The scenic heart of Aylesbury Vale: picturesque hamlets in the Thame Valley, Notley Abbey, Dinton Hall and Hartwell House.
23.3 km (14.5 mi), of which 5.8 km (3.6 mi) on roads or pavements . Cumulative ascent/descent: 177/180 m. For a shorter walk, see below Walk options.
Time: 4 hours 57 minutes walking time. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 7 hours and 45 minutes.
OS Landranger Map: 165 (Aylesbury & Leighton Buzzard) OS Explorer Map: 181 (Chiltern Hills North) and 180 (Oxford). HTP station, map reference SP 731 085, is 10 km south west of Aylesbury, 22km east of Oxford, and 81m above sea level. Aylesbury Station, map reference SP 817 134, is 78m above sea level. Both are in Buckinghamshire.
4 out of 10
This walk through the scenic heart of Aylesbury Vale passes through the tranquil Thame Valley in the morning, linking up many unspoilt and picturesque hamlets, while passing four good village pubs en route. After lunch several grassy fields and a substantial newly planted community woodland are passed through. Later the stately mansion of Hartwell House is rounded, before the route heads into Aylesbury for tea.
The Oxford to Aylesbury bus route (200/280) along the A418 offers an option for a shorter walk, either taking you back to Haddenham station or on to Aylesbury bus station (200m from the rail station). It runs every 20 minutes weekdays, half-hourly Saturdays and hourly Sundays, and you can catch it from many points along the route, either after lunch in Gibraltar or Dinton, near Dinton Church (halfway through the walk), or later in the afternoon in Hartwell (4 km from the end). Details are to be found in the walk directions.
Haddenham & Thame Parkway (HTP) station is on the London Marylebone to Bicester main line. Aylesbury is on the Marylebone to Aylesbury line (also operated by Chiltern Railways), but is also served via a loop branching off from the Bicester line at Princes Risborough. Buy an ‘Aylesbury Return (any route permitted)’-ticket [i.e.: NOT an ‘Aylesbury (via Chalfont & Latimer) Return’], this covers the outward journey up to Princes Risborough.
You might then have to pay on board for a single Princes Risborough to HTP extension (there are no barriers at HTP).
Journey times are between 38 and 51minutes to HTP and 60 minutes from Aylesbury, with up to three trains per hour Mondays to Saturdays, and up to two trains per hour Sundays.
Saturday Walkers’ Club: Take the train closest to 9.30 hours.
The Crown at Cuddington Aylesbury Road, Cuddington, Buckinghamshire, HP18 0BB (01844 292 222, http://www.thecrowncuddington.co.uk/ ). Open Mon-Sat 12.00-23.00 , Sun 12.00-22.30. Food served Mon -Sat 12.00-14.30 and 18.30-21.30, Sun 12.00-15.00.
The Crown is located 7.1 km (4.4 mi) into the walk.
A characterful Grade II listed pub, functioning equally well as a popular local and as a serious dining pub. The atmospheric interior includes a locals' bar and several low-beamed dining areas. There is also a small patio area providing outside seating and an opportunity for al fresco dining in the summer.
The Bottle & Glass Thame Road, Gibraltar, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP17 8TY (01296 748 444, http://www.thebottleandglass.com/ ). Open Mon-Thu 11.00-23.00 , Fri-Sat 11.00-23.30, Sun 12.00-22.30. Food served Mon-Fri 12.00-15.00 and 18.00-21.30, Sat 12.00-21.30, Sun 12.00-21.00 .
The Bottle & Glass is located 10.3 km (6.4 mi) into the walk.
A large thatched-roof pub, with a roaring log fire, completely rebuilt after a devastating fire, offering affordable, good quality food, prepared from locally sourced produce.
The Seven Stars Stars Lane, Dinton, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP17 8UL (01296 749 000, http://www.sevenstarsdinton.com/ ). Open Mon-Sat 12.00-15.00 and 18.00-23.00 , Sun 12.00-22.00. Food served Mon -Sat 12.00-14.00 and 18.00-21.00, Sun 12.00-15.00 and 18.00-21.00 .
The Seven Stars is located 10.9 km (6.8 mi) into the walk.
It was saved from closure by local people purchasing the freehold, and it has a snug, a main bar and a dining area.
The Dinton Hermit Inn Water Lane, Ford, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP17 8XH (01296 747 473, http://www.dintonhermit.co.uk/ ). Open Mon-Sat 12.00-23.00 , Sun 12.00-22.30. Food served Mon -Sat 12.00-14.15 and 18.30-20.45, Sun 12.00-15.00 and 18.30-20.30 .
The Dinton Hermit is located 13.6 km (8.5 mi) into the walk.
It is a stylish restaurant, traditional village pub, as well as a comfortable bar and has 11 newly refurbished hotel bedrooms. It derives its name from a legend surrounding the execution of King Charles I (see “Notes”).
The Bugle Horn Oxford Road, Hartwell, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP17 8QP (01296 747 594, http://www.vintageinn.co.uk/thebuglehornhartwell/ ). Open Mon-Sat 12.00-23.00, Sun 12.00-22.30.
The Bugle Horn is located 19.6 km (12.2 mi) into the walk and 3.7 km from the end of it.
It started life as a farmhouse, but during the early 1800s it was used as a wine store for Hartwell House, whilst Louis XVIII of France lived there in exile. Initially known as the Plough, the current name comes from the fossils of the same name that can be seen in the pub’s walls.
