A few days ago I walked part of the Ridgeway close to Watlington, this was an area that I have not previously explored so today Lynnie and I are heading over that way to start our walk. It is a pleasant drive through the lanes to our starting point, which is a small area of parking besides the lane leading to Dame Alice Farm.
A feature of walking in the Chiltern Hills is how well marked the footpaths are, it is easy to follow routes and generally the paths are well maintained, I wish this approach was more common across the country. So leaving the car we take the permitted path that runs parallel to the Ridgeway / Swans Way towards Dame Alice Farm.
At the end of the field we rejoin the main Ridgeway / Swans Way path to carry straight on along the wooded track. This soon emerges into a hedge-lined track with arable fields to either side. After crossing a minor road we keep straight on staying on the Swans Way at North Farm where the Ridgeway heads off to the left. The hedgerow is full of berries and there is wildlife everywhere.
The route now goes through the bottom of Ickneildbank Plantation. On reaching a tarmac lane we continue straight on along it. Very soon the Swan’s Way heads off to the left but we stay on the lane, we are now on the Chiltern Way. The hedgerow here is full of great examples of Robin’s Pincushion.
As the road bends slightly to the left the path continues straight along through an open gateway into a field and the keeps straight on with the hedgerow to our left. As we reach the brow of the hill we see Didcot Power station in the distance.
Nearing the village of Ewelme the path leaves the fields and heads towards a lane on the edge of the village. We turn left and then at a junction right to walk into the village, we soon reach the fine building that is the primary school. In all our travels I haven’t seen a state school in a more splendid building.
The school was originally founded in 1437 by the Duchess of Suffolk, Alice Chaucer (the granddaughter of Geoffrey Chaucer). The medieval buildings are still used today as classrooms. I would hope that the children are all good a history!
We continue walking through the village carrying straight on at a junction and as we pass the village hall a stream runs besides us on the left. After passing houses we reach the gateway to Ewelme Local Nature Reserve established on the watercress beds.
Unfortunately the dogs are not allowed in so Lynnie and I take turns to briefly wander in and look around. Originally there was a corn mill on this site and then it was converted to commercial watercress beds. Now it is maintained as a nature reserve and covers six and a half acres. Lynnie spots a grey Wagtail bobbing around the waters edge. It is always a cracking sight to see one of these birds.
Resuming our walk we carry on through the village and turn right at the Shepherds’ Hut pub to walk up Eyre’s Lane. After about 500 yards we take a footpath on the right skirting the village with arable fields to our left. For most of our walk there has been the sound of helicopters buzzing about and a Chinook is flying above us now. Close to Ewelme is RAF Benson where helicopter squadrons are based.
As we approach houses there is a permissive path that runs around the edge of gardens and then we pick up a footpath on our left that heads away from the village. At the end of a field we turn right along a footpath to head down to a road, Firebrass Hill, we turn left and then almost immediately take a hedge-lined footpath on the right. The hedgerow here is alive with birds feasting on the berries.
After about half a mile the path emerges onto a track that we follow as it runs though arable land. Soon after passing Huntingland Farm we turn left along another track and follow this in front of Britwell Salome House built in 1728 for Sir Edward Simeon. In front of the house stands an impressive column with an urn on the top, which Simeon erected as a monument to his parents.
We continue along the track passing some cottages and then reaching a minor road where we turn right and walk for just over half a mile to reach the Ridgeway / Swan’s Way path where we turn left and retrace our steps back towards the car. Along the way we spot a mass of small fungi at the foot of the hedgerow.
We have walked eight and a half miles and it has been very interesting. Amazingly we have only seen one other person whilst we have been out. This is such a cracking bit of countryside; you would expect to see loads of people around on a fine afternoon.
To this walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 171 – Chiltern Hills West
24th August 2017
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2017)