Hughenden Rocks: a walk through time

Walking trail

This is a 2.5 mile walk that explores the geology of Hughenden and how the landscape has been formed. The walk will take you from the shallow tropical seas of the Cretaceous to the cold depths of the Pleistocene Ice Age. It finishes at the era of the Victorian railways when geological materials could be brought to Hughenden from far afield.

How to follow the walk

This walk is not waymarked. It is best followed using a hand-held device, such as a smart phone or tablet computer. (NB. Not all the graphics will be available on printed copies.)


Hughenden geology walk route a map


Start at the visitor welcome kiosk. Grid Ref SU860955


From the visitor welcome kiosk, retrace your steps towards the main car park. At the T-junction of paths by the Dew Pond turn left. There is a purple way-marker on a post. You will soon reach another purple way-marker on another short post. Here turn right to follow a more or less level path. At a viewpoint on your left, opposite a bench on the right of the path, pause to take in the view across Echo Valley towards Manor Farm and the D'Isreali Monument: this is a good vantage point from which to consider the general geology at Hughenden.

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Geology of Hughenden


Continue along the main path through Disraeli’s ‘German Forest’ until, on your right under some yew trees, you see some old badger sets where the ground has been disturbed to expose fragments of chalk and flint. When you are ready, continue on the level path until you reach a junction of 5 paths. At the junction, take the first left that heads downhill. (This path can be very rutted in places as it is used by vehicles for forestry work.) Ignoring any crossing paths, follow this path until it reaches the base of the slope and meets a bridleway running along the bottom of the valley. Note the absence of any form of river or stream in the valley bottom. Here turn left, heading along the bottom of the dry valley towards a gate. You are now in Echo Valley. Go through the gate and continue across the field until you reach another gate.

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Badger set


Go through the gate and turn left and follow the wide track sign-posted towards Hughenden Manor. The track runs parallel to the route of an ancient stream (in the field on your left) that dried up towards the end of the Ice Age. As you reach the woodland, just after a pair of field gates on either side of the track, you reach the point at which this ancient stream bed would have crossed the track. In the winter the track and the surroundings are often waterlogged, reminding us of this long-lost stream. Continue into the woodland, following the track uphill and ignoring any crossing paths to a four-way junction by a wooden signpost.

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Asymmetrical Echo Valley


Here take the first right, following a footpath initially downhill and then uphill, with a steep bank on your left. You may catch glimpses of the west side of Hughenden Manor, the west bank garden and the corner of the Parterre garden on your left. When the path starts to descend again into dense yew woods look out for a branching path to a gate on your left that leads into Hughenden Park. Go through the gate and head left towards Hughenden Manor across an area of open grassland with an area of woodland and some of Hughenden Manor’s beehives on your left. Close to the beehives is a good place to view the south façade of Hughenden Manor.

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South façade at Hughenden Manor


On approaching the fence to the gardens of Hughenden Manor, bear right, skirting the edge of the gardens. Pass an ornamental gate, decorated with Disraeli’s castle motif, and you will soon reach a kissing gate. Go through the gate and continue alongside the edge of Hughenden Manor’s garden until you reach a brick ha-ha wall on your left. From here you have an excellent view of the park and Hughenden Valley, with a variety of large, mature trees and you should be able to see the course of a small stream in the valley below you.

Hughenden Park


From your vantage point, make your way downhill and to your right to pick up a steep path that heads downslope parallel to the fence that separates the north and south parts of the Hughenden Park. Head towards a bench by the right-angled bend in the stream at the bottom of the valley, where it has been managed with weirs to form ponds. Take great care in wet weather as the slope can be slippery. (In very wet or icy conditions it is advisable to zig-zag down the slope, heading initially towards the church and then towards the stream on a less steep gradient.)

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Dry valleys and chalk streams at Hughenden


Turn left, following the bank of the chalk stream, passing to the right of an information board about the stream. Eventually you come to a small bridge where the access road to Hughenden Manor crosses the water. The ground beneath you is recently deposited alluvium deposited by the stream over the last 10 000 years. Take a look back along the stream and the Hughenden Valley and imagine how much has changed in the last 40 000 years.

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Chalk stream sarsens


Head uphill, parallel with the access road to Hughenden Manor, then through a metal gate at the end of the car park to reach St Michael and All Angels Church. A church has existed on this site since the 12th century, but the building was extensively restored and extended between 1874 and 1890 using traditional building materials. Get close to one of the walls of the church and look in particular at the finely knapped flints in the church’s walls, and also at the sandstone used on the corners and window frames.

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Ice age rangers


Go to the east outside wall of the Church where you will see the grave of Benjamin and Mary Anne Disraeli.

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Hughenden Church walls


From St Michael and All Angels Church, head uphill on the left side of the church (away from the carpark) until you reach a gate adjacent to the cattle grid for the road. Continue through the gate and uphill until you reach the Stableyard building opposite the main entrance gate to Hughenden Manor, looking out for more sarsen stones alongside the path in the left side of the drive.

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Geology of Disraeli grave


There is a restaurant, a shop and toilets in the Stableyard and opposite is the entrance to the Manor House. Entry to the house is free to National Trust members. Non-members can buy tickets at the welcome kiosk, which is on the route back to the car park. When you are ready to continue, follow the narrow road that curves uphill to the left of the Stableyard until you reach the visitor welcome kiosk where you started.

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Stableyard at Hughenden Manor


Start at the visitor welcome kiosk. Grid Ref SU860955

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Hughenden Rocks: a walk through time


Most of the walk is on soft and surfaced footpaths. There are two moderately steep slopes. There are no stiles. Dogs are welcome, but must be kept under strict control as livestock is grazed on several parts of the route. Some paths can be muddy and slippery after prolonged or heavy rain. Stout walking shoes or walking boots are recommended in wet conditions or after heavy rain.

Hughenden Rocks: a walk through time

Contact us

Hughenden Rocks: a walk through time

How to get here

Hughenden Manor, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, HP14 4LA
By train

The nearest station is at High Wycombe (2 miles).

By road

1.5 miles (2.4km) north of High Wycombe in the direction of Kingshill and Hughenden Valley.

Exit 4 from M40, then A404 towards High Wycombe, and then follow signs to Eden Shopping Centre, then A4128 to Great Missenden. HP144LA.

By foot

By foot: 1.5 miles (2.4km) north of High Wycombe. Footpaths head into the estate from surrounding villages including Hughenden Valley, Downley and Naphill. Hughenden Manor is 0.5 mile (0.8km) uphill from the main road (A4128).

By bus

Arriva 300 is the regular bus service between High Wycombe and Aylesbury. The bus stops at the entrance to the drive at Hughenden Manor.


By bicycle

Hughenden is accessible by bicycle from High Wycombe and the surrounding villages. Please see OS Explorer map 172.

Hughenden Rocks: a walk through time

Facilities and access

  • Car parking at Hughenden’s man car park is included in your admission to the manor and gardens. Grid Ref: SU859957.
  • There is an alternative car park at Hughenden Church (not available during services).
  • National Trust cafe at the stableyard. Dizzy’s tea room at Hughenden Manor.
  • There are public toilets on site at the Stableyard.
  • Benches and other places to picnic can be found in the picnic orchard and in Echo Valley. Please take your litter home with you.
  • Dogs are welcome to be off lead around the woodland but please return them to a lead when walking close to cattle and sheep. Please do not allow your dog to frighten other people or chase wildlife.