Windmill wandering in the Chiltern Hills at Speen
PUBLISHED: 10:09 03 October 2013 | UPDATED: 10:09 03 October 2013
© Steve Davison
Steve Davison leads the way on a 4½ mile walk through typical Chiltern countryside around Speen and Lacey Green in Buckinghamshire.
Start/finish: junction of Chapel Hill and Hampden Road in Speen, beside the village shop (SU841998), limited on street parking
Map: OS Explorer 181 and 172
Distance: 4½ miles (7.4km)
Terrain: stiles and gates, some climbs, field paths, tracks and country lanes
Time: 2½ hours
Refreshments:Speen – King William IV (01494 488329); Lacey Green – The Whip Inn (01844 344060)
Our walk this month starts high up in the Chiltern Hills at Speen beside the village sign that depicts two former village occupations; bodgers and lace-makers. Lace making once formed an important source of income, while bodgers made chair legs and spindles from the abundant supply of local wood. The brick and flint church just off Chapel Hill dates from the early 1800s. In the churchyard is the grave of Eric Gill (1882-1940), sculptor, printer, writer and designer, who spent the last 12 years of his life at nearby Pigotts (North Dean).
Throughout his life, Gill was commissioned to make a number of sculptures including some for the BBC’s Broadcasting House, the League of Nations building in Geneva and the Art Deco Midland Hotel. He also designed several typefaces that we still use today including Gill Sans and Perpetua. Located just to the south-west of the village at Westcroft Stables is the charitable Horse Trust which has, for over 125 years, provided a home of rest for retired horses and ponies; the trust is open to visitors (www.horsetrust.org.uk; 01494 488464).
After leaving Speen the walk heads along the edge of the typical Chiltern woodland of Monkton Wood before heading south-west following part of the Chiltern Way past paddocks and open fields to arrive at Lacey Green, home to a pub and a rather historic windmill.
Lacey Green Windmill, parts of which date back to the 1650s, was lovingly restored from its near derelict state by volunteers from The Chiltern Society, led by Christopher Wallis, between 1971 and 1986. Incidentally, Wallis was the son of Sir Barnes Wallis who invented the famous ‘bouncing bomb’ used in the Dambusters Raid during World War II. On the 14 July 2013, the hard work of all the volunteers was nationally recognised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers who presented the mill with an Engineering Heritage Award. The mill, believed to be the oldest smock mill in the country – a smock mill has a top section which rotates so that the sails can be aligned with the wind direction – is open on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays during the summer (www.laceygreenwindmill.org.uk). From Lacey Green the walk heads through fields and along tracks back to Speen.
1 (SU841998) – Stand facing the village shop and go right then left along Water Lane, later passing Two Stiles (house). In the field turn left through a kissing gate, follow the left-hand field edge, soon pass another kissing gate and continue between gardens down to a driveway and turn left, with the church on the right. Turn right down Chapel Hill, passing the church (right), then left along Coleheath Bottom (track). Cross over Hampden Road and continue along the track. The walk now follows the edge of Monkton Wood for about 1 mile, ignoring a crossing bridleway and a path off to the right. Shortly after passing near to Lily Farm the walk arrives at a junction, turn left and follow the track past Iron Beech Cottage.
2 (SP830014) – Go left along the lane for 20m and turn right up beside the house following the Chiltern Way. After 100m fork right into a field and continue diagonally across the corner to a stile in the hedge. Continue straight on across the next field passing just right of the large pylon, cross the stile and follow the fenced track straight on at two cross-junctions, passing between paddocks. Go over the stile on the right and head diagonally right across the field to a kissing gate. Continue through the next field, later following a hedge on the right and then ahead through two more fields to a road. Turn right to the cross-roads beside The Whip Inn, the track just before the pub leads to the windmill.
3 (SP818006) – Stand with your back to the pub and turn left along Main Road heading south-eastwards through Lacey Green for 300m and turn left along Goodacres Lane. Keep ahead along the track, turn right through a gate and follow the field margin on the right. Cross over the surfaced track, through a gate and continue along the right-hand field margin for 300m and shortly before the corner turn right over a stile in the hedge. Bear left across the field to a stile and then left along the concrete track. Go through a gate into the field and at the end of the track continue down beside the wooden poles to a stile in the lower hedge.
4 (SP835001) – Go straight over the track and follow the path up through the trees to a track. Turn right and then left along Moses Platt Lane passing Moses Platt Farm. At the junction, bear left and at the end of the road fork slightly right along a narrow path between houses. Turn left along the lane – Studridge Lane – and then right at the T-junction soon passing the King William IV to reach the junction opposite the village store in Speen.
To find out more about Steve, including information on walking books, visit: www.steve-davison.co.uk