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ROUTE DESCRIPTION - Walk 5, Wendover Woods and Aston Hill
OS Explorer Maps required: 181
Approximate distance: 12.6 miles
Start at the Pay-and-display car park at Wendover Woods (SP 888089). The parking fee is currently £5 (2012).
Note on parking: the car park at Aston Hill that is shown on old versions of the map is no longer a public car park, and is for the use of patrons of the Mountain Bike centre only. Also note that the gates are closed at Wendover Woods at 8pm – you must leave before then.
From the main part of the car park (signed with a ‘P’, three large bays), face away from the café and take the the track to the right of the car park, going southwest through the trees of Wendover Woods and soon passing a barbeque area on your right. Continue on this track, ignoring the start of a fitness trail forking right. After half a mile or so, there is a large earth bank on the left, possibly part of an iron age hillfort surmounting Boddington Hill. Continue to follow the track which eventually starts to descend and turns left. When it meets another track, turn sharp right and continue downhill – when this track levels out, take a short track forking left to reach a road, Hale Lane. Go right and follow the road for half a mile to reach the edge of Wendover (SP 874074).
Turn left, then turn left again into Hogtrough Lane (a Ridgeway sign points the way). Follow this for over half a mile, passing Boswells Farm on the left. At a path junction as the track enters the trees of Barn Wood, take the path going left (following the route of the Ridgeway) – ignore the immediate fork right, but after 100 yards or so follow the Ridgeway as it forks right and starts rising uphill. Near the top of the slope, just before the path curves to the left, take a footpath on the right (leaving The Ridgeway) that rises a few more feet through the trees to meet a track, where you turn left. Follow the track for about quarter of a mile. When a footpath comes in from the right, continue ahead a few yards and then take the path on the left. This goes through a wood and runs through a narrow belt of trees with fields either side. On the far side of the fields, the path goes a few yards to the right before continuing in the same direction as before, now in Baldwin’s Wood and with evidence of the ancient earthwork of Grim’s Ditch to the left. Continue on this path, soon with another field visible to the left, and continue through the wood to emerge at a lane junction. Take the lane ahead to reach a road junction near St Leonard’s Common (SP 905076).
Go left a few yards then take the footpath on the right, initially along a driveway and then along the edge of a pasture. Continue through a small copse and another field to a lane, by Leylands Farm. Go a few yards right and take the bridleway on the other side of the road. Follow this surfaced track for over half a mile to reach Shire Lane. Go left a few yards and take the footpath on the other side of the lane. Turn right after the next field boundary for a short distance, before turning left onto a path running along Grim’s Ditch through a belt of trees (a section of the Chiltern Way). At the end of the trees, go over a crossing track and continue ahead across a field to enter a wood near a corner. Go on through the wood, then cross a road and continue through a smaller wood. The path continues along Grim’s Ditch, running through another belt of trees and then along a line of gorse bushes. Where this ends, the path goes a few yards to the right to a metal kissing gate. Go through this and cross a pasture to another gate and a road on the edge of Wigginton (SP 939095).
Turn left along the road (leaving the Chiltern Way). It curves slightly right, then after about 200 yards just before it curves right again, take a path straight ahead beside a sports field (the path starts in its car park). Cross a road and continue along the street ahead and enter a small playing field. At the far corner turn left, go through the gate in the next corner and continue along the road (heading away from the gate). Where the houses end, turn left (initially beside some cottages) and enter Tring Park (you are now on the route of the Icknield Way). Bear left at a junction and continue along King Charles Ride (a wide track with a steep slope going down on your right), with occasional views out to your right. Follow this path for almost a mile, until you reach a lane. Go left, then turn right at a junction (Church Lane). Continue to the next junction, in the village of Hastoe (SP 918094).
At the junction, take the bridleway almost opposite along a flinty track. After a couple of hundred yards or so, take the path forking to the left of the house in front of you. At a meeting of paths (by the corner of the house’s garden), go half-right on a byway heading downhill through Grove Wood. Turn left at a byway junction at the bottom of the slope, and follow the byway between hedges as it turns to the left. Go straight on when another byway goes right. At a T-junction, turn right onto a similar hedged byway and follow it to a lane. Continue the other side until you reach a crossing path, where you turn left. Follow the field boundary on your right through two fields and continue on to another lane. Go right, then turn left on a steeply rising path, initially just inside the edge of a wood. Follow the path uphill through the wood, then follow a wooden fence on your left, to reach a drive near a farm. Turn right and follow the drive to its end near the brow of Aston Hill (SP 892102).
Take the footpath almost opposite, which immediately comes to a path junction where you go right, along a drive. Just past an entrance on the right, the path leaves the drive, going left. Follow this path until it reaches the one-way tarmac drive to the car park, which you follow to the left to return to the starting point.
Wendover Woods, named after the nearby Buckinghamshire town, cover about 800 acres in the Chiltern Hills. They consist of a mixture of coniferous and deciduous trees, and are owned by the Forestry Commission. They are a very popular local amenity, with walks, bridleways, picnic and barbeque areas, and a café by the large (but sometimes full!) car park. The woods cover several hills, including Boddington Hill, which is surmounted by the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, and Haddington Hill which is the highest point in the Chilterns at 876 feet (Pavis Wood on the flank of this hill contains the highest point in Hertfordshire at 844 feet, so the hill is the highest point in two counties).
Tring Park is a large country house near Tring, Hertfordshire. In 1975, the A41 dual carriageway split the grounds – the house, renamed Tring Mansion, now houses “The Arts Educational School, Tring Park”, while the greater part of the extensive grounds are managed by the Woodland Trust. Little is known of the early history of the house, but it was held by Royalists during the Civil War. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s it was owned by members of the Rothschild family (as were many other grand houses nearby – this area was once called ‘Rothschildshire’). The 2nd Lord Rothschild’s zoological collection forms the basis of the Natural History Musueaum at Tring. He also released the edible Dormouse into Tring Park, and had his carriage pulled by Zebras (the town’s symbol has been the head of a Zebra ever since).
Hastoe is the highest hamlet in Hertfordshire (the high point is in Pavis Wood, quarter of a mile away on Haddington Hill, whose summit is the highest pint in Buckinghamshire). Like Tring Park, it is closely associated with the Rothschild family, who built many of the cottages here for their farm workers. Lionel Rothschild was very fond of hunting and established a kennels in the village.
Aston Hill has nice views over the Vale of Aylesbury. It takes its name from the village of Aston Clinton at its foot. The hill has a proud claim to fame in the field of motoring. Between 1904 and 1925 the road up the hill was a renowned venue for hillclimbing, and on 4th April 1914, Lionel Martin made his first ascent in a tuned Singer car. The next month, he was so successful in the Herts County Automobile and Aero Club meeting, that the sporting light car first registered in his name was called an ASTON-MARTIN. There is a plaque by the side of the road commemorating the origin of the famous Aston Martin marque. There is currently a Mountain Bike centre in the woods near the top of the hill.