The Chilterns, a windmill & Bryant's Bottom
15.7km (9.8 miles), 4 hours 30 minutes. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow 8 hours.
6 out of 10 (7 when muddy).
Explorers 172 & 181 or Landranger 165. Princes Risborough, map reference SP 799 027, is in Buckinghamshire, 11km south of Aylesbury.
This walk across the Chilterns – the walker’s heaven – is through sloping fields and beech woods and hamlets, past upmarket farms and upgraded cottages. The walk is not difficult but it does have two short, steep hills (with fine views) near the lunch stop which account for the toughness rating, although the walk directions do offer an alternative route which avoids the first of the inclines.
Small sections of the route can be muddy in wet weather, particularly the leg through Monkton Wood before the lunch stop.
This walk is delightful at all times of year and it is especially enjoyable late October or first week in November when autumn colours are usually at their best.
You could order a taxi from the suggested lunchtime stop, the Gate Inn in Bryant's Bottom, or from the Polecat Inn 2.5km further on. Both places may also have rare buses on weekdays (for information call TraveLine on 0871 200 2233).
Princes Risborough derives its name from the Black Prince, who is said to have been Lord of the Manor there in 1343.
Lacey Green Windmill (enquiries tel. 01844 343 560) is the oldest smock mill in the country, built in 1650 and moved to this site in 1821. It was in use until 1918, milling corn, wheat, oats and barley. It is open for internal viewing from 2.30pm to 5.30pm, only on Sundays and bank holiday Mondays from May to September.
The popular children's writer Roald Dahl lived and worked in Great Missenden for 36 years and the Roald Dahl Museum (tel 01494 892 192) at 81-83 High Street aims to inspire a love of stories and creative writing. Its sign tells us it is swizzfigglingly flushbunkingly gloriumptious – so it must be worth a visit! It is open until 5 pm (last entry 4.30 pm), weekdays and weekends - closed Mondays apart from Bank Holidays and Monday 26 October 2020. Entrance fee (2020): adults £ 7.00, child (under fives free) and family tickets and concessions available. Its café, formerly known as Cafe Twit, but now the Cafe at the Roald Dahl Museum (no entrance fee) – is the suggested tea stop on this walk.
Take the train nearest to 9.45am from Marylebone Station to Princes Risborough. Journey time 40-45 minutes. Trains back from Great Missenden run twice an hour. Journey time 50 minutes. Buy a day return to Aylesbury any route permitted (where the two Chiltern branch lines converge).
The suggested lunchtime stop on this walk is the Gate Inn (tel. 01494 488 632) at Bryant’s Bottom, 9.3km into the walk, with an aviary in its garden. This walker-friendly and family-friendly pub is under new management as of August 2018 (the new managers ran the Polecat Inn for the last four years before it changed hands - see below). Early reports on the food and service at the Gate are very favourable, and a welcomed improvement on the previous service which could be very slow at weekends. Lunch is served between 12noon and 3pm weekdays and from 12noon and all afternoon at weekends. On Sundays it is advised to book ahead with numbers as the Sunday roasts are popular. The pub has a large outdoor dining area for summertime use, at the far-end of which is a refurbished children’s playground for the youngsters.
45 mins further into the walk you come to the more upmarket Polecat Inn (tel 01494 412514) in Prestwood, a Grade 11, seventeenth century former hunting lodge, which reopened in April 2019 following extensive rebuilding and refurbishment by its new owners, Oakman Inns. The pub is open for breakfast from 8am until 11am and for brunch and lunch from 11am until 5pm, seven days a week. The menu is extensive and should cater for most tastes. If you defer taking lunch until you reach the Polecat Inn please note the remainder of your walk to Great Miss will take less than one hour.
The suggested tea place is the Café at the Roald Dahl Museum (formerly known as the Cafe Twit and part of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre , open until 5 pm (last orders 4.45 pm), Tuesday to Sunday, closed Mondays other than Bank Holidays. The café also has an outdoor Courtyard eating area – behind the ‘Wonka’ gates! Although no longer named Cafe Twit it remains "Swizzfinglingly Flushbunkingly Gloriumptious".
Good news - Great Miss is now back to a two pub town - and a third if you call a tappas bar cum pub-restaurant a pub. The long time closed The George re-opened in August 2018 as The George Ale House on the High Street. It is the first pub you come to when entering Great Miss. (tel 01494-862108 ). Further up the High Street as you head towards the railway station you come to The Cross Keys (tel 01494 865 373). It does not serve hot drinks - but the draught beer is good. On the other side of the road before you come to the Cross Keys is the White Lion tappas bar and pub-restaurant.