The Hartwell House Spa Café and Bar Oxford Road, Hartwell, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP17 8NR (01296 746 526, http://www.hartwell-house.com/spa-cafe-and-bar/ ).
Open for afternoon teas & snacks Mon-Fri 15.00-18.00, Sat-Sun 16.00-18.00.
The Hartwell House Spa Café and Bar is located 20.0 km (12.4 mi) into the walk and 3.3 km from the end of it.
Aylesbury Station Coffee Shop One4six Coffee Station Approach, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP20 1RU.
Open Mon-Fri 5.00-18.30, Sat 8.00-14.00, Sun 9.00-13.00.
A plethora of options in Aylesbury City Centre (see Walk Directions).
The village 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Augustinian Abbey at Notley was founded around 1162 by Walter Giffard, 2nd Earl of Buckingham, and was the wealthiest foundation in Bucks. It was dissolved in 1540. The abbey church and the majority of the original abbey buildings survive only as buried remains, although portions were retained within the house and outbuildings of a post-Dissolution farm on conversion in 1730- now Notley Abbey House. The barn is Listed Grade I.
It famously was the marital home of actors Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh from 1945-60, renovated with the help of Lady Colefax, favourite decorator of the wealthy at the time. Nowadays it is used as a boutique luxury wedding venue.
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.
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.
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/ .
The Aylesbury Ring
A circular 50 km (31 mi) waymarked circular Long Distance Walk around Aylesbury, through Wendover, Waddesdon and Aston Clinton, in parts sharing its course with the North Bucks Way.
The Dinton Hermit
Simon Mayne (Jnr) was a prominent member of the Parliamentary Party during the Civil War, and the then owner of nearby Dinton Hall, where he had housed Oliver Cromwell. Mayne later sat as a judge of the High Commission Court which tried King Charles I and also was one of the signatories of the king’s death warrant. John Biggs, secretary to Mayne, was rumoured to have been one of the masked executioners of Charles I, but then – out of remorse mixed with melancholy - hid himself away after the Restoration as a recluse in a cave or hut near Dinton Hall. He is supposed to have been fed by local people for 36 years until he died in 1696.
Michael. R. Roads Community Woodland
Known as Michael’s peace, planted in the winter of 2001-2 in memory of Michael Roads, whose generosity led to the creation of this woodland. A memorial stone is let into the ground near the trig point.
A 362 km (225 mi) waymarked linear Long Distance Path from Bledlow, Bucks to Stockport, Greater Manchester, linking the Ridgeway National Trail with the Trans Pennine Trail across the shires of Middle England.
A 106 km (66 mi) waymarked linear Long Distance Path from the Northants border near Mitlon Keynes through Bucks to the Ridgeway National Trail near Princes Risborough and along the Chilterns to Goring-on-Thames, Oxon.
…is a Grade I listed building owned by the Ernest Cook Trust, and since 2008 has been leased to The National Trust. It is currently used as a hotel. The core of the present house was constructed in the early 17th century for the Hampden family and then the Lee’s, an old Bucks family. Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Sir Christopher Lee are amongst their descendants. Between 1809 and 1814 the owner of the house, Sir Charles Lee, let the mansion to the brother of the last king of France, known as King Louis XVIII. The arrival of the impoverished king and his court was not a happy experience for the mansion, with once grand and imperious courtiers having to farm chickens and assorted small livestock on the lead roofs. The King signed the document accepting the French crown in the library of the house, following the defeat of Napoleon. The British Meteorological Society was founded in the library in 1850.
Its proximity to Chequers means that it has frequently been the host of international and Government summits and meetings. The gardens at Hartwell were laid out by Capability Brown c.1750. The North Avenue is a grand vista through trees planted in 1830, but today terminated by the ever encroaching town of Aylesbury.
The Egyptian Well is a folly built in 1850 by Joseph Bonomi the Younger, an Egyptologist. It is an alcove seat opposite a small spring. The stone pylon bears the Greek inscription ΑΡΙΣΤοΝ ΜΕΝ ΥΔΩΡ (Water is Best), attributed to Thales.
Round Aylesbury Walk
A circular 20 km (12 mi) waymarked walk closely circling around Aylesbury
The town’s name is of Old English origin, its first recorded name Æglesburgh is thought to mean "Fort of Aegel".
Excavations in the town centre even found an Iron Age hill fort dating from the 7th century BC. Aylesbury was one of the strongholds of the Celtic Britons, from whom it was only taken in the year 571 by Cutwulph, brother of the King of the West Saxons; and it had a fortress or castle of some importance. The Roman Akeman Street, linking Watling Street north of St. Albans with Cirencester, led through here (nowadays as the A41), providing the grounds for it becoming an important commercial centre in Anglo-Saxon times. It is also the burial place of St. Osgyth, a local noblewoman (from Quarrendon) martyred by Danish Vikings in 700, whose shrine at St. Mary’s attracted pilgrims.
Aylesbury was declared the county town of Buckinghamshire in 1529 by Henry VIII, presumably to gain favour with Anne Boleyn’s father, whose many properties included Aylesbury Manor. The town played a large part in the English Civil War, when it became a stronghold for the Parliamentarian forces, and in 1642 the Battle of Aylesbury was fought and won by the Parliamentarians. Nowadays the urban area has a population of 75.000, doubled since the 1960s due to new housing developments, and it is projected to rise by another 25.000 in the next ten years!
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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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This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk