companies - check the ticket advice.
Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
It is not easy to return to the start by train, as the stations are on different rail lines.
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
The [numbers] refer to a sketch map in the book.
-  Coming off platform 1 at Gerrards Cross Station go over the footbridge to exit the station building. Cross the pedestrian crossing outside the building and go left uphill on a tarmac path, your direction 320°.
- In 75 metres go straight on, now on the pavement of a tarmac road, walking parallel to the station car park down below. In a further 140 metres, where this road veers sharply to the right and there is a car park on your left, carry straight on, along a narrow tarmac footpath, your direction 305°.
- In 210 metres turn left to go on a footbridge back over the railway lines. On the far side keep ahead on a path between wooden panel fences. In 70 metres you come out onto a bend in a road (Layters Way) where you turn right, passing Cedar House on your right-hand side. In 75 metres bear left with this road, downhill, which in a further 140 metres reaches a T-junction.
- Cross this road and pick up a signposted footpath opposite, to go along the right-hand edge of a wood, with a fence on your right, your direction 260°. In 200 metres exit the wood up concrete steps onto the A40 road. Cross the road with care and turn left for 25 metres, then turn right onto a path (by a green footpath signpost) between concrete posts, down concrete steps and between wooden fences, your direction 220°.
- In 110 metres you reach a gravelled road opposite Main Court House. Turn right, heading towards the park, your direction 255°.
- In 30 metres go through a metal kissing gate by a two-armed footpath sign and yellow path arrows to enter Bulstrode Park . In winter the first 25 metres of your otherwise grassy way can be very muddy. Follow a wide grass path straight on, ignoring the wide grass path to your left, your initial direction 255°, slightly uphill and gradually veering right. Bulstrode Manor is just visible behind trees on the hillock to the left in the distance. After 600 metres, as you reach the top of the hill, go through a metal kissing gate in what could be a temporary fence line and continue on an earth then rough tarmac track in the same direction, now veering slightly to the left.
- In 150 metres go through a wooden kissing gate to the right of a pair of metal fieldgates. Here turn right onto a gravel car road. In 20 metres you cross  the entrance driveway to Bulstrode Manor and go straight on along a tarmac road.
- In 50 metres, just after a left-hand turning, fork left between wooden posts onto a path with a fence to your right-hand side, following yellow arrows, your initial direction 280°. In 225 metres this path comes to a T-junction at the edge of a wood. Turn left, your initial direction 255°.
- In 150 metres you pass a lake on your right-hand side. Soon the path re-enters a wooded area, with the lake still to your right. In 340 metres you come out into a rough, open scrubland area with a large pylons away to your left.
- Continue on the path, going under the overhead cables, your direction 245°. In 50 metres you pass a metal fieldgate on your right and the path swings to the left, your direction now 225° as you now head towards traffic noise. In 100 metres, go through a metal kissing gate and down steps to a tarmac road, where you turn right, your direction 315°. In 70 metres you pass Moat Farm on your right-hand side and continue on the road which bears left onto a bridge crossing the M40.
- Immediately after crossing the bridge, go over a stile on your left and follow the signposted footpath, your initial direction 100°. Continue down the hill and half-right, your direction 145°.
- In 55 metres you reach a high fence. Turn right on a car-wide grassy way, your direction 195 °; soon there is a low wire fence on your right-hand side. In 40 metres you join a gravel access road and pass a terrace of houses (Moat Farm Cottages). In a further 60 metres at a T-junction with a tarmac lane turn left, your direction 100°.
- In 75 metres, at the Circular Walk footpath sign in a grassy triangle opposite Bulstrode House, turn right on an earth car-wide road, your direction 220°, through a nature reserve (so marked on the OS map), with ponds to your left and right. In 200 metres, when your road bends left towards Sherley Close, leave it to carry straight on along a car-wide bridleway, following a blue arrow on a post, your direction 230°.
- In 500 metres ignore a stile off to the right as the bridleway veers to the left, heading downhill. In a further 200 metres, you come to a church on your left-hand side, St Mary the Virgin, Hedgerley, which is likely to be locked. Bend right with the path, which is now tarmacked.
- In 85 metres pass through wooden gates (usually propped iopen) and come out onto a road, Village Lane (with the White Horse pub on your right), where you turn left, following the circular walk sign, your direction 195 °, past Old School Cottage on your left-hand side.
- In 80 metres you pass a pond on the left and Hedgerley’s ‘Buckinghamshire Best Kept Village’ sign on the right. In 70 metres turn right  onto Kiln Lane.
- In 25 metres you pass Hedgerley Memorial Hall on your right and in a further 200 metres [!] turn left through a wooden barrier onto a footpath signposted Circular Walk, your direction 240°. In 30 metres go through a wooden deer protection gate and follow a path uphill through a wood. In a further 300 metres go through a similar gate and bear left between fences, your direction 190°. In 75 metres you come to a wooden close-boarded fence on your left and the path veers slightly to the right.