On Station Approach there is a Co-operative Convenience store and at the junction of the High Street and Station Approach is a Costa coffee shop. Next door to Costa is Matildas Bistro Cafe (tel. 01494 890 411) open Monday to Thursday until 6 pm, Friday and Saturday until 8 pm and on Sunday until 4 pm. Next door to Matildas is The Stamp , a "handloom boutique and cafe".
This edition December 2019. [2011 edition] No major changes. [Older editions] Many updates - use the online version
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
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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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 out of Princes Risborough Station, turn left. In 65 metres veer right with the road, away from the station, passing a hoarding to a building site on your right-hand side. At a T-junction in 90 metres, turn right on Station Road, signposted Wycombe and Aylesbury.
- In 95 metres ignore the first turn on the right (Picts Lane) and veer left with the road. In 90 metres (and 40 metres before you come to the Bird in Hand pub) take the next road on the right , Poppy Road (the B4444), signposted High Wycombe.
- Keep straight on, passing on your left-hand side Poppy Court, the Poppyseed residential development (on the site of the former Black Prince pub and its subsequent incarnations, the last being the Poppyseed Bar and Indian restaurant) and come out to the A4010 road where you bear right. Cross over the road and continue along it in the direction of High Wycombe.
- In 160 metres turn left up a tarmac lane, the historic Upper Icknield Way, signposted the Ridgeway, your direction 60° initially. Keep straight on up this lane, gently uphill. In 130 metres ignore a turn right by a power line and in a further 20 metres, just after the tarmac ends, ignore the turn to your left.
- In 250 metres, at a path crossing, turn right at a four-armed footpath sign and go through a metal kissing gate, your direction 150°. Your onward route is more or less straight on for the next 1.5 km until you reach a car road junction, but in more detail:
- Follow the path downhill along the right-hand edge of a field, with a fence on your right-hand side and at the bottom of the slope ignore a footpath heading off to your left, and keep ahead, now uphill. go up the other side. In 600 metres, at the top of the incline, pass under pylons and go through a gap in a field boundary. Continue ahead, now across an open field, your bearing still 150° and soon bear slightly to the left to go up and over the brow of a small incline. In 300 metres, at the end of the field, you drop down to cross a stile in a fenceline to turn half left down a grassy bank, in 70 metres at its bottom crossing another stile in a fenceline. Now head up the other side, following a clear path, half left uphill.
- In 170 metres you come up to a hedge on your left-hand side and continue ahead, along it. In 130 metres cross a tarmac drive (which leads on the left to Wardrobe House, marked on the OS map). In 55 metres, as the path and hedge swing to the right [!] turn left over a stile to go half right and ahead (at right angles to the telephone cables you pass under), your direction 150°.
- In 100 metres cross a stile in the hedge ahead. Now follow the clear path across a field, half left, and in 100 metres you pass a redundant stile to come out onto a car road junction. Follow the road Woodway uphill into the village of Loosley Row .
- Stay on this road, uphill, and in 300 metres ignore Lower Road on the right which forks downhill to Saunderton. In a further 300 metres you come to the top of the hill, at a crossroads, with the Whip Inn on your left-hand side. On the right-hand side of this pub is gravel, car-wide lane which leads to Lacey Green Windmill.
- Continue ahead along Main Road into Lacey Green and some 25 metres beyond the pub, beside a metal bus shelter, turn left through a metal kissing gate on to a signposted path, The Chiltern Way, your direction 65°, with a field hedge on your left-hand side.
- Your route ahead remains more or less straight on for 800 metres until you go under some cables, but in more detail: in 90 metres go through a metal kissing gate, with the windmill away to your left. In a further 130 metres go through another metal kissing gate and keep ahead, soon leaving the hedge on your left-hand side as you head across an open field, now downhill, towards another metal kissing gate.
- In 150 metres go through this kissing gate in the field boundary and follow the direction of an arrow, half right, your bearing 70°, and head down, then up this field – a horse paddock, with more horse paddocks to your left and right - towards a stile in the field boundary fence directly ahead. In 85 metres cross this stile and turn left on a cinder car-wide track, between wooden fences, uphill, your direction 40°. In 70 metres cross a cinder track and keep ahead as the track levels out. In 60 metres, at another track crossing, cross over and keep ahead (slightly right) on a car-wide earth track between fences, your direction 55°, heading towards power cables.
