Pete's Walks - The Chiltern Chain Walk, Walk 16

ROUTE DESCRIPTION - Walk 16, Cowleaze Wood and Ibstone

OS Explorer maps required: 171.

Approximate distance: 11.9 miles

Start at car park at Cowleaze Wood, southwest of Stokenchurch, at SU 726958


Walk SW through the car park (with the road to your right) and follow the path through the trees to the road. Take the SECOND footpath on the opposite side of the road, which starts immediately LEFT, of a tree belt. Follow the path diagonally across a field (path usually clear, if not aim for end of tall conifers on opposite side of field), then continue on a clear path steadily downhill. At the foot of the hill, go through kissing-gate beside a gate (there is another gate further right) Ė donít take apparent track straight ahead, path goes slightly right from the kissing-gate. Continue along path at foot of hill, between Shirburn Wood on your left and fields on your right. Keep following the path until it ends on a drive (to Pyrton Hill House), where you turn left. Continue uphill at end of the drive (you are now on the Oxfordshire Way). Turn right when you reach a field on your right, and follow the path through two fields to reach a road. Turn right, go past a road going right, then bear right at a junction to reach Christmas Common (SU 714933).

Pass the Fox and Hounds pub on your right, then take a path going left into Queen Wood (beside the old church, now a house). Turn left at a path junction (by a garden boundary) on the far side to reach a lane. Turn right, then take bridleway on the left entering Priorís Grove. At the foot of the slope, take the right fork (part of the Oxfordshire Way). Follow the bridleway through Fire Wood for about a mile to reach a crossing path where the Oxfordshire Way meets the Chiltern Way. Continue straight ahead, leaving the Oxfordshire Way, and follow the bridleway for over another mile Ė it eventually leaves the wood, curves right and passes Turville Park farm on your right. Continue straight on past the farm (DONíT follow its drive to the left). After a while the path switches from the right to the left of a hedgerow. A little further on there is a path crossroads, where you turn left uphill. Stay on this path along the top of the hill, between hedges and fences, until the next path junction (where the track turns right). Go through the kissing gate on the left, cross the large pasture (staying quite close to the hedgeline on your right) to another gate, and continue on the same line through another meadow. In the next meadow the path goes between a lawn on the left and a large beech tree to reach a pair of kissing gates and then a road. Take the lane almost opposite. Where another lane comes in from the right, take the bridleway going left to reach Turville Heath (SU 745914).

Follow the bridleway north from Turville Heath (green fingerpost), descending at first through a wood, and continue on to reach Holloway Lane. Cross the lane, and turn right along a clear path through the trees, parallel to the lane. Cross the start of a drive (near a barrier by the lane) and continue on a path through the trees. Bear right at a path junction, then fork left a few yards further on. Cross a farm drive, and follow the path as it turns left to a stile. The path now goes uphill beside a fence on the right, and continues on further uphill, now with a wood on the right. The path enters the wood at a stile. Continue on past Ibstone church on the right, then turn right at the next path junction. Cross a paddock, soon following a fence on the left, to reach a junction in Ibstone where you turn left. After about quarter of a mile, take the footpath on the left, which goes through a gate and continues between fences. At the end turn right, following the path through the wood gently downhill. When the path reaches the valley bottom, it turns left (close to the edge of a field) and goes steeply uphill to reach a lane. Go a short distance right, then bear left on a bridleway as soon as you reach the large open grass area of Ibstone Common (SU 753937) on your left.

Follow the bridleway, which goes along a drive beside gardens on the left. When the drive turns sharply, the bridleway continues more or less straight on. It crosses a drive and continues with Ibstone Common on your right. In the corner of the common, where the bridleway turns to the right, take a short path entering the trees in front of you to reach another path, where you turn left. The path descends through a wood Ė go straight on where the Chiltern Way turns left. At the bottom of the slope continue ahead on a good track, and continue ahead when it joins a tarmac drive at a bend. Just past a thatched cottage (Wellground Farm), turn left onto a clear path heading uphill through another wood. After about half a mile there is a path crossroads, where you turn left downhill. The path leaves the wood and crosses a meadow to reach a tall gate by Lower Vicarís Farm. Follow the path left of the farm to a tarmac drive. Go left a few yards then take the footpath on the right, heading uphill through a large pasture. Head straight uphill towards the furthest telegraph pole and continue on to a kissing gate. Follow the path straight on through Cowleaze Wood to return to the car park.

According to Wikipedia Christmas Common takes its name from the Christmas family who were once local landowners. However another version is that it takes its name from an event in 1643 during the Civil War, when the Parliamentarians held Watlington while the Royalists defended the ridge on which the village was situated. A truce was declared for Christmas Day, and both sides met and socialised here during the festivities. The small village church was built in 1889, and is now a private residence (complete with gravestones in the garden).