27.6 km (17.2 mi), of which 4.2 km (2.6 mi) on tarmac or concrete . Cumulative ascent/descent: 458m. For a shorter walk, see below Walk options.
Time: 6 hours 15 minutes walking time. For the whole outing allow at least 8 hours 45 minutes.
OS Landranger Map: 165 (Aylesbury & Leighton Buzzard) OS Explorer Map: 180 (Oxford) & 181 (Chiltern Hills North). HTP station, map reference SP 731 085, is 10 km south west of Aylesbury, 22 km east of Oxford, and 81m above sea level. Haddenham is in Buckinghamshire.
8 out of 10
This is a long and strenuous – but very rewarding – walk through the pleasant rolling countryside of the north westerly parts of Aylesbury Vale, just north of The Chilterns, with some far views on clear days. The walk first crosses the Thame Valley north of Haddenham and then passes through the area of the ancient Bernwood Royal Hunting Forest on a wide circular route to return south on a different route back through the Thame Valley to Haddenham.
The lunch stop is in any one of two charming pubs in the ancient hilltop village of Brill. A short loop around the village, providing far views into five counties, passes its well-preserved windmill in a prominent position on Brill Common, before a long descent from this steep-sided village follows.
There are a few ascents throughout the walk at regular intervals, with the third one – up to lunch in Brill – the longest, as the walk links a total of four hilltop villages and crosses one other hill chain. It also contains several arable field crossings.
A shortcut reducing the effort to 5 out of 10 is described.
The walk offers a shortcut half-way through the morning, which cuts out the recommended lunchtime destination, the charming hilltop village of Brill, though (cuts out 7.6 km (4.7 mi) and 156m descent/re-ascent). The recommended lunch stop for the short walk is in Ashendon, and it is rated 5/10. For details see the end of the main walk directions.
There is also a minor shortcut in Brill itself, described in the main text.
You can also order a taxi for a pickup after lunch, from Brill to Haddenham station this would cost £14 (2015 price): 01844 299 444.
Haddenham & Thame Parkway (HTP) station is on the London Marylebone to Bicester main line.
Journey times are between 38 and 51minutes.
Saturday Walkers’ Club: Take the train closest to 9.30 hours.
The Poacher’s Pocket Thame Road, Chilton Buckinghamshire, HP18 9LR (01844 208 220, http://www.thepoacherspocket.co.uk/ ). Open Mon 17.30-23.30 Tue-Thu 11.30-15.30 and 17.30-23.30, Fri-Sat 11.30-23.30 and Sun 12.00-16.00 and 19.00-23.30.
The Poacher’s Pocket is located 7.6 km (4.7 mi) into the walk .
The Pointer 27 Church Street, Brill Buckinghamshire, HP18 9RT ( 01844 238 339, http://www.thepointerbrill.co.uk/ ). Open Mon 17.00-22.00, Tue-Thu 12.00-23.00, Fri-Sat 12.00-24.00 and Sun 12.00-22.00. Food served Tue-Thu 12.00-14.30 and 18.30-21.00, Fri-Sat 12.00-14.30 and 18.30-22.00 and Sun 12.30-17.00.
The Pointer is located 12.1 km (7.5 mi) into the walk. It is on a site which has had a pub on it since at least the 1700’s, and has a large outside area at the back. Until 2011 known as The Red Lion, a Greene King Pub, it has been l ovingly restored by the new owners over the last couple of years, now serving as pub, restaurant and butchers. Best Food Pub and Overall Runner Up Aylesbury Vale Village Pub 2014/15.
The Pheasant 39 Windmill Street, Brill, Buckinghamshire, HP18 9TG (01844 239 370, http://www.thepheasant.co.uk/ ). Open 12.00-23.00 (12.00-24.00 Fri-Sat). Food served Mon-Fri 12.00-14.30 and 18.00-21.00, 12.00-18.00 Sat and 12.00-17.00 Sun. The Pheasant is located 12.9 km (8.0 mi) into the walk and also offers accommodation. It has a large outside seating area, with the balcony and garden offering views of Brill’s windmill and the open countryside beyond it. Overall Runner Up Aylesbury Vale Village Pub 2014/15
The Hundred of Ashendon Inn Lower End, Ashendon, Buckinghamshire, HP18 0HE (01296 651 296, http://thehundredofashendon.com/ ). Open Tue-Fri 12.00-15.00 and 18.00-23.00, Sat 11.30-23.00 and 12.00-18.00 Sun. Food served Tue-Sat 12.00-14.30 and 18.45-21.00 and 12.00-15.00 Sun. The Hundred of Ashenden is located 18.6 km (11.6 mi) into the full walk and 11.5 km (7.2 mi) into the short walk. Formerly The Gatehanger’s Inn and The Red Lion, but now under new Management and fully refurbished, it is also offering accommodation. Finalist Aylesbury Vale Village Pub 2014/15. Recently awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand 2016. They also serve sandwiches and more traditional dishes from a Bar Snack Menu.
House of Spice 19 Fort End, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire HP17 8EJ (01844 292 934, http://www.houseofspice.uk.com/ ). Open 12.00-14.30 and 18.00-23.30. An old pub converted into an award winning restaurant. Part of a group of restaurants across Bucks and Oxon. 1 km from the station.
Little Italy Espresso Bar , Haddenham Village 7a Fort End, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire HP17 8EJ (01844 290 426, http://littleitalyespressobar.com/ ). Open Mon-Fri 8.00-16.30, Sat 9.00-16.30 and Sun 10.00-15.00.
1.1 km from the station.
Smarts Fish & Chips 5 Banks Parade, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire HP17 8ED (01844 291 791). Open Mon-Sat 11.30-14.00 and 16.30-23.00. 1.2 km from the station.
The Rising Sun 9 Thame Road, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire HP17 8EN (01844 291 744, http://www.therisingsunhaddenham.co.uk/ ). Under new management and in the process of setting up food service at time of writing. Open 12.00-14.30 and 17.00-23.00 Mon-Thu, 12.00-24.00 Fri-Sat and 12.00-22.30 Sun. 900m from the station.
Little Italy Espresso Bar, Haddenham and Thame Parkway Station Thame Road, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire HP17 8EW (01844 290 426, http://littleitalyespressobar.com/ ). Open Mon-Tue 5.30-14.30, Wed-Fri 5.30-17.00, Sat 07.30-13.00 and 08.30-14.00 Sun.
The name is Anglo-Saxon Hǣdanhām, "Hǣda's Homestead" or, perhaps Hǣdingahām, "the home of the Hadding tribe". Haddenham is renowned for its ponds which were used to breed Aylesbury ducks, and it is also the home of Tiggywinkles, the animal welfare charity and veterinary hospital. Haddenham is the country’s biggest village.
Haddenham is known nationally as one of only a few wychert (or whitchet) villages. Wychert is Anglo-Saxon in origin (wit chert), meaning ‘white earth’, and refers to the local clay soil deposits. It describes a method of construction using the wetted clay mixed with straw to make walls and buildings, which are then thatched or topped with red clay tiles. The method is similar to that of a Cob building. To maintain the rigid nature of wychert it must not become too dry for risk of crumbling, nor too wet for risk of turning to slime. Keeping wychert well ventilated and not subject to excess condensation is therefore highly recommended. Render applied to a wychert wall must be of a breathable material - a lime based render is common practice. One of the largest Wychert structures is Haddenham Methodist Church.
A 21 km (13 mi) waymarked, circular walk around Haddenham linking the surrounding Wychert villages and pubs of Cuddington, Chearsley and Long Crendon. Waymarked paths link the centre of Haddenham and the station to the walk.
Nowadays seen as a 65 km (40 mi) long tributary of the longer Thames, there is a school of thought saying that the Thames upstream of Dorchester, where the Thame joins it, is called Isis, and that the Thames is only the confluence of Isis and Thame. What seems certain is that all three names go back to the Celtic “Tamesas/Tamesis” (probably meaning “dark”). The Thame's source is several small streams in the Vale of Aylesbury on the north side of the Chiltern Hills. These streams converge north-east of Aylesbury.
Thame Valley Walk
A 24 km (15 mi) waymarked linear Long Distance Path along the Thame Valley from Aylesbury to Albury, linking the North Bucks Way with the Oxfordshire Way.
Bernwood Jubilee Way
A 98 km (61 mi) waymarked circular Long Distance trail from Brill, Bucks, developed by the Bernwood Ancient Hunting Forest Project within the ancient Forest boundary. Brill’s close association with Bernwood, as its administration centre, gave it an importance throughout the history of the royal forest and thus makes it an ideal starting/finishing point. The most northerly points of the route are near Oxford and Buckingham, the most southerlys just north of Thame.
Opened in 2002, Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee Year.
One of several forests of the ancient Kingdom of England and a Royal hunting forest. It is thought to have been set aside as Royal hunting land when the Anglo-Saxon kings had a palace at Brill and church in Oakley, in the 10th century and was a particularly favoured place of Edward the Confessor, who was born in nearby Islip.
From about 1217 through to the 17th century the forest went through a gradual period of deforestation.
Long Crendon Courthouse
Purchased by the NT in 1900 by Public Subscription, the courthouse is a fine example of a 15th-century timber-frame construction.
The ground floor (now tenanted) was the village poor house. Open Apr-Oct Wed/Sat/Sun 11.00-17.00.
A Grade II listed Georgian manor house, dating back to the early 18th Century. It was built for the view, and has a
12th century church in its grounds.
Remaining under the ownership of the Aubrey-Fletcher family, the house has been converted to a luxury nursing home, providing the comfort and services of a fine country house hotel.