- In 110 metres cross a stile to the left of a metal fieldgate - with a National Grid electricity pylon 10 metres to your right - and keep ahead down the left-hand side of a field with a hedge on your left. [ But Note : the Farmer appears to allow walkers to take a direct route over the grassy field to the kissing gate noted below]. In 5 metres go under power cables and continue straight on, keeping the field hedge on your left-hand side, your direction 30°.
- In 300 metres you come to the end of this field with a hedge directly ahead of you and a fieldgate on your left-hand side. Here turn right to follow the hedge which is now on your left-hand side, your direction 130°.
- In 75 metres [!] go through a metal kissing gate in the hedge on your left and follow an arrow and clear path, half right, gently downhill, your direction 80°. In 130 metres go through another metal kissing gate in a gap in the hedge by a Chiltern’s Way footpath sign, pass through a woodland strip and come out onto a bridleway, where you turn left, your direction 25 degrees.
- Head downhill on this bridleway (on the line of Grim’s Ditch, very muddy in wet weather) and in 100 metres you pass Lily Farm (marked on the OS map) on your right-hand side, and come out on to a tarmac car lane  where you turn left.
- In 15 metres [!] turn right on to a car-wide track, signposted public footpath, pass Iron Beech Cottage on your right, your direction 60°, into Monkton Wood. In 50 metres, by a two-armed footpath signs, some 15 metres before a four-armed footpath sign, turn half right, to pass by a wooden barrier in 10 metres.
- Your route is more or less straight on along the edge of this mainly beech wood for about 2 km, in a south-easterly direction, avoiding as best you can any muddy sections by taking parallel paths on your left.[!] But beware, if you venture too far left you are likely to exit the wood in due course onto the wrong road [!]. The correct route, in more detail:
- In 1 km, having kept close to the right-hand edge of the wood, and latterly with a post and three strand wire fence on your left, go straight on through wooden fence barriers at a major path crossing. In a further 500 metres go through a narrow wooden swing gate to pass Cedar Cottage on your right-hand side. In another 80 metres cross a car road (Hampden Road) and continue straight on along a car-wide lane, Coleheath Bottom, signposted as a bridleway, with woodland sloping uphill to your left, and with residential properties on your right.
- In 500 metres you pass Ringwood House on your right-hand side and then, 30 metres before a road T-junction , turn left on a signposted footpath, in 3 metres passing through some low wooden posts, to head uphill into woods, your direction 50°.
- In 300 metres you exit the wood to the right of a pair of wooden fieldgates to come out on to a car road opposite the entrance to Spring Coppice Farm (marked on the OS map) where you turn left. In 125 metres [!] turn right through a wooden kissing gate in a hedgeline to join a signposted footpath across a grassy field, heading slightly left, your direction 85°.
- In 120 metres go through another wooden kissing gate after passing between two small copses of trees, to follow a new six foot high wooden fence with mesh and barbed wire on your left-hand side, with a grassy field to your right. Follow this unfriendly fence downhill and in 200 metres go under National Grid electricity pylons and in 10 metres go through a wooden kissing gate. Now go straight on through the grounds of a house called Balnakeil, passing the house on your left-hand side, to head down its driveway and exit the driveway through its gates. In 50 metres you come down to a car road.
- [!] At this point, if ground conditions have been very muddy or if you are feeling weary and in need of your lunch, you can take the direct, road route to the lunchtime pub (thus avoiding a steep ascent and a steep descent) by turning right along the road for about 900 metres, coming to the Gate Inn on your left-hand side.
- But the suggested - and much nicer - route (but more energetic) is to cross the road and enter a wood (the stile here is missing, December 2019) to climb steeply uphill on a potentially muddy path, your direction 65°. After 80 metres of steep ascent cross a stile and keep ahead, still steeply uphill, following a fence line on your left.
- In 70 metres go over a stile in a wooden fence line. The path now starts to level out now and in 80 metres go over another stile to the left of a wooden fieldgate where you turn right onto a car-wide earth track (with grass down its middle), with a post and rail fence on your right, your direction 160°. In 100 metres you pass Denner Farm on your left-hand side and in a further 10 metres go over a stile to the left of a wooden fieldgate and continue straight on, down the middle of a grassy field, your direction 145°.
- In 150 metres go through a wooden kissing gate in an electric cattle fence and keep ahaed. In a further 50 metres go through a metal swing gate to the right of a metal fieldgate in a hedgerow boundary to follow a bramble hedge on your left-hand side. In 150 metres, and some 25 metres before a wide gap in the field boundary ahead, turn left through a gap in the brambles and exit the field by a metal swing gate, to head across a field towards a kissing gate and a footpath sign, half right, your direction 105°.