- In 145 metres, at the end of the footpath, cross an access drive and immediately turn left on a signposted, enclosed narrow public footpath to the right of Old Nursery Court by a yellow water marker in the ground, your direction 155°. In 70 metres you enter a wood. In 10 metres take the right fork and in 30 metres at a post with yellow arrows turn right, your direction 230°. Continue on, in 80 metres passing through a slightly more open area of the wood and straight ahead, ignoring a path to your left, your direction now 250 °. In 25 metres go through a broken wooden barrier and onwards, ignoring a path to the right.
- In 100 metres you reach a road junction, where you turn right. Pass Andrew Hill Lane on your right and Christmas Lane to the left. Continue forward on the main road.
- In 100 metres you pass Top Farm on the right-hand side. In a further 85 metres you pass the large gate of Pond’s Wood Farm on your left-hand side.
- In 130 metres  turn left onto a path signposted Circular Walk, into a wood. Keep forward, your direction 190°, with a fence on your left. In 170 metres cross a stile just before the A355.
- Cross the road and continue ahead on a Circular Walk signposted footpath between fences, your direction 230 ° initially, into Egypt Wood (so marked on the OS map). In 250 metres you reach Egypt Lane  (marked on a Corporation of London signboard).
- Cross the road and go straight on, slightly to the right, through a wooden fieldgate painted white, signposted Circular Walk, on a concrete drive, your direction 295°, soon passing houses on your right-hand side. In 100 metres you pass houses and then concrete garages on your left-hand side.
- Keep straight on into the wood through a metal kissing gate to the right of a wooden fieldgate, along a broad earth track running roughly east–west through the wood. Ignore all ways off and keep straight ahead, in due course going down and up the other side of a dip; you will pass three posts with yellow arrows confirming your direction. In 900 metres you reach a staggered junction where you keep ahead, now on the edge of the wood, with open fields to your right, your direction due west.
- Ignore paths off to the left. In 140 metres go over a stile (with a metal fieldgate to its left) to exit the wood and continue along the right-hand side of a field, with a field hedge on the right.
- In 140 metres go through a metal fieldgate (usually propped open) or if closed, go over the rickety stile to its right. In a further 20 metres go through a wooden kissing gate (a wooden fieldgate to its right), and continue straight on, along an earth road. In 100 metres go straight on, along a tarmac road, due west.
- In 160 metres, at a junction, keep straight on (the signpost when repaired will indicate Burnham and Taplow) on Boveney Wood Lane.
- In 240 metres you come to sign for Littleworth Common and in a further 20 metres you come to a road junction on your left, with the entrance to Boveney Wood Farm on your right-hand side.
- If you intend having lunch at the Blackwood Arms, turn left at this road junction – Common Lane – and in 225 metres you come to the Blackwood Arms pub on your left-hand side. After lunch, turn left out of the pub and in 20 metres turn right through its car park onto a path, by a South Buckinghamshire District Council notice board, your initial direction 305°. Follow the public bridleway sign as the path winds through light woodland before coming out onto Littleworth Common. Keep ahead, now on a broad, grassy path. In 250 metres, having re-entered light woodland, you come out to the road junction, with Dorney Wood Road on your left-hand side. Now continue with the main directions as described in para. 33 below.
- If you intend having lunch at the Jolly Woodman, ignore the fork to your left, and go straight on. In 15 metres ignore a bridleway to the right but in a further 80 metres [!] turn down another bridleway to the right and bear left with it after 70 metres. After passing a large bungalow you reach the Jolly Woodman pub, the suggested lunchtime stop.
- Coming out of the pub door after lunch, go straight on along a bridleway opposite the front door, your direction 205°. In 45 metres you come to a tarmac lane and turn right, your direction 265°.
- In 40 metres you come to the front gate of the Parish Church of St Anne, Dropmore, which is likely to be locked. Turn left here across the road, onto a path into the wood, between a wooden post to your left and a metal post on your right, your direction 170°. In 40 metres, at a cross paths T-junction go right, your direction 295° (turning left here onto the broad, grassy path will take you to the Blackwood Arms pub).
- In 55 metres you reach Dorney Wood Road, which you cross. Turn right and in 25 metres you come to a car road T-junction, signposted Beaconsfield to the right. Cross this T-junction carefully, slightly to the left, and pick up a Beeches Way signposted footpath to the left of a cottage called Brissels Wood, through a wooden kissing gate, your direction 295°. The path runs between a hedge and wood on the right and a fence and field on the left.
- In 460 metres you cross a stile and continue across a large field on a clear path between fences, your direction 280°.
- In a further 360 metres, after crossing a farm track, go over a stile (or round the edge of it), onto a path along the right-hand edge of a wood. In 80 metres exit the wood over another stile (or again round the edge of it) to reach a car road . Turn right on this road, your direction 320°. In 45 metres you pass the entrance to Hales Cottage on your right-hand side. In a further 140 metres take the left turn into Sheepcote Lane, your direction 245°.
