Hambleden Valley, Turville and Fingest
This 9.5 mile circular walk starts from the village of Hambleden. It crosses the Hamble Brook chalk stream before climbing into the lovely hills and woods to the west of the Hambleden Valley. The walk then descends to the picturesque villages of Turville and Fingest before turning south for a gentle return to Hambleden along the valley floor. The villages and countryside you see on the walk have proved irresistible to film and television companies. And this walk has another bonus: it takes you past four highly rated pubs.
Please always follow the Countryside Code.
We strongly recommend using the local 1:25 000 Ordnance Survey map in addition to these instructions.
Some of the land in this walk is protected by the Greenlands restrictive covenant. This is a legal agreement dating from 1944 between the National Trust and Lord Hambleden which means the land is protected in perpetuity. The land has various private owners, but any changes to the land or the buildings require the prior consent of the National Trust. The route follows public rights of way, including parts of the Chiltern Way and Shakespeare's Way.
Pay & Display public car park at Hambleden Village. Grid. Ref: SU785865
Turn left from the car park entrance then walk back through the village centre towards the Henley road, passing the church and then the store on your right. You cross the small bridge over the Hamble Brook to meet a road T-junction. Go through a kissing gate and continue uphill, ignoring a small path immediately to the right then two larger ones to the left. Cross over to join a footpath heading uphill beside metal railings. Continue uphill ignoring two paths branching to the left. When the path starts to turn downhill you meet a signposted junction of bridleways.
The Hamble Brook
The Hamble Brook is a chalk stream that flows into the River Thames at Mill End. The volume of water flowing in the Brook is heavily dependent on the amount of rain that has fallen on the chalk aquifer in the surrounding hills; it can completely dry up after long dry periods. The Chilterns Conservation Board has a delightful short film, 'The Hamble Brook: a Chalkstream Reborn' that you can watch on YouTube. It shows the Brook in full spate in February 2013 after very heavy rainfall during the previous year.
Turn right uphill then after about 50 m turn right again when you meet a crossing path. The path soon heads downhill through mixed woodland with views of Hambleden village below on the right. You pass through an avenue of Wellingtonia trees (an American giant redwood) aligned with the Manor House in the village. Eventually the path approaches the valley floor at a junction of paths with an open field ahead.
Turn sharply left uphill on a path inside the woodland edge. Leave the woodland and follow the footpath sign left across an open field. Some 60m after re-entering woodland you come to a crossroad of paths. Turn right here onto a surfaced track. After about 250m you will see a signposted footpath on the left.
Turn left off the surfaced track through trees. After 150 metres bear left to join a track coming from the right. The path eventually goes down into a dip where you meet another surfaced track. Cross this and head uphill. After about 200 metres bear right at the junction with a path joining from the left. This path is in places deeply indented into the hillside, a sign of its ancient use. This section of the walk also follows Shakespeare’s Way. The path leaves woodland and levels off to follow a hedge line with open fields on either side. About 400 metres after leaving the woodland you meet a crossing footpath.
Shakespeare’s Way is a waymarked 146 mile, long-distance walking route linking Stratford-Upon-Avon with London. It was conceived in 2006 as a possible track that William Shakespeare would have taken between his home and the Globe Theatre where many of his plays were first performed. There is no suggestion that he actually walked it.
Turn right over a stile then continue over an open field. Go through a gate then bear left over another field. Go over another stile to re-enter the woodland. Continue through woodland until you pass through a blue-grey gate then meet a road where you turn left. As the road leaves the woodland it meets another road coming from the left. Turn right here over a stile into a field. At another stile the path re-enters woodland. Bear left then head downhill to meet a woodland track in a dip.
Turn right downhill along the track. The track winds through mixed woodland and through an area that has recently been cleared of conifer trees and partially replanted. Turn right when the track emerges from the woodland onto a road. About 150m along the road you come to a layby on the right with a field gate.
Turn left opposite the field gate through a narrow opening in the hedge then bear diagonally right uphill across a field. Bear right when you meet a path running next to a hedge. Continue ahead through a gate and join a small road to pass the school on your left as you enter Turville village. The road brings you to the village centre with St Mary Church immediately on your left.
Turville is arguably the most attractive village in the Chilterns. It has a long history: it was first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon 9th century; the church of St Mary The Virgin is 12th century, and several of the picturesque cottages and the pub date from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Many films and television programmes have been recorded using the village and the overlooking Cobstone Windmill as locations. The Vicar of Dibley is the best known, but possibly the first is the 1942 propaganda film Went The Day Well, which shows plucky English villagers fighting an invasion by German fifth columnists. Cobstone Wildmill featured in the 1968 children’s film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Bear right across the small village centre, with The Bull & Butcher pub on your right, and over the road to join a small lane with a Cobstones marker sign running uphill between houses and towards the Cobstone Windmill on the hill. Go up the lane to go through a small gate then immediately right through another. Bear right diagonally uphill across a field. Go through a gate onto woodland path. Cross a road then continue ahead, ignoring a path to the left, and go downhill beside a fence until you emerge onto a road. Bear left along the road into Fingest village centre with St Bartholemew church on your left and The Chequers pub on your right.
Like Turville, Fingest has Anglo-Saxon origins. The parish church of St Bartholemew is Norman, originally built in the early 12th century. Its west tower is very unusual in having a double gable saddleback roof, one of only two English churches with this design. Another unusual feature is that the tower is larger than the nave, as in pre-Conquest churches. There is an old custom after a wedding at the church. During the wedding ceremony the gates are tied together with white rope or ribbon. The groom then lifts his bride over the gates and out of the churchyard, cheered on by the wedding guests. Clustered around the church are a number of Georgian cottages and farm houses, and the Chequers Inn.
The walk now turns south back towards Hambleden. To follow the basic walk shown on the map skip the next paragraph.
(Alternative Route: This alternative route follows part of the Chiltern Way, and it reduces the amount of road walking. It goes through fine woodland and has some very good views, however, it is longer (by about 0.7 miles/20 mins) and involves a fairly steep ascent and descent. To follow this alternative continue on the road past the Chequers Inn for 100m then turn right into a field through a small gate beside a large metal gate. Follow the Chiltern Way path uphill. Pause towards the top by a bench to enjoy the view back down to Fingest and beyond. Continue through a wood and across a field then through a gate to join a woodland track. After 50m, as the track bends to the left, turn right downhill through a gap besides the gate at the entrance to the Woodland Trust’s Adam’s Wood. Continue on the track. After 170m, at a junction of paths just past a bench, continue downhill in the same direction. Follow the path through the woods and bear right when you come to a crossing of paths. The path through the woods may be very muddy in winter and the woodlands either side have been thinned by logging. After about 400m the path emerges from woodland then continues down a track to meet a road on a sharp bend. Just before the road turn right through a gate into a field. Go straight downhill across fields towards the housing of Skirmett. You meet a road and re-join the basic walk route. Turn left and continue along the road through the village, past The Frog pub until the road turns sharply to the right. Now skip to point 10 below.)
Retrace your route and go back up the road away from the church. Where this road bends left turn right uphill on the road marked to Turville and Ibstone. After 200m, at the junction of a road turning right to Ibstone, turn left onto a footpath. Continue across fields until the path rejoins the Fingest - Hambleden road. The small lane from the right also joining the road here is called Waterey Lane. After very wet conditions, as in 2013 and 2021, this lane can become a stream, a northern extension of the Hamble Brook. Continue on the road towards Hambleden, passing through the hamlet of Skirmett and The Frog at Skirmett pub. Towards the end of the village the road bends sharply right at a junction.
The hamlet of Skirmett consists of a string of brick and timber-framed cottages or various ages that hug the Fingest to Hambleden road. The former church and the police house have been converted to private homes. The pub, The Frog, started life in the 18th century as a coaching inn. As with the other three pubs you pass on the walk, it is currently listed in The Good Pub Guide.
Turn left up the road signposted to Frieth and Lane End. After 30m turn right off the road onto a footpath signposted The Chiltern Way. This path now extends south in a more or less straight line for some 2 miles/3.5km to take you back to Hambleden along the floor of the Hambleden Valley. Take some care when you meet the first crossing lane 500m after leaving the road. The path does a slight left/right dogleg then continues to the right of a hedge. Later the path briefly joins a small road near Colstrope Farm. After crossing some open fields you reach the small village of Pheasants Hill. Cross over a small lane and continue along a narrow footpath between high hedges, until you reach open farmland again. Continue straight ahead following the Chiltern Way footpath. As you approach Hambleden, the path bends right to meet a road.
The Hambleden valley extends north from the River Thames and, like most Chilterns valleys, was largely sculpted by glacial meltwaters during the recent Ice Age. The surrounding chalk hillsides have poor, thin soils and are heavily wooded. The thicker soils on the valley floor support crop growing and become water meadows for cattle grazing towards the Thames. This area was a focus for early settlement: the remains of two Roman villas have been found between Hambleden and Mill End, with further Roman remains found at Skirmett.
Turn left along the road then, after 100m, turn left to enter the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin church. You leave the churchyard through the main entrance to return to the village centre. The car park where you started the walk is 100m on your left.
Hambleden is another very pretty Chilterns village, with brick-and-flint cottages clustered around the St Mary the Virgin church, which dates from the 12th century. The Hambleden Estate includes most of these cottages, the village store and the pub, together with some 1600 acres of surrounding woodland and farmland. The estate was owned from the 1870s by the Smith family of W H Smith fame. Today much of its income comes from farming, pheasant shooting and from film and TV companies.
Public car park at Hambleden Village. Grid. Ref: SU785865
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