German Forest fairytale walk
“Inevitably they find their way into the forest. It is there that they lose and find themselves. It is there that they gain a sense of what is to be done. The forest is always large, immense, great and mysterious. No one ever gains power over the forest, but the forest possesses the power to change lives and alter destinies.” Jack D. Zipes, ‘The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World’.
Start at the National Trust car park at Hughenden Manor Grid Ref: SU859957.
Starting from the main carpark at Hughenden Manor, head past the ‘All Visitors’ signboard and down the main path, towards the Manor. After just a few metres, when you pass a fenced off pond and waterlogged area on your left (with fallen trees and bird feeders), turn right. You will soon reach the first purple way-marker on a short post. Here turn right again to follow a more-or-less level path.
At a viewpoint on your left, pause to take in the view across Echo Valley towards Manor Farm and the D’Israeli Monument. When you are ready, continue on the level path for another 10 minutes (500m), until you reach a crossing of 5 paths.
A final glimpse of the Hughenden countryside
Take a last look at the countryside around Hughenden as from now on, your imagination will take over as you are transported to the deep, dark woodlands of Bohemia – the dark forests of the Grimm fairy tales. You are entering the twilight world of Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. Be reassured, there’s no need to be afraid, but keep your eyes peeled – just in case!
At the junction of paths, take the 2nd path from the left that heads uphill. Walk up over a small rise and follow the relatively level path which runs through the woodland. Follow the path until it reaches the base of the slope and meets a bridleway running along the bottom of the valley. Take particular care on this path as it is made uneven by protruding tree roots.
Into the wild Bohemian forests
Disraeli and his wife Mary Anne visited Northern Bohemian (Böhmerwald) and were enchanted by the forests there. On returning to Hughenden they set about creating their own German forest where they could enjoy an evening stroll. Many of the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm were also set in forests just like these. It is often when the hero of the tale enters a forest that they encounter enchantments, danger or magical beings. "The grandmother dwelt far away in the wood, half an hour’s walk for the village, and as Little Red-Cap entered among the trees, she met a wolf". Can you find the tree roots on which Little Red Riding Hood may have rested on her way to her grandmother’s house? The forest is not always portrayed as dangerous, in other tales the woodland acts as a refuge. For Snow White it is in the forest that she stumbles across the seven dwarfs who offer her a home.
Turn left on to the bridleway at the wooden sign pointing towards ‘Hughenden Manor & Tea Room’ and follow it gently downhill.
Keep to the trail!
Don’t misplace these walking instructions as there are many paths in the forest and there is no trail of white pebbles or breadcrumbs to follow back to safety. It would be so easy to become well and truly lost, like Hansel and Gretel. In the tale of Hansel and Gretel their father unable to feed them leaves them in the middle of a forest. The tale may have originated during the period of the Great Famine (1315-21) which caused desperate people, unable to feed their families, to abandon young children.
After 12 minutes (600m) turn left off the bridleway just before a field gate and follow the footpath uphill between the trees. At the T-junction, turn right along an open path which skirts the lower edge of Hanging Wood. On your right here you can get a good view of the D’Israeli Monument and of Echo Valley towards High Wycombe.
A clearing in the forest
Echo Valley is a typical Chiltern dry valley carved from the chalk during the Ice Age. 14,000 years ago herds of mammoths and woolly rhinos grazed these slopes, possibly hunted by packs wolves. Now you can simply sit and enjoy the view with only sheep and cattle grazing the fields. But don’t feel too relaxed; there’s more forest ahead before your reach the Christmas lights at Hughenden Manor. In the Grimm fairy tales a clearing was usually a place of apparent safety and shelter, but not everything is as it seems… Perhaps you had better keep going.
Continue straight ahead along the path into an area of woodland, keeping to the main path.
More woodland – you’d better make haste!
In the final piece of woodland before you get safely to Hughenden Manor, spare a thought for Snow White, who was forced to flee through woodlands from her wicked stepmother, the Queen. Also spare a thought for the huntsman, who couldn’t bring himself to slaughter the beautiful princess. "Oh, dear huntsman, don't kill me! Leave me with my life; I will run into the forest and never come back!" Made popular by the 1937 Disney film, Snow White is one of a number of Grimm’s tales which have been adapted and modernised, often softening the most gruesome elements of Grimm’s original stories.
On reaching a wooden signpost, follow the route ahead and uphill towards ‘Hughenden Manor & Tea Room’.
Two of Benjamin Disraeli’s great passions were books and trees, and both are the focus of our 2016 Christmas theme. You have just walked the route of Disraeli’s own Bohemian German Forest that he planted here at Hughenden. In the Manor House this Christmas you can discover more fairy tales collected by the Brother Grimms, bought to life in the 19th century setting of the Disraeli’s country home. Join a storytelling session or follow a hunt for gingerbread men hidden in the Manor. Visit the website for detailed opening times, prices and events.
On reaching the top of a short, steep slope, follow the narrow sunken road ahead of you between flint walls. PLEASE TAKE CARE AS VEHICLES USE THIS ROAD. You will soon reach a junction of roads and paths with the gates to Hughenden Manor and its gardens on your right, and the stableyard and walled garden on your left.
Time for some festive sustenance
From gingerbread to cakes, delicious sweet food is another common theme in the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. If you have worked up an appetite on the German Forest walk, why not call in at the stableyard café for a warm drink and a tempting treat. There is also a shop for those last-minute Christmas gifts, or pick up a unique woodland gift made by Hughenden’s volunteer countryside produce team.
When you are ready to continue, take the road that curves uphill to the left of the stableyard, with the apple orchard picnic area on your left. On reaching the visitor welcome kiosk, bear left following the woodland path back to the carpark. Younger visitors may prefer to follow the parallel route to the left of the main path through Hughenden’s adventure playground. .
Finish at the National Trust car park at Hughenden Manor Grid Ref: SU859957.
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