26th May 2013


Our Walk from Great Missenden to Wendover

This was one of John C's fine Chiltern Walks, and we had excellent walking weather to match. After sampling the aestheic feast of the bluebell woods we advanced ever onwards over hill and dale to Little Hampden, of English Civil War fame. The "Rising Sun" was no more but we picknicked nearby at about 12:30. Our path led on via Solinger House and more pleasant beechwoods, until we reached the "Plough" for a drink. The "Plough" is the PM's pub when he's at Chequers.

Our Prime Ministers visit Ellesborough Church, and so did we.

Cymbeline's Castle was next on our plan; from its grassy bald top we could admire a distant view over the Vale of Aylesbury. Closeby was Ellesborough Church, with its interesting monuments from ages past. The PM also comes here. We then climbed up to the Coombe Hill Monument, the highest viewpoint in the Chilterns. There were outstanding views towards the north west and back towards Chequers. It was a memorable day in the great outdoors, right on the edge of Metro Land. Thank you John, for an excellent walk!

This is what you will see here. Enjoy your browse!

Our Morning

We take a quick admiring look at the "delicate" Victorian iron work that graces Great Missenden Station - looks like Metropolitan Railway. Traditional houses, draped with wisteria and fronted by well kept gardens provide an aesthetic start to our walk. Mature oak trees and spring time bluebells mean that we really are in the Chilterns. The threat of the HS-2 at the moment still seems just that, but we see part of the route it will take - through tunnels and over viaducts. We come to Little Hampden of English Civil War fame. The "Rising Sun" pub, a convenient and much appreciated watering hole for walkers, is no more - well it's now a private residence. Apparently, the owners of the original pub were two singular (think about it) gentlemen, whose particular brand of "customer care" was not always appreciated as well as it might have been by the customers themselves. Today, to assuage the pangs of hunger felt by some of our party, we decide to picnic in a nearby field before advancing to "The Plough".

What a lovely bit of Victoriana. Metropolitan Railway, methinks.

And here's another dose of ye olde railwayana.

Tudor and Early Victorian architectural styles rule OK, especially when embellished by wisteria and well kept lawns. How nice!

Ye olde massive oaks grace our ascent to the Chiltern high grounds.

There are still lots of Bluebells around, like these decorating the bole of a mature Beech tree.

And we find yet more Bluebells carpeting the woods.

Before we reach Little Hampden we look across the valley near Wendover Dean to see part of the route that the roaring HS-2 will be taking in a few years time. At the moment this area is a Tory heartland, but how much political fall-out will HS-2 create?

We stop for a quick water refresh outside Solinger House.

"The Plough"

After some more nice landscapes, we reach "The Plough at Cadsden" in the north eastern reaches of Princes Risborough. "The Plough" is apparently the PM's local when at Chequers. The PM is holidaying in Ibiza now, so we won't see him today.

The beech trees and verdant, sun-drenched, Chiltern landscape accompany us as we decend to Lower Cadsden.

The pub always seems busy. They do a nice cider named Thatchers - perhaps appropriately so bearing in mind that Chequers is just around the corner.

The nice weather and the Chestnut trees in blossom help to create a relaxed social atmosphere for sampling the local food and beverage.

Above Great Kimble

The pub has given us sufficient strength to launch an assault on Cymbeline's Castle. We walk high above the village of Great Kimble and enjoy distant views out to the west. Didcot Power Station, whilst not necessarily basking in romantic glory, nevertheless provides a discernable land mark in the distance. Apparently one can also see the Cotswolds over 50 miles away. A chalky path set amidst a rolling green landscape characterises our way to "the Castle", or what's left of it.

Chalky paths and views.

Chalky paths and views and a quick water stop.

Rolling hills, ...

... a green outcrop, ...

... and buttercup meadows. Life is good.

Cymbeline's Castle

The bald but otherwise green pate of Cymbeline's Castle suddenly rears up in front of us. The mound is the remains of a motte-and-bailey castle, where fragments of pottery from the Iron Age, Roman times and as well as the Middle Ages have been found. A nice place for archeologists. The attribution to Cymbeline may be a Victorian invention - but why not? I mean we can bring Shakespeare into this. Keeps everyone happy.

After a short steep and grassy climb we are rewarded - for our efforts - by more views and a chance for a "soak up the sun" session.

We seem miles away from Ellesborough Church, the next point on our peripatetic itinerary.

On our descent, we realise that Cymbeline's Castle could make a nice ski slope - but where's the snow? Hmm.


