Buckinghamshire walk around Oakley and Brill
PUBLISHED: 10:58 08 March 2016 | UPDATED: 16:03 05 October 2017
© Steve Davison
Steve Davison heads to the far western reaches of Buckinghamshire and the neighbouring villages of Oakley and Brill this month
From Oakley the route heads through fields and follows an old drove route known as Span Green to reach the hilltop village of Brill and the picturesque, late 17th-century, windmill. The windmill, which is open on Sunday afternoons from Easter, was built as a post mill, although it’s no longer capable of rotating to allow the sails to face the wind. From this lofty position there are some wonderful views, but on a windy day the village can live up to the old nursery rhyme: “At Brill on the hill, The wind blows shrill...”.
The hilltop location was once home to a castle, though this has long since disappeared and the village was once the administration centre for the former Royal Hunting Forest of Bernwood. To explore more, the 61-mile Bernwood Jubilee Way, which meanders through the former hunting forest, starts and ends at Brill and BBOWT have five reserves within the ancient bounds of the forest including Rushbed Woods just to the north-east of Brill (www.bbowt.org.uk).
Our walk meanders through the village, passing The Pheasant pub, The Square with its War Memorial, then The Pointer pub and The Green, overlooked by All Saints Church which dates back to Norman times; call in to see the colourful Millennium Window. It might be hard to imagine, but in 1872 a tramway was built between Brill and Quainton, and for a while this became part of London’s Metropolitan Line, before closing in 1935.
All too soon, we leave behind the lofty location and start heading back to Oakley, passing Leatherslade Farm on the way. In 1963 Oakley was centre of national and international news, when Leatherslade Farm was used as a hideout by the gang involved in the Great Train Robbery.
The final leg of the walk passes St Mary’s Church, parts of which date back to the 12th century – call in to see the stained glass windows – before heading through the village back to the recreation ground.
• Start/finish: Oakley village hall and recreation ground along Oxford Road off the B4011; grid ref SP637121
• Map: OS Explorer 180
• Distance: 4.75 miles (7.6km)
• Terrain: Some ups and downs, gates and stiles, paths and tracks that can be muddy, and sections of road
• Time: 2½ hours (excluding stops)
• Refreshments: Oakley – The Chandos Arms (01844 238296); Brill – The Pheasant (01844 239370) and The Pointer (01844 238339)
1 (SP637121) – From the village hall and recreation ground turn right along Oxford Road, keep left along the main road and soon turn left along The Turnpike – passing The Chandos Arms – to a T-junction with the B4011. Turn left (Bicester direction) using the verge and once level with the farm buildings turn right across the road. Cross the stile beside the large gate and bear diagonally left to cross another stile and keep ahead (north) through the field. Cross a stile in the hedge and continue through the next field before leaving over a stile beside a large gate. Keep ahead along the enclosed track and before the left-hand corner go right through a gap in the hedge and turn left alongside the field boundary. Go over a stile on the left and head diagonally right down across the field to a stile in the bottom right corner.
2 (SP636132) – Cross the footbridge and keep ahead for a few metres before turning right along Span Green – a former drove track – for three quarters of a mile. Continue along the tarmac lane for 50m, then bear right through the trees (footpath sign). Go through a kissing gate and keep ahead through the field crossing a plank footbridge and then heading gently uphill. Cross a stile and continue up through the next field. Pass into a third and follow the right-hand margin up to a stile in the top right corner. Cross this and keep ahead to a track, then turn left to a track junction and keep ahead (north) up to the windmill.
3 (SP652141) – Bear right through the parking area and then head along Windmill Street, passing The Pheasant pub (right) to a T-junction. Turn right along the High Street to The Square and war memorial. Keep left along the main street to pass The Pointer pub to reach The Green; a short detour left leads to All Saints Church. Follow the main road for 500m (pavement at first, then verge) to the house entrances on the right, here fork right and follow the bridleway (track). Go through a gate and follow the left-hand field boundary downhill for 500m; views include the distant Chilterns – spot the Stokenchurch Mast and the twin tree-crowned tops of the Wittenham Clumps.
4 (SP656127) – Go through a large gate and keep ahead down the enclosed bridleway, soon turning right and left to skirt round Leatherslade Farm. Continue down the track for 50m and turn right through a gate in the hedge. Continue across the field, passing a wooden electricity pole on the way, then go through a large gate and follow the right-hand margin. Go through a kissing gate and head diagonally left across the field, passing a wooden electricity pole. Leave over a stile beside a gate, with Little London Farm opposite. Cross over the minor road and turn left along the pavement to a T-junction with the B4011. Turn right towards Oakley, passing St Mary’s Church, then turn left along Manor Road and keep right at the junction back to the start in Oxford Road.