Buckinghamshire’s best high spots
PUBLISHED: 12:35 17 May 2016 | UPDATED: 12:35 17 May 2016
© Robert Stainforth / Alamy Stock Photo
In Buckinghamshire you can clamber up beautiful hillsides, or sometimes just park the car right by a high spot. Sue Bromley tells us more
The County Top
Fancy some really fresh air – the sort that gives you an appetite for a good pub lunch – or you could do lunch first and then walk it off? Then we would head to the Wendover area, where the pretty village has lots to see even before you set off for the heights of Haddington Hill and beyond.
This is what is known as a ‘county top’, the highest point in a particular county, and Haddington, also handily known as Wendover Hill, takes the Bucks title at 876ft (267m) above sea level. It’s also the highest point in the Chilterns, recorded on a stone on the nicely flat summit. Sitting to the north-east is Coombe Hill, but not the one with a Boer War Memorial, which we’ll come to. Wendover Woods is also a ‘parent’ of Quainton Hill, 614ft (187m) and Muswell Hill, 650ft (198m), and further on even Bow Brickhill, 561ft (171m) in Milton Keynes.
The surrounding Wendover Woods, owned by The Forestry Commission, offer a great deal to explore and there are pay-and-display car parks, plenty of trails and picnic areas as well as a café.
Added attractions include a children’s play area and the Go Ape high-wire forest adventure site. Nearby Aston Hill Bike Park is run by a partnership of volunteers and The Forestry Commission and offers superb challenges for those who seek excitement rather than views. You need to buy a £7 day pass, see astonhillbikepark.co.uk.
On a good day – and with good sight – you might see across 50 miles plus to the Cotswolds, but plenty of more notable spots closer to home in the Vale of Aylesbury are easy to pick out, and there’s a plaque to point you in the right direction.
Coombe Hill, near the hamlet of Dunsmore with its village pond and little Chapel of Resurrection, was once part of the Chequers Estate but has been under National Trust control for nearly a century. It rises 853ft (260m) above sea level and is best known for the monument to 150 plus soldiers from Buckinghamshire who fell in The Boer War at the turn of the 20th century.
It was erected in 1904 and over the years suffered damage, including from a lightning strike. In 2010 it was immaculately restored by the county council following the work of an appeal committee to raise funding.
While you stand there, think of people many miles away who could well be looking in your direction. It’s one of the sights other walkers like to pick out during their own lofty travels, as far afield as The Cotswolds, Berkshire Downs and even Salisbury Plain.
This may not be the highest point in the county, but even as you arrive in nearby Princes Risborough you are 400ft above sea level and the higher parts, just above Whiteleaf, reach to nearly 800ft.
But the real interest here is that Whiteleaf, with its large cross carved into the west slope of the hillside, is the most intriguing. Sitting on a steepish slope, it’s hard to see from the summit looking down – the best view of the cross is from ‘across the way’ in Monks Risborough.
The origins of the cross remain obscure. There’s lots of evidence of inhabitation of the area from ancient times, and the practice of hill figure construction is thought to have started during the Iron Age, perhaps 2,500 years ago.
But many such figures were first developed from the 17th century onwards and the first record of Whiteleaf Cross dates from the 18th century. This is one of those long-lasting mysteries, with experts proposing it first appeared in prehistoric, medieval or later times. We rather like the idea of it remaining unsolved!
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