Brill is a charming village on a steep-sided hill with views into five counties. Its name is a modern abbreviation of
Bre-hyll, with both syllables meaning ‘hill’, the first is Celtic/Brythonic, and the second Anglo-Saxon. Its history dates back beyond the Royal Hunting Forest of Bernwood, of which it was once the most important settlement in the forest. Such an exposed hilltop site would have been settled upon since the Stone Ages, and traces have been found of an Iron Age Fort as well as a Roman settlement and an Anglo-Saxon castle.
King Edward the Confessor chose Brill as the location for his royal hunting lodge, helping to establish a thriving pottery and brick industry that supplied bricks for houses in Oxford and Thame as well as for Waddesdon Manor.
It is rather salutary to consider how Brill would be today if Queen Victoria had chosen to visit nearby Dorton Spa rather than Leamington Spa…
And while The Great Train Robbery in 1963 took place 27 km away from here further east near Cheddington, the robbers had hid at the remote Leatherslade Farm on the boundary of Brill with the village of Oakley for two days before the crime and returned there immediately after it to divide the loot.
J.R.R. Tolkien is supposed to have based the village of Bree in The Lord of the Rings on Brill.
Windmills have been a feature of Brill since at least the 13th century. The present Grade II listed windmill was probably erected sometime in the 1680s. Although not quite the oldest windmill in England, it is one of the best preserved of the dozen or so 17th century 'post-mills' still standing. A post-mill is a mill in which the whole structure revolves around a central post in order to face the wind. In 1634 another post-mill was built opposite today's windmill, on the other side of the road across the Common. It was struck by lightning in 1905 and demolished. The 'tump' on which it was built is still clearly visible. Brill Windmill is a major landmark in Buckinghamshire and is open to the public on the first Sunday of each month throughout the summer (14.00-17.00).
Wotton House was built between 1704 and 1714, to a design very similar to that of the contemporary version of Buckingham House. The house is an example of English Baroque and a Grade I listed building.
The grounds were laid out with a formal parterre and a double elm avenue leading down to a lake. Fifty years later William Pitt and Capability Brown improved the landscape, creating pleasure grounds of 200 acres incorporating two lakes. After a fire gutted the main house in 1820 the owner, Richard Grenville, 2nd Marquess of Buckingham, commissioned John Soane to rebuild it. After the 3rd Duke of Buckingham, the last direct Grenville male heir, died in 1889, the house was let to a succession of tenants until in 1929 it was bought by Major Michael Beaumont MP and renovated, concealing all of Soane's detailing including the central three-storey Tribune. In 1947 Beaumont sold the estate and the main house was let to two boys' schools. By 1957 the house had become derelict and was due to be demolished when Elaine Brunner found it and had most of the Soane features restored.
The South Pavilion (the former coach house) was sold separately in 1947. It has had a number of notable owners incl.
Sir Arthur Bryant and Sir John Gielgud, and is presently owned by Tony and Cherie Blair (bought in 2008 for £4m).
One of the seven great houses built in the Vale of Aylesbury by the Rothschilds in the second half of the 19th century (the others being: Aston Clinton, Tring, Ascott, Eythrope, Mentmore Towers and Halton).
Waddesdon Manor, set in formal gardens and an English landscape park, was built on a barren hilltop overlooking Waddesdon village by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898) on farmland bought in 1874. He wanted a country retreat built in the style of a turreted Loire Valley châteaux and engaged the French architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur. It was meant to house his superb art collection and entertain the fashionable world.
Bequeathed to the NT in 1957 with the largest endowment the Trust had ever received, the Rothschilds ensured the family’s continued involvement by naming a family member as the chairwoman of the management committee. To this day it is managed by a family charitable trust. As a family, the Rothschilds were the greatest art collectors of the 19th century, and the collection continues to grow through the patronage of family trusts.
Several films have been shot here, including the Carry On film Don't Lose Your Head, the Indian film Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, and The Queen, in which interiors and the gardens doubled for Buckingham Palace. Waddesdon Manor has also been used in several television series. The house stood in for the exterior of the fictional Haxby Park in the second season of Downton Abbey (the interior was filmed at Halton House) and as Snow White's and Prince Wendell's castle in the TV mini-series The Tenth Kingdom. It was used as the O'Connell family's home in the film The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and as the front part of the 'Hotel du Triomphe' in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Nether Winchenden House
A Grade I listed Medieval and Tudor Manor House and Country House , for 450 years in the same family ownership, altered in the late 18th century in the Strawberry Hill Gothic style , and nowadays used as a wedding venue.
Outer Aylesbury Ring
An 85 km/53 mile circular Long Distance Walk along the higher ground around the outside of the original Aylesbury Ring to produce a walk with good views through pleasant countryside and passing through many delightful villages and towns. Launched in 2013 and created by Aylesbury & District Ramblers, who have also produced leaflets, detailing 14 sections plus separate linked circular walks. Website: https://sites.google.com/site/outeraylesburyring/ .
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Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk