Pete's Walks - Cowleaze Wood and Turville Heath (page 1 of 2)

If you are considering walking this route yourself, please see my disclaimer. You may also like to see these notes about the maps.

Google map of the walk

I did this roughly 11-mile walk on Saturday 22nd May 2009, yet another repeat of probably my very favourite walk in the Chilterns. If you are interested in walking this route yourself, click here to see the route description (but only if you have already read my disclaimer and notes regarding route descriptions).

I apologise to my regular readers (both of them!) that this is the third week in a row that I have repeated an old favourite walk, rather than explored somewhere new. I had intended to look for a new walk this week, but had left it to Friday evening to get my maps out and look for a route. Unfortunately, I instead ended up spending most of that evening stuck in a traffic jam, then cleaning up the mess in the kitchen caused by an 'exploding' lemonade bottle. The weather was simply too good on Saturday for me to put a walk off until Sunday, so I simply chose to do this old favourite.

The fairly disastrous nature of my weekend so far continued on my drive to Cowleaze Wood. As I passed the entrance to Whipsnade Zoo there was a red sign by the side of the road saying 'Road Closed Ahead' - the sign wasn't even blocking the pavement, let alone the road, so I just assumed it had been left behind after some roadworks. As I continued down Bison Hill, I passed a few vehicles coming the other way, but at the bottom of the hill there were about half a dozen cars doing multiple-point turns, as the road really was closed. I turned round and did a seven or eight mile detour through Studham (no diversion signs anywhere), on towards Hudnall and then through Dagnall. There was a five-ten minute hold-up in Dagnall, as they were resurfacing the road! A mile further on I rejoined my original route - the main road from Tring to Dunstable was closed at this point, and the traffic from Tring was being diverted the way I'd just come, straight to the roadworks in Dagnall! What sort of planner would block a main road, and then allow more roadworks on the only diversion route?

So it was finally about 10.25am as I started walking from Cowleaze Wood. An inquisitive herd of bullocks came over and followed me as I walked through the first field I came to. There was then the glorious path down the side of Shirburn Hill with stunning views ahead over the Oxfordshire Plain. I saw my first Common Rock-rose here, though it wasn't yet in the profusion it normally is here in summer. I also spotted my first Red Kites of the walk over the wooded slopes on my left. I'd see these magnificent birds throughout much of the walk, along with three sightings of Buzzards. I then followed a path westwards along the foot of the wooded Chiltern escarpment, before turning left and climbing steeply up Pyrton Hill, then crossing a couple of sheep pastures to reach Christmas Common.

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The path down the side of Shirburn Hill, looking towards the Oxfordshire Plain

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Close-up of the Oxfordshire Plain, from Shirburn Hill

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The path along the foot of the hills, heading towards Pyrton

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Looking back from the path up Pyrton Hill

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The path from Pyrton Hill to Christmas Common

Beyond the attractive little village I took the lengthy bridleway down through Prior's Grove and on through Fire Wood. I saw several 'firsts' for the year along here - Red Campion, Wild Strawberry and a small favourite of mine, Yellow Pimpernel. It was very pleasant walking along through the woods, following the bottom of a small valley gradually downhill.

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Near the start of the bridleway from Christmas Common

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The bridleway through Fire Wood

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The bridleway just before Turville Park Farm

It seemed a long time since I'd walked this bridleway and I was a bit surprised to later find out that I last did this walk almost 15 months ago. Eventually the woods ended and I passed Turville Park Farm, and a little further on saw my first White Campion of the year. I turned left (eastwards) and went up a steep path through a huge field that was being cut for hay - at the top of the hill I was rewarded with a fine view southwards over the Stonor valley. I continued along a farm track, then crossed two or three meadows to reach Turville Heath (both a small settlement and a heath).

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The bridleway just after Turville Park Farm

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The bridleway just after Turville Park Farm

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The uphill  path where I eventually left the bridleway

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Looking south over the Stonor valley

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Path through the meadows to Turville Heath

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Turville Heath