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Aylesbury to Haddenham 8.5 miles (13.5 km)

A walk across open and generally level country with distant views of the Chiltern Hills. It really needs dry conditions underfoot, as parts of it can get muddy, as is often the case in the Vale of Aylesbury, but in fine weather it is easy and relaxing walking, and it is always rewarding, with wonderfully open scenery, a number of largely unspoilt hamlets and a substantial area of newly planted community woodland. The (comparatively rare) black poplars near the route may be of interest. The walk ends at Haddenham, passing the idyllic setting of Church End Green and going between ancient witchert walls in the old village centre.

Minor amendments July and October 2010

 

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Distance

Aylesbury Station to Haddenham Station         8.5 miles (13.5 km)
No significant hills.

Travel

Aylesbury is on the Chiltern Line from Marylebone via Amersham or High Wycombe, and Haddenham & Thame Parkway station is on the line from Marylebone and High Wycombe to Banbury and Birmingham.
The 280 bus service between Oxford, Thame, Haddenham, and Aylesbury is every twenty minutes on weekdays, half hourly on Saturdays and hourly on Sundays. Bus passengers can get off the bus immediately after the traffic lights on the western approach to Aylesbury, walk back to the crossroads, take Churchill Avenue, and join the route at Hartwell End on the right.
Alternatively you could get off the bus at the Bugle Horn at Hartwell (the stop is officially called "The Bugle Horn, Stone") and walk along the road to Sedrup, avoiding probably the worst of the muddy tracks.
Rail travellers may like to take a return ticket either to Haddenham & Thame Parkway, and take the Aylesbury bus from there to the start, or to Aylesbury, and take the bus from Haddenham back there after completing the walk. 
Detailed travel information for the whole of this area is available from the Traveline South East website www.travelinesoutheast.org.uk or telephone 0871 200 22 33.

Ordnance Survey Map

The whole of this walk is on the Ordnance Survey Explorer map 181 Chiltern Hills North.

Refreshments

The Harrow at Bishopstone is closed at lunchtime on Mondays (and no food Monday evenings).
The Dinton Hermit at Ford (now open all day).
At Haddenham there are several pubs, a chip shop, and Indian and Chinese restaurants, as well as a number of shops. 
Please always be considerate about muddy boots in pubs etc; either take them off, or cover them up. Never eat or drink your own provisions on pub premises (including the garden, if there is one).

Route

On leaving the station or the bus station keep left, go over the new bridge across the railway, and follow the footpath and cycle track ahead.

You will see that this is curiously named Thame Road. The embankment briefly visible behind the hedge on the right is all that remains of the proposed Aylesbury South West Road (which was to be called Thame Road) which would have taken the pressure off the A418, planned in the 1930s, started after the Second World War, then abandoned.

Follow Thame Road past the entrance to the Chiltern Railways maintenance depot and school playing fields on your right, to the end (at Churchill Avenue).
Cross, and turn right for a few yards, to Hartwell End on the left.
Go along Hartwell End to the end of the road, take the cycleway/footpath slightly left, then continue ahead along a road to a roundabout.
At the roundabout, go left along Ellen Road for 100 yards, to Roberts Way on the right.
Go along Roberts Way as it curves left then right, to where it ends at a hedge and stream.
Turn left and go parallel with the stream, at first on grass then on a tarmac path, a little further than the next pylon, to a concrete bridge.
Go over the bridge and cross the field slightly left to a bridge and gate in a gap in the hedge.
Go through the gap beside the gate and up the right-hand side of the field to a gates on to a track.
Follow the track ahead to gates on to a cross track.
Take the kissing gate opposite and continue slightly left, passing under telephone wires, down to another kissing gate.
Continue ahead to a plank bridge and kissing gate.

The large trees on your right at the plank bridge are black poplars. The black poplar is our tallest native tree and also one of the rarest. Some authorities mention it as occurring mainly in Cheshire, but there are in fact a significant number in the Vale of Aylesbury. They were once valued for their shock- and fire-resistant timber, used in wagon-bottoms, brake-blocks, floorboards and around fireplaces, clogs and fencing. The curved branches, which sweep down and then up again, were split for use as the cruck frames of medieval buildings. Note the deeply fissured bark.

Bear very slightly left across the next field to a squeeze gap into a copse.
Bear right through the copse to the lane ahead.

The lane forms part of the North Bucks Way long distance path, 35 miles from Chequers Knap on the Ridgeway to Wolverton.

