Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Burnham Beeches and Littleworth Common

Halse Drive, Burnham Beeches

A combination of work and family commitments has meant that I have only done one walk in the last month - a wonderful city walk around art nouveau Vienna. Things have calmed down now and hopefully normal service can be resumed. I decided to start with my annual autumn walk around Burnham Beeches - last year I included Hedgerley.

I found this route on the website of the Blackwood Arms in Littleworth Common, it seems to originate with the AA. Well done to the pub for promoting walking! You start at the main car park on the edge of Farnham Common and walk into the Beeches, initially following the tarmaced Halse Drive (above).

Quite quickly you turn left into the quieter, stony Victoria Drive.

 The instructions describe turning right at a path junction and refer to a tree carving "Andy 6.9.97" as a landmark. Some wag has amended this to Randy. Ho ho.

This next section goes through a clearing to reach Park Lane, which you cross to take a field edge path and the turn right onto a track leading to Littleworth Common. A handsome Georgian (or at least Georgian-style) house can be seen to the left.

It's not named on the map and Pevsner for Buckinghamshire offers no information. Annoyingly for me, he does reveal that Littleworth Common's church is by William Butterfield, one of my favourite Victorian architects. If only I had known I would have made a detour to see it.

You cross the common to pass by the Blackwood Arms pub, which looked inviting, although I managed to resist. The route now follows the Beeches Way, a 16 miles route from the River Thames near Cookham to the Grand Union Canal at West Drayton. It passes some paddocks and enters Dorney Wood to become indistinguishable from Burnham Beeches as you cross Park Lane again to re-enter it.

The AA route now follows Halse Drive back to the start, but I headed left along McAuliffe Drive to pass the "moat" marked on the OS map. It looks like a shallow rectangular ditch.

A helpful information panel reveals that it is Hartley Court Moat and that it once surrounded a moated Farm House built between 1250 and 1350.

McAuliffe Way curves round through a quiet corner of the Beeches. I crossed Dukes Way to follow a pleasant unnamed track to reach the end of Halse Drive.

Conditions: cloudy, cool, wet and muddy underfoot in places.

Distance: 4.5 miles.

Map: Explorer 172 (Chiltern Hills East).

Rating: three and a half stars. I suppose the core problem is that Burnham Beeches is not very big, so walks tend to extend outside it. However, the surrounding area is not especially distinguished.

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