- In 80 metres pass through this metal kissing gate to the right of a metal fieldgate, to turn right on to car lanes and take the right fork, signposted a public bridleway, to go past a new metal clad building on the left, your direction 170°, gently downhill. In 300 metres you pass a renovated flintstone house, Springfield Cottage, on your right-hand side and you have on your left-hand side [!] a footpath post pointing to a path downhill on your right.
- Here, if you plan to take a late lunch in Prestwood at the Polecat Inn, stay on this woodland path with woodland sloping down to your right and along the top edge of the wood, gently downhill. In 370 metres you exit the wood to the left of a pair of white painted metal gates to come out into a small parking area at the end of a tarmac access road, which you now keep ahead along. in 160 metres you pass on your right-hand side the metal kissing gate - on the main route from the Gate at point [3A].
- For those dining at the Gate, turn right down this path which goes beside the property's wall initially, then heads steeply downhill on a path through a lightly wooded area, your direction 250 degrees. In 225 metres you come down to the car road again. The Gate Inn at Bryant's Bottom , the suggested lunchtime stop , is on your left-hand side.
- Coming out of the pub after lunch, turn left on the road. In 250 metres, by a two-armed footpath side on your left-hand side, turn left through a metal swing gate to the right of a metal fieldgate, to head uphill, steeply, bearing half right, up a grassy bank, your direction 105°.
- In 200 metres cross a ditch then go through a metal swing gate to the right of a metal fieldgate and continue uphill, still half right. In a further 60 metres, go through a metal swing gate in a hedge to exit the field on to a tarmac car drive, [3A] where you turn right, your direction 135°.
- In 50 metres pass through metal gates, painted white and marked ‘Private – Denner Hill House’ to bend to the left and pass Hughenden Chase, a substantial house on your right-hand side. 50 metres past its main gates (brown timber, between white wing walls), bear left to cross over an access road on your left and then a grass verge towards a stile, as indicated by a footpath sign. Go over the stile and immediately turn right, your direction 80°, to follow the path downhill, parallel to the drive, soon veering right, with the field fence on your right-hand side.
- In 100 metres cross a stile in the field corner to carry on, downhill, along the top right-hand edge of a field, your direction 130°. In 150 metres veer left, following the hedges, down towards a hamlet, your direction now 80°. In 160 metres, at the bottom and under pylons, pass to the left of a redundant stile and turn right on the car road. (The entrance to Prestwood Local Nature Reserve is 50 metres along the road to the left – a fine piece of chalk downland rich with butterflies, worth a detour in summer).
- Having gone right on the car road, in 15 metres turn left into Perks Lane, your direction 70°. Go up this straight, residential road for 600 metres, climbing steadily and just past the last house on the right (White Lodge), where the road veers to the right [!] keep ahead and go through a metal kissing gate, to follow the direction of the footpath sign, 60°, to head up a grassy bank.
- In some 375 metres, and 50 metres before the end of the field, pass under power lines. At the end of the field, go through a metal kissing gate, some 10 metres to the left of a telegraph pole in the hedge.
- Keep ahead, soon swing to the left and in 80 metres go through a wooden fieldgate (usually propped open) to reach the Polecat Inn on your right-hand side, which reopened in April 2019 following extensive rebuilding and refurbishment: this is the late lunch option on this walk. Now walk through the pub’s car park and turn right on to the A4128 road. In 30 metres cross this road and [!] turn left to follow a signposted footpath between fences, treeline and hedges, gently downhill, your direction 65°.
- In 250 metres go through gateposts (where once there was a stile) and head slightly leftwards, down into Peterley Wood. In 20 metres turn left onto a wider bridleway, your direction northwards, keeping to the main track.
- In 70 metres your track merges with a wider track from the right. In 60 metres you pass a deep crater with exposed beech tree roots on your right-hand side. [!] There are two routes through Peterley Wood - the Blue Route, and the recently restored Yellow Route. The latter takes you deeper into woodland, but in winter it is the muddier of the two. The Blue Route : once past the crater follow the bridleway close to the left-hand edge of the wood, marked by periodic discs (a blue arrow on a white background) on trees. Continue ahead, following bridleway discs, keeping close to the left-hand edge of the wood, your initial direction 330°.
- In 240 metres, [!] and 10 metres before the path bears to the left to a path junction in a field boundary, with a section of wood trellis fencing on your left, and with a metal fieldgate some 15 metres over to your right, [!] turn sharp right at a path junction to follow a path with the wood now on your right and a fence and an open field over to your left, your initial direction 95°.
