The long Wind in the Willows walk
Follow this moderate 5 mile circular walk exploring the rural community of Cookham Dean before venturing into the Woodland Trust's 'Wild Wood' at Quarry and Fultness Woods. The walk passes through farmland, woodland and along quiet village lanes that inspired Kenneth Grahame, author of the classic children’s tale ‘Wind in the Willows’.
Please keep dogs on a short lead or under close control around livestock.
Cookham Dean Common car park
From the National Trust car park head out across Cookham Dean Common, following the path that skirts around the left hand edge of the common. Continue following the path to the left of the large house and grounds at the northern edge of Cookham Dean Common, turning left by a yellow grit salt bunker. Take the lane to the right after passing the finger post to Combe End that points back from the direction you just came.
Cookham Dean's Commons
Cookham Dean Common, the Cricket Common, Bigfrith, Hardings Green and Tugwood Common all go to make up the commons of Cookham Dean. They are mostly small in size but collectively they do much to maintain the open aspect of the community. The commons were originally part of the Royal Manor of Cookham, but these were sold off by the Crown in 1818 and passed into private ownership. In the 1920s, for fear that the common land would be enclosed, the Maidenhead and Cookham Commons Conservation Committee was establish, which raised £2800 to buy the land, which was donated to the National Trust in 1934. In the summer months, community events are often held on the Cricket Common. During the Second World War, areas of the commons were dug over and planted with various food crops as part of the nation’s ‘dug for victory’ campaign.
After 2 minutes (120 meters) cross over the triangle of grass and lone silver birch tree and briefly continue along the Chiltern Way Berkshire Loop, turning right before the kissing gate. Follow the woodland path up a gentle hill for 8 minutes until you reach Bigfrith Common meadow and the red telephone box on the corner.
Cookham Dean's telephone box library
A redundant red telephone box on the corner of Bigfrith Common has been reconditioned and transformed by the parish council into one of the world’s smallest libraries. The library stocks with more than 150 books for any member of the community to borrow. The books, which have been donated by the village primary school and local people, can be borrowed or swapped.
Continue past the restored red telephone box on the corner of Bigfrith Common taking the next right before taking the sharp left turn onto Church Road.
Continue along Church Road for 3 minutes (150 meters) past the blue plaque commemorating Sir Henry Walford Davies on your right, until you reach the Jolly Farmer free house on your left, then St John the Baptist Church on your right. From here continue ahead along Church Road until you reach the Cookham Dean Village war memorial.
Cookham Dean church
The parish of St John the Baptist was formed in 1846. The church consists of a chancel, nave, north aisle with an organ chamber at the east end, south aisle with a porch, and a west bell gable in which there is single bell. The church was erected in 1845 and is designed in the style of the early 14th century; the walls are faced externally with flint with stone dressings.
From here take the right fork past the village war memorial on your left and Cookham Dean Village Hall on your right. Follow Hills Lane past Popes Lane on your left before following the public footpath across Harding Green. At the other end of Harding Green turn right onto a track and left after the houses on your left, following a footpath sign. Walk a short distance down the footpath to a gate where you will come to a good view towards Cookham and Cliveden House on the top of the distant ridge.
For more than 300 years Cliveden was home to dukes, earls, viscounts and for a while a prince. A glittering hub of society, Cliveden hosted exclusive parties and political gatherings, later becoming infamously associated with the Profumo Affair. Enjoying a commanding position on a chalk cliff, the name Cliff-dene was given to the estate in the 1660s when the first house was built by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham. Successive owners sculpted the gardens and landscape, sparing no expense to create a magnificent summer retreat, with the current house owing its elegant architecture to Sir Charles Barry, famous for designing the Palace of Westminster. During the first half of the twentieth century Cliveden was home to Nancy and Waldorf Astor. During this time Cliveden became famous for its lavish hospitality and glamorous guests, before becoming infamous due to its involvement in the Profumo affair.
Retrace your steps to the small parcel of common land that makes up Harding Green, this time turning right and crossing Hills Land to take Warners’ Hill past the sign for Uncle Tom’s Cabin to the right. Continue down Warners’ Hill taking a right at the bottom where it meets Dean Lane. After 50 meters you will reach a triangle of land at the centre of a group of 15th Century timber framed cottages.
Cookham Dean's sixteenth century cottages
The cluster of buildings at the junctions of Dean Lane, Alleyns Lane and Warner Hill are historically and architecturally the most significant in the village. They are formed around a small green in the valley bottom that was originally a pond. The black and white timber framed buildings all have 16th Century origins. Originally, all of these buildings had thatched roofs, although only Cromwell Cottage and Telford Cottage retain this covering today. Cromwell Cottage is so-named because Roundhead soldiers were reputedly billeted here during the Civil War around 1645.
