Coombe Hill Woodland Walk
This gentle 3.5 mile circular walk passes mostly through sheltered woodland, from the mysterious coppiced beech of Low Scrubs to the towering beech standards of Linton’s Wood. The final section of the walk, in contrast, takes you around Coombe Hill, with its magnificent, far-reaching views.
Start: at entrance to Coombe Hill car park, grid ref SP851062
Enter the Low Scrubs woodland on the signed path at the right hand side of the car park entrance as you drove in. Continue ahead on the winding path, following the orange marker signs. About 150m from the car park turn right along a crossing sunken path, now leaving the orange marker signs. Continue gently downhill for another 300m, passing an open bracken area on your right. Turn left uphill on a marked footpath, there are occasional yellow arrow markers on some trees. You come to a wooden fence ahead.
This ancient and mysterious area was, for many centuries, common land where local villagers managed the beech trees to extracted wood for fuel. In spring, much of the ground beneath the trees is carpeted in bluebells. To learn more, try the Low Scrubs: A Walk Back in Time walk.
Turn right on a path with the fence to your left. After 150m continue ahead when a track joins from your right. You now leave Low Scrubs and enter High Scrubs. Continue in the same direction until you reach the village of Dunsmore. You come to a road crossing with the Church of the Resurrection diagonally left ahead.
The path running between Low Scrubs and Dunsmore is known as Birdcage Walk. It was used by the villagers of Dunsmore to collect wood fuel from Low Scrubs. The cast-iron deer fence that runs parallel to much of the Walk was constructed in Wendover in 1902.
Turn right on the road in the direction signed to Kimble and Princes Risborough, passing the pond on your left. Cross the road here and join a footpath by a sign that heads diagonally left uphill through Fugsdon Wood. (In April 2019, due to logging work, the footpath sign had been twisted to point down the metalled track. However you can still see and follow the diagonal footpath across the disturbed area.) Follow occasional yellow markers on trees. The path levels out and bends right. Now continue in broadly same direction on the flat, ignoring any crossing paths. The woodland you first pass through is mostly mixed, dense and young but eventually you enter an area with the towering beech trees of Linton’s Wood. You come to a T-junction of paths.
The isolated village of Dunsmore is thought to have originated as a stopping point on a medieval packhorse route. One reason for stopping here would have been the dew ponds that could be dug into the layer of clay-with-flints that caps the chalk, thereby providing a year-round source of water.
Turn right along The Ridgeway. After about 400m bend left next to a concrete drive (Lodge Hill Game Farm) to meet the road that heads to Coombe Hill car park. Cross the road and head back into woodland on an unmarked footpath only about 10m uphill from the drive. The path takes you into Lodge Hill with some magnificent coppiced beech trees, then bends right uphill. You may have to squeeze through the rootplate of a fallen beech tree or pass around the left hand side. (NB. The fallen tree may have been removed since these instructions were last reviewed) Towards the top and the edge of the woodland bear left to re-join The Ridgeway. Go through a metal kissing gate to enter Coombe Hill.
The term ‘Ridgeway’ is thought to have originated in Anglo-Saxon times. It refers to ancient tracks that run along the high ridges of hills including the Chilterns. Parts of the Ridgeway may have been used for 5000 years by many different groups of people. During Saxon and Viking times, the Ridgeway was useful to move soldiers to and from the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex. In the medieval period, the route would have been used by drovers, moving animals to market. The Ridgeway became a National Trail in 1973. It extends for 85 miles (137km) from Overton Hill near Avebury, Wiltshire, to Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring in Buckinghamshire.
Turn left downhill on The Ridgeway, which soon bends right and starts heading gently uphill, with woodland to your right and the open, steep slopes of Coombe Hill to your left. Back and to your left you will soon be able to see Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat. There are several benches along this section from which you can enjoy wide views of the Oxford Plain and the Chiltern Escarpment. Eventually you come to the Boer War Memorial at the top of Coombe Hill.
Coombe Hill in the late 1940s was almost all open grassland with scattered juniper bushes and just a few trees because, for centuries, the area had been intensively grazed by sheep. The end of grazing allowed the encroachment of scrub and later trees, particularly on the plateau top. Much of the work done now by the National Trust on the Hill is targeted at retaining and expanding the chalk grassland to encourage the rich diversity of flowers and insects that flourishes in this habitat.
From the Memorial, turn right along the distinctive gravel track, with excellent views to the left over Aylesbury Vale and Wendover. 250m beyond the Memorial the track turns sharply right. Follow this path, with a fence to your left to return to the car park where you started.
Near car park, grid ref: SP851062
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