- In 310 metres, where the road bends to the left, take the bridleway signposted Beeches Way to the right, on a car-wide track (without tarmac after 25 metres), your direction 330 °. In 150 metres you pass a cottage on your left-hand side. Continue forward on a narrow bridleway, along the left-hand edge of woodland.
- In 370 metres you come out on a tarmac road  where you turn left along the road, following the Beeches Way sign, your direction 255°. In 80 metres ignore a footpath to the right into Farm Wood. In 210 metres you cross Wash Hill to your right and Hedsor Lane to your left to go straight on.
- In 180 metres, where the main road bends right, fork left on Branch Lane , a tarmac drive, marked ‘Unsuitable for motors’, following the Beeches Way arrow, your direction 230°.
- In 200 metres [!] fork left signposted Beeches Way and The Chiltern Way Berkshire Loop, past a metal fieldgate on a gravelled track, your direction 225°, into Woolman’s Wood.
- In 80 metres, at a path junction, fork right following the Beeches Way arrow and one saying ‘Church path’ on a post, steadily downhill between fences, with woods to your left and right.
- In 620 metres go through a metal kissing gate and straight on along a tarmac road with Lord Boston’s eighteenth-century mock castle folly up on the hill to the right.
- In 200 metres it is worth detouring up steps and through a kissing gate on your left-hand side, to take a path across a field steeply uphill, your direction 125°, heading to the right of the Church of St Nicholas. From the top, the view over the valley makes the climb worthwhile. There is a kissing gate into the churchyard, but the church is only open on Sunday afternoons from June to August. Retrace your steps and continue on the road below.
- In 110 metres go through a wooden swing gate to the left of a pair of vehicular gates to cross a road . Continue past an unusual thatched house with columns on your right-hand side. Go ahead through a wooden pedestrian gate to the left of a pair of vehicle gates, and head down a surfaced drive, your direction 235°.
- In 50 metres pass to the left of a cattle grid. In a further 10 metres, with double gates in front of new houses, turn right, your direction 290° and continue with a brick wall on your left and soon a flint retaining wall on your right. In 50 metres go through a metal pedestrian gate to the left of a metal fieldgate gate onto a path. Keep left between a wooden fence on the left-hand side and metal fence on the right, as the path swings to the left.
- In 120 metres go over a stream on a wooden bridge with railings that lean outwards. At the other end of the bridge, in the corner of a large field, fork left, following the Beeches Way arrow, your direction 235°. In 80 metres you pass an obelisk behind the fence on your left-hand side (it may not be visible in summer).
- In a further 40 metres your path reaches the bank of the River Thames on your left-hand side. Bear right and continue for 130 metres, then veer away from the river, following a path slightly to the right across an open field, your direction 235°.
- In 260 metres go over a stile marked by the last of the Beeches Way signposts and turn left on the busy A4094, due south , into Cookham. Cross this road when traffic permits and continue over the town bridge. 20 metres beyond the bridge, there are steps on your left to the Ferry Inn , on your left. If your walking boots are muddy and in need of a wash before you stop for tea in Cookham, descend the steps, turn right around the front of the pub, then at the back turn left down to the ford onto the river, for your boot wash. Afterwards,return to the road up the steps. Here cross the road with care and go down the steps opposite , with metal railings (a signposted public footpath) and then straight on, along a gravelled path (which looks like a dead end) your direction 285°.
- In 25 metres you come into the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Cookham, through a wooden swing gate. The church entrance is around the far side. Coming out of the church, take the path right from the front door, then left in 20 metres at a cross paths, in 25 metres passing Stanley Spencer’s memorial stone to the right of a bench.
- At the end of the churchyard bear left, passing Churchgate House on your left. In 20 metres you reach the A4094 again, where you turn right. Stay on this road as it bends to the right.
- In 60 metres you come to the Stanley Spencer Gallery opposite, at the junction with the High Street. Turn right (or if you visit the gallery, turn left when you come out) along the High Street, your direction 260°. The Bel and the Dragon pub is opposite the gallery. In 70 metres you pass the Kings Arms pub on your left-hand side (the entrance is through the courtyard). Just beyond it is the delicatessen Infusions, one of the suggested places for tea.
- Allow 20 minutes to reach the station after tea. Continue to the end of the High Street to reach the War Memorial on your left-hand side. Carry on across Cookham Moor on a tarmac lane to the left-hand side of the main street, your direction 265 °, and in 200 metres go over a bridge.
- 100 metres beyond the bridge, you rejoin the main road and go straight on at a small roundabout. Continue past the White Oak pub (where you can use the pedestrian crossing to go over the road) and The Old Swan Uppers pub on your right-hand side. At another roundabout keep forward, following the sign to the railway station, which you reach in 200 metres. The Countrystore shop on the right just before the station, is another possible place to buy refreshments, as is the Costa Coffee shop on the far side of the level crossing, before you take the train back to London via Maidenhead.