Ignore the tarmac drive to Sedrup Farmhouse on your left, and bear left through the hamlet of Sedrup, an attractive cluster of mostly thatched cottages, to a small green.
Bear right to follow the track, which shortly leads to an arable field.
Here leave the North Bucks Way and go half right across the field.
On reaching the far corner bear left to continue with the hedge on your right through two fields until you rejoin the North Bucks Way at a wide cross track between hedges.
Here turn right and in 200 yards emerge on to the road at Bishopstone. (The Harrow pub is 100 yards to the right.)
Our route turns left along the road with the North Bucks Way and very soon, opposite the war memorial, turns right down Moreton Lane (passing another black poplar on the left just before the farm) for 500 yards, to a gate across the lane.
Cross the stile by the gate and follow a short rough track, which crosses a bridge to enter a field.
Follow the right hand hedge and go through a gate at the end of the field.
Here leave the North Bucks Way again, to go half right across a large field, heading 100 yards to the left of a house on the skyline, converted from a barn which was all that was left of Moreton Farm. (If the way across the field is particularly hard going in muddy conditions or after ploughing, there is also a right of way to the left, round two sides of this field.)
At the other side of the field, go through a gate with a Swan's Way waymark.

Swan's Way is a long distance bridle route, which runs 65 miles from Salcey Forest, on the Northamptonshire border, to Goring on the River Thames.
The largest trees in the clump beyond the house to your right are black poplars.

Go through the pedestrian gate in the deer-proof fence, to enter the young woodland ahead.

This is the M.R. Roads Community Woodland, planted in the winter of 2001-2, and known as Michael's Peace, in memory of Michael Roads, whose generosity led to the creation of this woodland. In summer it is full of skylarks.

The public footpath bears right here, but our route bears slightly left to go up the wide grassy ride to a trig point.

There is a memorial stone let into the ground near the trig point.
The six main wide rides radiating from here point to local churches. (Visibility varies according to the direction of the sun.) The nearest and probably most visible is Dinton to your right. Then clockwise is Stone, then Aylesbury (dwarfed by the Bucks Council offices and electricity pylons) then a narrower ride on a ridge not pointing to anything particular, then Ellesborough, then Princes Risborough, then, largely hidden by a hedge, Long Crendon (with Haddenham Business Park in front of it).

Turn right (not half right) from your previous direction and take the ride pointing towards Dinton church for 400 yards (100 yards short of its end), to a smaller crossing ride (with a broken bench), which is a public footpath.
Turn left to leave the woodland at a pedestrian gate, then right and immediately left to cross a footbridge between stiles.
Go half right to a stile in the field corner then, heading for houses, to a stile by a water trough (there is another water trough, disused and with no stile, further right).
Cross the stile and the drive, and four more stiles close together, then go ahead across a field to a stile under an arch into two gardens.
Follow the public footpath straight through the two gardens.
Go slightly left over the next field to join a lane, and turn left into the hamlet of Ford, passing the Dinton Hermit pub.

The pub is named after John Biggs, Secretary to Simon Mayne (one of those who signed Charles I's death warrant) and, it was rumoured, possibly one of the masked executioners of the king. After the death of his patron, he lapsed into melancholy and remorse. He lived for 36 years in an old hut at nearby Dinton, without ever changing his clothes, and living on what local people gave him.

At a road junction, turn right, then almost immediately left over a stile at a footpath sign.
Go ahead, parallel with the cottages on the other side of the hedge (more black poplars on your left).
After a footbridge with stiles, head to the right of the buildings ahead (a recent residential conversion from barns) and go across the horse pastures and through a kissing gate.

Among the buildings is what appears to be a former granary, raised on staddle-stones to keep out the rats)

Continue over a stile in the hedge ahead.
Cross some gravel and another stile and go between the post-and-rail fences ahead 150 yards to enter the next field.
(From here, your route is practically a straight line all the way to Aston Sandford.)
Follow the left hand hedge and then continue in the same direction with young trees on your right, to cross a bridge (more black poplars to your right).
Continue in the same direction between electric fences across the next field and cross a footbridge to the right of a clump of willow trees.
Continue ahead with the hedge on your left, for the next five fields (the first two stiles are 30-50 yards out from the hedge) until you cross a footbridge and stile into the field immediately before the buildings of Aston Sandford ahead. (From a gateway on your left after the fourth field, there is a parallel bridleway the other side of the hedge, which may be easier going.)
Turn into the field on your left, then right, to pass a house on your right.
After the house bear right to go over a stile by metal gate in the field corner and follow the road through Aston Sandford.

