The perfect Autumn walk through Burnham Beeches
PUBLISHED: 15:17 22 November 2013 | UPDATED: 15:17 22 November 2013
© Steve Davison
Steve Davison leads the way on a 4½ mile walk, with a shorter option, meandering through glorious and colourful Burnham Beeches.
Population: Beyond the woodland approx 1,300 people live in Burnham Beeches ward
OS grid ref SU957850
Most famous for: Old pollarded beech and oak trees, including the 700 years old Druids Oak
Landmarks: Iron Age fort and Hartley Court moat
Start/finish: Burnham Beeches car park just west from the A355 at Farnham Common; grid ref SU957850
Map: OS Explorer 172
Distance: 4½ miles (7.3km); or 2¾ miles (3.2km)
Terrain: gates and stiles, gentle ups and downs, paths and tracks that can be muddy, and country lanes
Time: 2¼ hours for longer walk
Refreshments: Burnham Beeches – Beeches Café (daily except Christmas day); Littleworth Common – The Blackwood Arms (01753 645672), The Jolly Woodman (01753 644350)
This month we take a walk through the lovely autumn colours to be found at Burnham Beeches in South Buckinghamshire. Burnham Beeches, once an area of common land where commoners could graze their livestock, has been owned and managed by the Corporation of London since 1880 and offers a number of lovely walks.
Throughout the woods, which form a designated National Nature Reserve, there are a great number of old trees, many of which are known as pollards. These are trees that have been cut to head height, forcing the tree to grow new, multiple upright shoots that could be used to produce timber for firewood that was harvested every 10-15 years, whilst livestock could graze the woodland floor. The added benefit of pollarding is that it greatly extends the life of the tree and many are over 400 years old.
And if you think you’ve seen the woods before, you may well have done, as the magical woodland setting has been used in numerous film and TV productions from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves to Harry Potter and Midsomer Murders to New Tricks.
The first part of the walk heads westwards along part of the 16-mile Beeches Way that runs between the Grand Union Canal at West Drayton and the River Thames near Cookham to reach Littleworth Common – home to a couple of pubs. On the way take a short detour to Hartley Court Moat where you can see the remains of a moated farmstead dating from sometime between the 12th and 14th centuries. From Littleworth Common the walk heads south and then east through Burnham Beeches back to the start.
1 (SU957850) – From the car park walk west along the Lord Mayor’s Drive, soon passing Beeches Café and fork right. Keep right and go through a large gate to follow Halse Drive down to a dip with Victoria Drive off to the left, on the way there are some remarkable old trees to be seen with a variety of weird, contorted trunks. Continue straight on along Halse Drive heading slightly uphill, ignore Dukes Ride on the right to reach a junction with McAuliffe Drive; here you can take a short 30m detour to the right to see the Hartley Court Moat.
2 (SU946855) – The walk continues along Halse Drive for a few metres to reach a split beside a wooden shelter, fork right still following Halse Drive to pass a small parking area (for a shorter 2¾ mile walk fork left along Morton Drive, then left along Park Lane for 600m to Point 5). Cross straight over Park Lane and through a kissing gate opposite. Follow the path through Dorney Wood, keeping left at the split to a kissing gate. Go straight on along the enclosed path, passing another kissing gate on the way. Go through a small gate and continue along the track.
3 (SU936862) – Go through the kissing gate and turn right along the lane past the Blackwood Arms and on reaching ‘Mallards’ on the right, turn left past a bridleway sign through the trees, keep right at two splits and cross over the road to follow a gravel track. At the garage turn left to reach a car park and the Jolly Woodman pub. Just before the road, turn left through the trees and then straight over the road; to the right is 19th-century St Annes Church. Follow the bridleway over Littleworth Common, ignoring a crossing path to reach a road.
4 (SU934859) – Turn left to a crossroads and go straight on, shortly after passing a small electricity sub-station turn right through the bushes and follow a path down across the field passing between two oak trees. Continue along the left field margin, ignore a path to the left and keep along the field edge as it bends to the right. Shortly, turn left through the hedge into the next field and continue along the left-hand field margin to the far left corner. Go through the hedge and trees to a path junction. Turn left following a path between two fields and cross a stile at the far side. Go straight over Dorney Wood Road, cross a stile and continue along the right-hand field margin. At the far right corner cross the stile to a road and bear right to a junction with Park Lane.
5 (SU940849) – Go diagonally left past a large Burnham Beeches sign with Park Lane on the left. Follow the path and at the far side of a small grassy clearing fork left and follow a path as it soon bears right slightly downhill, keeping right at a split. Cross over Victoria Drive and follow a path uphill to a path junction with fence ahead. Turn left and follow the fence, at the fourth gate turn right and follow a path for a short distance before turning left along Lord Mayors Drive. Keep ahead at the gate and continue past Beeches Café back to the car park.
To find out more about Steve, including information on walking books, visit: www.steve-davison.co.uk