Skirmett’s Roman Bricks

On our travels I am always keen to find something interesting in an area which might not be a major tourist attraction but provides an insight into local history.  Around Ibstone many local villages have featured in films and TV programmes and I am sure keen followers flock to identify where scenes were shot.  Not being into TV or modern films I have little interest in these, but I do enjoy passing Cobstone Mill which features in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

My interest lies in the slightly more obscure, and often the place or building I am interested in is identified by chatting to a local or looking at websites developed by local people.  The other evening I was looking at the Hambledon Parish Council website and discovered that a few buildings in Skirmett contain Roman bricks. I have previously walked through Skirmett but haven’t noticed the bricks, so today we are off to explore.

We leave Cholsey Grange by heading along the farm driveway to reach Ibstone Common, we cross the road and continue along the lane (Gray’s Lane) until we reach a footpath on the left just before a white cottage.  This path leads steeply downhill into Parsonage Wood.  It is a cracking afternoon and this is a stunning bit of Beech woodland to be walking through.

We stay with the path until we reach the edge of the churchyard of St Nicholas’ Church.  According to the church’s website there has been a church here for over a thousand years, the current building dates from about 1125. Unfortunately the church is locked so we can’t look inside.

The church feels separated from the village, but apparently, until the time of the Black Death, the village of Ibstone was mainly located at the top of the lane.  Following the plague the main centre of the village moved a mile or so up the road towards the Common.

From the church car park we turn left and then almost immediately right to head steeply downhill on a lane.  Within a few hundred metres we take a footpath on the left leading along the edge of Park Wood.  Sections of this woodland have been cleared recently opening up views into the valley.

At a fork in the path we keep right and the path now follows the edge of the woods with a fence to our right.

After passing through a kissing gate we head downhill on a clear footpath through trees and bushes.  This brings us to a gate onto access land where we go right to reach a gate into an arable field and cross this heading towards Turville.

Following the footpath we reach a road in the village and turn left to pass the church and then take a right at the green to join School Lane.   

Turville is one of those villages popular with film crews, amongst the programmes filmed here was the Vicar of Dibley.  Not something I watched but its popularity still draws people to this attractive village.  

After passing the old school, which is now a nursery, we reach the end of School Lane and join a footpath.  After going through a gate we go straight on ignoring a path on the left and then soon pass another footpath on the right.  We then cross the field to our left on a path that leads diagonally across towards a minor road and woodland.

After going through a gate we cross the road and enter Poynatts Wood.  We soon reach a field where we ignore a path to the right but keep straight on to re-enter the trees.  The footpath goes to the left and follows the contour line through another cracking bit of woodland.

On leaving the woods the path descends towards Poynatts Farm.  To our left there are extensive views up the valley.

On reaching a minor road in Skirmett we turn right and walk through the village passing the Frog pub and a number of attractive cottages.  We pass Stud Farm House and the road bends sharp to the right, but we turn left into Shogmoor Lane.  The barn to our left is one pf the properties in the village where roman bricks were re-used.

Apparently the Romans had a number of villas along this valley as it was an important link between the River Thames and the Icknield Way and Ridgeway long distance routes.  When these villas fell into disrepair the bricks were incorporated into new buildings.  They can be identified by their thin irregular shapes.

We now follow this lane for 250 metres to reach a bridleway on the right which we take to head uphill towards Hatchet Wood.  As we enter the woods there is a fork in the path and we keep to the right to head towards St Katherine’s Parmoor.

This estate was once owned by the Knights Templar. In the 16th century it was the home of the Saunders family and in 1603 Mary Saunders and her husband Timothy Doyle extended the property. In 1860 Henry William Cripps QC purchased the property, this later passed to his son Charles Alfred Cripps QC who in 1914 became Lord Parmoor of Frieth.  His youngest son was Stafford Cripps the post war Chancellor of the Exchequer.

When Lord Parmoor died in 1941 the house was let to King Zog of Albania, he had been forced into exile when Mussolini invaded his Country. In 1946 King Zog left for Egypt and the house lay empty for a while before the second Lord Parmoor sold it to the Community of St Katharine of Alexandria who had been bombed out of their home in Fulham.  In 1995 the last remaining member of the Community, Mother Christine, gave the house to Lady Ryder of The Sue Ryder Foundation, it has remained a separate charity providing a spiritual retreat.

After passing the edge of the retreat we reach a minor road which we cross and turn left to join a path on the other side of the trees which runs besides the edge of a field.

We stay with the path to go through gates and pass farm buildings and then at a junction of paths keep heading in a northerly direction towards Frieth.  In the village we turn left along a road and then very quickly take a right to follow a lane (Innings Road) towards Little Frieth.  At a junction with Spurgrove Lane we continue straight on along Innings Lane which soon becomes a track.  

We ignore a path on the left leading to Adam’s Wood and continue along the track to reach Mousells Wood.  Here we stay with the track, not entering the woods, to reach a gateway into a field, joining the Chiltern Way to head across the field.

On the far side of the field we enter Fingest Wood.

The clear path leads us through the trees to a stile beside a gate.  From here there are fine views down the valley and in the distance we can see the caravans at Cholsey Grange.

We now follow the Chiltern Way as it heads downhill into Fingest.

At a minor road we turn left and walk through the village to pass the Chequers pub and church and then take a footpath on the right.  This goes through a gate and continues besides a wall to reach a junction of paths where go right to walk through Mill Hanging Wood.

On reaching a junction of paths at Gravesend we turn left and follow the path through the bottom of the valley towards Twigside Bottom.

After a mile and a half on this path we reach a junction of paths at a clearing and turn left to head uphill towards Cholsey Grange.

It has been a cracking ten mile walk through some stunning woodland and we achieved our aim of finding some of the Roman bricks in Skirmett. 

You can view this 10 mile walk on OS Maps and download the GPX File Here

To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 171 – Chiltern Hills West

15th August 2021

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2021)

All information on this site is provided free of charge and in good faith and no liability is accepted in respect of damage, loss or injury which might result from it.  To the best of my knowledge the routes are entirely on public rights of way or within areas that are open for public access.
Walking can be hazardous and is done entirely at your own risk.  It is your responsibility to check your route and navigate using a map and compass.

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