- Follow the path along the edge of the wood, latterly with a chestnut paling fence on your left, and in 300 metres the path comes out onto an earth driveway, with a three-armed metal footpath and bridleway sign on your right-hand side, to pass Woodcot, the end house in the row of semi-detached houses on your right, your direction 35°. The Yellow Route (the original TO book route): Level with the deep crater on your right, you have a tree on your left with a white painted junction pointing ahead and right. Keep ahead and in 20 metres you pass another, similar painted junction on a tree and here [!] you turn right into the wood, your initial direction 20°. You now follow a meandering path deep into the wood, following periodic discs (a yellow arrow on a white background) on trees and latterly, white arrows painted on trees. In some 380 metres you exit the wood by the three-armed metal footpath and bridleway sign to merge with the Blue Route where both continue on a path parallel to a gravel and earth driveway, Church Path. In 150 metres, you come to a T-junction , where you turn right on to a car road.
- In 15 metres turn left on a signposted footpath. In a further 10 metres, go through a metal swing gate to the left of a metal fieldgate to continue on a clear path over open, mostly flat arable fields, your direction 45°.
- In 450 metres the path descends to enter a wood by a footpath post and follow the path as it meanders gently downhill, close to the wood’s right-hand edge, your direction 100°. In 300 metres go through a metal kissing gate to the left of a white painted metal fieldgate  and turn left uphill, your direction 60°, on a car-wide earth track between post and barbed wire fences.
- In 100 metres ignore a kissing gate on your right and in 15 metres ignore a metal kissing gate on your left, to continue straight on along what is now a woodland path, passing plantations of trees to your left and right.
- In 275 metres you come out through retractable bollards onto a tarmac farm road, with Angling Spring Farm, a modern house, on your left-hand side in timber and red brick. 25 metres downhill past the farm’s entrance, as the tarmac road swings to the right, fork left on to a gravel path going along the right-hand side of the farm, your direction 320°.
- In 35 metres at a path junction, with an Angling Spring Wood information panel to your left, take the right fork (almost straight on) to follow a footpath arrow on a post, downhill, your direction 330°.
- Keep to the edge of the wood as the path goes steadily downhill and in 200 metres you reach the bottom of the hill (with another Angling Spring Wood information panel 5 metres to your left) where you exit the wood by turning right through a metal kissing gate to the right of a metal fieldgate and take the path towards Great Missenden, your direction due east.
- The path soon becomes a grassy way along the edge of an open field and in 400 metres you go through a metal swing gate to the right of a metal fieldgate, to come out on to an earth drive, with a cemetery soon on your right-hand side, behind a hedge.
- In 65 metres you come to an earth road T-junction. [!] If you wish to miss tea and head direct to the railway station then turn left , your direction 320° onto what is Trafford Road and keep ahead to follow the fence on your right with the railway down below. In some 225 metres you come out through a pair of white-painted wooden gates (usually propped open) onto the main road. Here you can either take the pedestrian slip-way doubling back on yourself which heads down to the station's platform for trains to Aylesbury (you cross the footbridge for trains to London) or turn right to cross the road bridge over the railway, to then turn right up through the station's forecourt to the station.
- The main route - for those wishing to stop for tea . At the T-junction turn right on the earth road, your direction 160°. In 30 metres, turn left on a narrow tarmac path and go under a railway arch.
- In 40 metres from the far side of the arch carry straight on along a gravel drive, Twitchell Road, between houses, in 80 metres coming to a T-junction, opposite the car park of the recently reopened and renamed pub, the George Ale House , where you turn left. In 30 metres, with a car park barrier facing you, turn right on a tarmac path between walls, in 50 metres coming out onto the High Street, with the George Ale House pub on your immediate right.
- Turn left along the High Street. In 75 metres you pass the Café at the Roald Dahl Museum on your right-hand side, the suggested tea stop. Coming out of the café, turn right to continue along the High Street, passing the Old Red Lion on your left (now a delicatessen), then the White Lion on your right (a tappas bar and pub-restaurana). Continue up the High Street, passing the Cross Keys pub on your left, the tea stop for those wanting a stronger drink (but no hot drinks).
- Some 350 metres along the High Street (from the George Ale House) you come to The Stamp cafe, then Costa Coffee then Matildas Bistro Cafe on your left-hand side, at the junction of the High Street with Station Approach. Turn left into Station Approach, uphill, to reach Great Missenden Station on your left in 80 metres. Just before the station on your left-hand side is a Co-operative Convenience store.