Cross Dean Lane when it safe to do so and take the road on the left hand side of the triangle and continue along Alleyns Lane. Climb the hill along Alleyns Lane for 550 meters and take the footpath on the left before Alleyns Lane meets Bradcutts Lane. Follow the footpath between fence lines and horse fields for a further 550 meters until you reach a kissing gate and road just beyond.
Continue straight past the drive way on your left until you come to a track on the right. Take this track downhill for 70 meters until you meet a crossing of tracks. Cross straight over and continue for 3 minutes (160 meters) until the track joins Spade Oak Reach.
Straight ahead you will see a metal fingerpost with brown bridleway markers. Cross Stonehouse Lane and follow the right hand bridleway marker down Gibralter Lane for 50 meters, taking a left at the silver Winter Hill National Trust omega sign. Continue along this track through the National trust woodlands at Winter Hill for 6 minutes (550 meters) until you re-join the end of Gibraltar Lane.
The name is believed to derive from its usage as winter pasture for livestock when more low lying areas, such as Cock Marsh, became unusable. It rises from river level to a height of 85m and consists of a mixture of open grassland encompassed by blocks of scrub. Some of the lower slopes are now wooded. The site is managed by the National Trust.
Follow the left fork joining up with the Cookham Bridleway Circuit and then pass by Quarry Wood End on the path to its left. After 5 minutes (250 meters) continue past the entrance to Quarry Clyffe House, and then Quarry Wood Hall after that. For the next 9 minutes (550 meters) you will be able to enjoy views of the River Thames before joining the junction with Quarry Wood Road. Here you will want to take the footpath immediately on your left, climbing up hill for 8 minutes (350 meters) until the path re-joins Quarry Wood Road.
Cross the road when it is safe to do so and continue up the wooded footpath. Cross over Quarry Wood Road for the second time following the footpath for a further 2 minutes (140 meters) before taking the footpath on your right that squeezes between residential properties to its left and right. At the end of this footpath you will again reach Quarry Wood Road, cross over for a third and final time and enter Quarry Wood at the Woodland Trust car park on Grubwood Lane.
Quarry Woods, Kenneth Grahame's 'Wild Wood'
Quarry Wood and Fultness Wood are part of the Woodland Trust’s ancient Bisham Woods; it’s a broadleaf and conifer mix, rich in bluebells and orchids in the springtime. Quarry Wood is the site of Bisham Quarry, an important medieval source of stone, much of which was used to build Windsor Castle. Quarry Wood is likely to be the inspiration of the ‘Wild Wood’ in Kenneth Grahame’s ‘Wind in the Willows’ published in 1908.
Take the footpath straight ahead from the Woodland Trust car park following the blue topped posts, make sure to avoid following the track on your left by the bench after 5 minutes (250 meters) and continue to follow the track and the blue topped posts for a further 7 minutes (360 meters). Here you will find another bench, opposite from which is a fine view of the Thames Valley towards Marlow.
The Winter Hill terrace and the Thames Valley
Looking towards Marlow from Quarry Wood, the River Thames can be seen far below. You are standing on the Winter Hill Terrace, which around 450,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene epoch, was an ancient flood plain, deposited by the River Thames during the Anglian stage: the coldest and most extreme part of the Ice Age. The river’s deposits consist of coarsely rounded gravels, which can be found on the plateau at the top of Winter Hill. Subsequent down cutting by the River Thames, and uplift of the land, has left these deposits as remnant terraces at elevated positions along the sides of the Thames Valley.
From the seat and view point continue along the path, keeping the steep slope on your right. After 4 minutes (280 meters) take the right fork past another blue topped post downhill for a further 3 minutes (180 meters) where you join up with a bridleway. Following the way marker for the bridleway downhill for a further 2 minutes (170 meters) will lead you to a five-way crossroad.
At the five-way crossroad take the track to the left by the way marker post. You are now leaving Quarry Wood and entering Fultness Wood. After 4 minutes (200 meters) leave the bridle way, climbing the earthen bank to follow the footpath way marker attached to a tree on the right. Continue up the steep slope until it levels out, before crossing another footpath and passing through the kissing gate. Follow the hedge line on your left, making sure to then cross over into the arable field on the left. With hedge line now on your right, continue for 7 minutes (360 meters) before taking the stile and small ramp through the trees on the left. Straight ahead at the end of the trees is Winter Hill Road, and beyond the National Trust car park at Cookham Dean Common where you started.
Cookham Dean Common car park
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