Ellesborough Church dates from the 14th and 15th Century but was also subject to the treatment meeted by the Victorian restoration zealots. The church is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, whose statues appear above the porch. The churchwardens offer us some tea and scones, which give us sufficient energy to scale the spiral staircase up the church tower and to enjoy the scenery from there.

Sheep give us a sense of a bygone rural idyll, ...

... as we wend our way to downtown Ellesborough.

Thatched cottages nestling around the church suggest an ordered rural existence. However, why is someone keen to move out?

As we have our tea and scones, we can take in the Victorian contribution to this church.

The Victorians did not, however, touch the monument to Lady Bridget Croke, who left us in 1638. Lady Bridget - probably now long forgotten - may well have been a significant local force to be reckoned with in those distant times.

From the top of the church tower we can look back to Cymbeline's Castle. The crenellations remind us that in the Middle Ages the church was regarded as a fortified entity.

From the tower we can also see the Coombe Hill Monument which is also in today's schedule.

Lady Croke's monument is so nicely executed that it deserves another look. Just think of the hours that some craftsmen or stonemasons laboured to get the stonework just right. No wrong thrusts of the hammer, otherwise it meant "start again"!

Cuymbeline's Castle is nicely framed by the church porch.

We assemble outside the church. We are ready for lift off. Note the appearance of the church's two patron saints above the porch.

Coombe Hill

We scale Coombe Hill for the final fling of the day. A steep climb, rewarded by more good views are the hallmark of this stage of our walk. Quite a few visitors on top. Must be a car park nearby.

Before we scale the heights, we note that affluence seems to be exuded at every pore in these parts.

I take the steep ascent with due decorum. Why overdo things? Not good for the ticker. (Actually, my GP's surgery phoned me up today (May 28) about my thyroid.) This picture is looking down the way we have just come up. A picture that tells a more dramatic story is probably in order here.

On the way to the Coombe Hill monument, the north front of Chequers hoves into view behind us. (I'm photographing into the sun without a filter). How many meetings with international dignitaries must have taken place here? What sort of policies were hatched here? All this could probably fill countless tomes - a feast for tomorrow's historians.

The Coombe Hill Monument marks the summit of the hill which is at 259.7 m (852 feet) above sea level. It was put up in 1904 to comemmorate the men from Buckinghamshire who fell during the Second Boer War. The monument has suffered a number of episodes of damage and successive restoration. But we enjoy its presence today, as do a number of folk who have probably come from the nearby car park.

From the triangulation point it is possible to triangulate across
the Vale of Aylesbury and to all points north.

Homewards we go

A scenic path takes us gently down to downtown Wendover, with the Wendover Woods making a pleasant late spring backcloth. Wendover is not its bustling self today. It's a Bank Holiday Sunday after all. From the top of the pretty High Street it's not far to the station.

The wide path echoes to our footsteps ...

... as we enjoy the last sense of open space before our return to the South.

Here's another view as we descend towards Wendover.

It's a chalky path as is to be expected hereabouts.

Wendover's normally busy High Street takes a day off today, and will do so tomorrow.

As in Great Missenden, Wendover's station has not lost all of its cast iron work. The appearance and painting scheme also matches that of Great Missenden station - not too surprising an observation since the stations are "neighbours" on the same railway line.

Thank You

John, Many Thanks again for sharing some of your extensive knowledge of the Chilterns with us. It certainly was an excellent - and interesting - day. I think you ordered the good weather specially for us! Many Thanks indeed.

Features of the Landscape

Here are the path and height plots for those who also like to see the quantitative aspects of existence. These plots do often, as here, reveal some interesting aspects of a walk.

Our path went a little bit "to and fro" in order to take in the various interesting and delightful features of the north west Chilterns. John advertised the length of our walk to be about 11 miles; he plotted the route by hand. My estimate from plotting the route electronically is 10.95 miles or 17.62 kilometers, which splendidly concurs with John's figures!

Here is the outline map of our walk in the north west Chilterns.
The Y and X axes are in degrees latitude and longitude.
The negative signs indicate degrees west of Greenwich.

Our height map suggests that our total height range is about 120 metres. The lowest points are at either end (as normally expected, because that's where railways are often built) and the highest is Coombe Hill Monument. "Coombe" is from a Celtic word meaning hollow, which is indeed suggested by the two "height humps" on Coombe Hill. According to John, Coombe hill is the highest view point in the Chilterns, but the highest physical point is in Wendover Woods and is in fact three feet higher than Coombe Hill - so there! Another quiz question or answer to the same!

Our height map looks like a set of teeth - makes for an interesting landscape.