Wendover Woods was my destination on the latest in a series of days out walking in the Chilterns. I find Wendover a very pleasant village, within easy reach of the two highest points of the Chilterns and a high street lined with independent and specialists shops. One of the village’s highlights is the wonderfully helpful and friendly tourist information office; well worth visiting for maps and local knowledge before embarking on a walk in the area.
My walk is the latest of several forays into the Chilterns to explore the nature and landscape on our doorstep. My last big walk followed the ancient Ridgeway track from Wendover over the hills to Princes Risborough. It was an excellent route for views, taking in Coombe, Pulpit and Whiteleaf Hills, all commanding fine panoramas over the Chilterns, Vale of Aylesbury and beyond.
This latest walk started again began from Wendover Station and initially follows the Ridgeway, albeit in the opposite direction into Wendover Woods. The route I chose takes in Haddington Hill, the highest point in the Chilterns, before continuing to the small village of Halton and returning via the now disused Wendover Arm of the canal. Or at least that was the plan.
Typical for my walks, the glorious sunny weather of the days previous had not held up, necessitating the best to be made of an overcast and slightly damp day. Fortunately it would take more than that to dampen the spirits. Walking down the high street I noticed the market was on, so had a brief walk round the stalls. It was good to see such a healthy selection of stalls, including a great looking fishmonger and bakery. Alas I couldn’t load myself down with produce as many miles lay ahead.
I came prepared for my walk with the local OS map, however I wanted to get hold of some local maps I knew were available so popped into the tourist information office in the clock town at the bottom of the high street. It’s a great little place and the chap there showed me the main walking route and some view points along the way. We also had a brief chat about the planned High-Speed 2 or ‘HS2′ line that would run close to the village.
The Ridgeway runs down Wendover high street and forks right shortly before the tourist information office. The pleasantly wind winds through the back streets of the village, alongside a stream, park and pond before joining a bridleway into the countryside. Here it climbs gradually and provides occasional views across the landscape.
The path passes the approach to the large house before heading into the extensive woods themselves, where it ascends at a manageable rate. After a time the Ridgeway continues to the north and I leave it to head further into Wendover Woods and to the cafe and facilities there for a lunch break. This sits on the hill top, which on the day of my walk was shrouded by low cloud. This made it pointless to visit the site of the old hill fort as there’d be nothing to see, so I headed through the woods towards Halton.
Halton is both a small village and a RAF base, across the Icknield Way from the woods. I last encountered the Icknield Way at Princes Risborough during my previous walk, where it was a small path. Here, however it’s a busy A-road. Crossing the road, a footpath crosses into the land of the Halton military base, skirting around presumably sensitive areas and eventually out into the cemetery of Halton’s church. The village clearly has a long RAF connection with a large area given over to those airmen who died in service.
Halton is a pleasant small village, although it didn’t have any particular attractions that I saw. However, the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union canal runs through Halton. I was told this hasn’t been use for a century, and certainly the bridge running over it at Halton would prevent navigation by any boats, although water remains in the canal.
After some minutes along the towpath a footpath sign to the right promises wine, beer and food in alluring symbols. I knew this led to the village Weston Turville and as it was still early enough in the day I decided to try it out. By this point my pace was slowing and the 1.2 mile footpath took some time. Once again the footpath came to an end in a churchyard – seemingly a popular routing in this area.
I walked a lap of Weston Turville, up to the high street, and although there’s a number of fine period properties, and several good looking hostelries, there wasn’t anything to delay my return to Wendover.
The route back to Wendover was along a largely uninteresting A-road, although a highlight is Weston Turville reservoir, home to boating and fishing clubs.
In hindsight the detour to Weston Turville wasn’t a great addition – although it’s probably a good place to drive to for a pub lunch. A better walking route would have been to have stuck to my original plan and followed the canal all the way back to Wendover, although you don’t always know what you might be missing.
So that’s another, partial, stretch of the Ridgeway done. On another occasion I might take it the whole way to Ivinghoe Beacon, although the circular route offered by this walk works nicely.