Buckinghamshire walk at Hambleden and Medmenham
PUBLISHED: 14:43 12 December 2016 | UPDATED: 14:43 12 December 2016
Steve Davison leads us to Hambleden and Medmenham for a walk alongside the River Thames on the southern edge of the Chilterns
The walk heads north along the valley to visit the picturesque village of Hambleden where 400-year old cottages cluster round St Mary’s Church. Inside the church, which dates back 800 years, there is a 16th century oak altar, known as the Wolsey Altar; the wood panelling bears Cardinal Wolsey’s coat of arms. There is also the rather grand 17th century D’Oyley memorial to Sir Cope D’Oyley and his wife Martha, with their 10 children looking on. In the churchyard is the grave of Victorian bookseller and government minister, William Henry Smith, 1st Viscount Hambleden; his father established the well-known family business – WH Smith – selling newspapers and books.
Two famous sons of the village were James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, who led the famous ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ at Balaclava during the Crimean War and Saint Thomas de Cantilupe, the last Englishman to be canonised before the Reformation. And finally, if the village looks slightly familiar, Hambleden has seen its fair share of film and TV action, including Midsomer Murders, New Tricks and Inspector Morse.
We continue our walk through a mix of fields and beech woods to arrive at Medmenham, home to the Church of St Peter and St Paul; close by was the site of the 12th century Medmenham Abbey. The present ‘abbey’ is a private house dating from 1595 and the ‘ecclesiastical’ remains were follies built by one time Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Francis Dashwood in the 1750’s. Dashwood used the house as the meeting place for the ‘Medmenham Club’; this later became known as ‘The Hell Fire Club’.
Whilst following Ferry Lane, keep a lookout for two large guns on the right. These, along with five more, were hauled 1,500 miles overland from Durban in South Africa, by the crew of HMS Powerful to help end the siege of Ladysmith during the Boer War.
The final section of the walk follows the peaceful River Thames back to Mill End, passing a monument that commemorates the ruling that Medmenham ferry, which used to cross the river hereabouts, was publicly owned. On the way, just after passing a small island, or eyot, in the river, you catch sight of Culham Court on the opposite bank, a Georgian mansion where George III once stayed.
• Start/finish: car park on Skirmett Road, 400m north off the A4155 at Mill End (SU785854)
• Map: OS Explorer 171
• Distance: 5.75 miles (9.2km) or 2.25 miles (3.2km)
• Terrain: some ups and downs, paths with stiles and gates, country lanes and roads
• Time: 3 hours or 1 hour
• Refreshments: Stag and Huntsman (01491 571227) and village shop/tearoom at Hambleden; Dog and Badger (01491 571362) at Medmenham
1 (SU785854) – Exit the car park, cross the road and turn right along the pavement towards Mill End for 50m to the junction for Rotten Row. Turn sharp left, doubling back through a kissing gate and follow the path north through the field, keeping parallel with the road. Keep ahead through two kissing gates either side of a farm track and continue towards Hambleden, aiming for the church. Exit the field beside the small bridge over Hambleden Brook (often dry) and turn right along the road to the village centre, with the shop/tearoom and St Mary’s Church to the left.
2 (SU784865) – Continue past the Stag and Huntsman pub and car park to a track junction and turn right for 500m. At the T-junction, turn left up the hedge-lined track into a field and turn right to follow the lower field boundary on your right. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path up through the wood. Leave through a kissing gate, head down to cross the sunken lane and go through another kissing gate to shortly join a track. Shorter walk: follow the track down through Chalkpit Wood to a marker post and turn right down the path beside the fence. Go through a gate and follow the right-hand field margin to a gate at the field corner. Turn left down the lane to a T-junction, then right to the car park.
3 (SU793857) – Longer walk: bear left away from the track and follow the path beside the fence with Chalkpit Wood on the right, later keep to the fenced path between fields. Continue gently down through Binfields Wood and then more steeply down Killdown Bank. Later a path joins from the right, keep straight on down the path and through a kissing gate. With care, cross over the A4155 and turn left along the pavement to a crossroads at Medmenham, just after the Dog and Badger pub. Turn right down Ferry Lane (church on the right) to the River Thames, passing a house (right) with two large guns in the front garden on the way.
4 (SU805837) – Turn right over the footbridge, pass the monument then go through a gate and follow the riverside path for just under 1.5 miles. On reaching a house follow the path to the right away from the river (field boundary on the left) for 150m to a path junction. Turn left and follow the lane for 600m to the A4155 at Mill End. With care, turn left along the road for 100m before crossing over and continuing along the pavement to a junction. Turn right along Skirmett Road (pavement) for 400m back to the car park.
To find out more about Steve, including his walking books, visit: www.steve-davison.co.uk