It has been suggested that the long low building on your left may have been a rope walk.
The church was drastically rebuilt and restored in 1877, but retains a small green and yellow stained glass figure of Christ in the east window. A note in the porch says where the key may be obtained.
Just beyond, and best seen from the road after you turn left then right, is the Manor House, one of the few domestic buildings designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott - "The greatest architect of the Gothic revival", and architect of St Pancras Station and the Albert Memorial. His grandfather, Thomas Scott, had been Rector here and was famous in his own right for his biblical Commentary, described by a contemporary as "the greatest theological performance of our age and country".

At the church follow the road round to the left, and at the road junction turn right for 300 yards, being very careful of the traffic.
At the next road junction, turn right over the bridge to a kissing gate and a footpath signpost in the left-hand hedge.
Go through the kissing gate, and follow the road hedge into the next field where you continue ahead 70 yards then (where there should be a waymark) bear half left across the field.

The route follows a slight ridge across the field; this is the line of the old road.

Go through a kissing gate then across another field, to emerge on Aston Road.
Turn left, passing on your left a farm and Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital.

Tiggywinkles takes its name from the specialist hedgehog treatment unit opened in 1985. The present building, opened in 1991, is the world's first wildlife teaching hospital, dealing with some 15,000 animal and bird casualties a year. It is open to paying visitors from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm (but closed on Saturdays and Sundays between October and Easter). The shop sells ices, soft drinks and crisps etc.

Continue ahead along the road into Haddenham, being careful of the traffic, reaching Church End Green in 500 yards.

On the way in to the village you pass Grenville Manor on your right, a (probably) 16th century house refronted in stone in 1781, then on your left the 15th century Church Farm House, thought to be the oldest house in the village.
The large pond which dominates Church End would, in past times, have been swarming with white Aylesbury ducks, for duck breeding was a big cottage industry in Haddenham.
The parish church of St Mary is largely 13th century. The Norman font is of the "Aylesbury" type found in 22 churches, including (as well as Aylesbury), Bledlow, Great Kimble and Great and Little Missenden. This one is carved with monsters.
The other buildings around the green are of different periods, but blend harmoniously together.
Haddenham experienced extensive growth in the post-war years, but the core of the village remains little changed. The next half mile of this walk gives you a taste of that old village centre, with its alleyways, a High Street with no shops and little traffic which starts from a "dead-end", a variety of cottages of various styles and periods, and particularly its witchert walls.

The 280 bus no longer calls at Church Green.
Walk up Churchway to just past the Green Dragon, and turn into the narrow alleyway on the left, with the delightful name of Dragon Tail.

Notice the witchert walks on either side, with their characteristic tiled roofs. Witchert is a stiff, yellowish clay-like substance found locally. It is mixed with chopped straw and water and layered onto a foundation of stone or brick. There are many surviving examples of witchert barns, houses and boundary walls in the area, particularly in Haddenham, and its use has not entirely died out; a number of witchert walls have been reconstructed in recent years. Witchert structures are characterised by irregular rounded corners. To prevent the rain washing away the soluble witchert, you will see that the walls are now topped with tiles, rather than the original thatch. On some of the walls you can see the bare witchert, though it was often rendered with lime mortar and nowadays it is more usual to plaster the surface. A number of modern walls in the village have been finished in a similar style, though constructed of standard building materials.

Go along Dragon Tail to the tiny Skittles Green.

Look for buildings with the uneven rounded corners typical of witchert construction under the plaster or roughcast exterior.

Turn right, then left at a T-junction into The Croft.
After the road bends right and opposite no. 8A, take a walled alleyway (also with witchert) on the left (no name, but with a "No Cycling" sign).
This leads to the King's Head at the bottom of the High Street.

In the High Street, note the Methodist Church (Wesleyan Chapel), now restored after the spectacular collapse of one of its witchert walls.
Next to the church is the Haddenham Museum, open on Tuesdays 10 - 12 and Sundays 2 - 4.30.

Walk all the way up the High Street to emerge at the main road through the village at Fort End.
Buses for Oxford stop here; those for Aylesbury on the other side, a little to the left.
Haddenham & Thame Parkway Station is half a mile to the left along the main road (which becomes Thame Road).

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