Pulpit Hill to Coombe Hill Circular Walk
This route from Pulpit Hill to Coombe Hill is a circular walk covering about 9.5 miles in length and uses part of the Ridgeway. The trail is a mix of mud track and, in a few places, gravel. As hiking routes go, it’s mostly easy going. Be warned: there are a couple of very steep hills (I’ve noted each one in the details below).
Here are a few of the highlights:
- 9.5 miles of hiking and hillwalking through the Buckinghamshire countryside.
- Stunning views, in particular when you stand on the top of Coombe and look out of the surrounding area.
- A whistlestop tour of various aspects of Buckinghamshire history. This includes Chequers, Coombe Hill war memorial and the neolithic settlements.
- An plenty of wildlife. Watch out for whitethroat birds, and butterflies (the speckled wood and the peacock being some of the most commonly spotted).
- Beechwood woodland, much of which dates back to the 1600’s.
My original intention was to walk about 6 miles over the Chiltern hills. Recently I had spinal surgery and I’m still in recovery phase. Walking is easy, vigorous exercise is still a no-go area. Needless to say, my hill walking fitness plan hasn’t been used much over the past month, or so.
Taking the doctor’s advice to get back into light exercise asap, I decided to hit the trails and hike an easy Chiltern’s circular walk.
Then I changed my mind!
Instead of a six-mile walk, the route covered a little under 10 miles. This was a result of wanting to push a little further, a little harder whilst still heeding the doctor’s advice.
Whilst there are a couple of places where you’ll need to be alert, the route is relativey easy to follow.
The route is mine – that’s not to say I invented it, but I haven’t seen this one documented anywhere else.
Enough talk, let’s walk.
Pulpit Car Park to the Rifle Range
Little more than a scratch in the dirt, this unofficial car park can hold about 8 cars. Most days there are spaces, but when the sun shines, you’ll be lucky to find parking space. I’ll assume you’ve found a place to park…
Follow the track that leads up into the woods and at the very first junction, before you climb the hill, turn left.
Keep walking along this trail for about 500m. As you break out of the woodland, continue on the trail until you see two stiles: one on the left and one on the right. Go through the stile on the right of the track.
Keeping the scrub on your right, walk until you can see the trail turn to wooden steps that rise up and into the woods. Climb the steps – the incline is pretty steep! If you’re having a bad day, or not at your fittest, take it easy. Navigate the stile and continue up the path until you come to another junction.
Turn right and walk uphill another 20m and you’ll see a stile on your left. This one is hard to miss. It was funded by the Long Distance Walking Association and is marked with a small placard. Go through the stile.
The next part of the route is easy to navigate – keep walking, don’t turn left or right onto any of the smaller tracks. As you come out of the woods, you’ll see the track roll downhill and then run along the edge of a treeline. Walk along the track, keep the trees on your left. In fact, if they’re on your right then you’ve fallen down a very big incline!
Overhead is a canopy of trees. As you clear the copse you look to your front and you’ll see… yep, another stile! When you clear this one pause for a moment and scan the area for reference points. You’ll be coming back this way and the stile can be hard to find. If you’re using a map, or hiking GPS, to navigate, take a grid reference of this check point before you move on.
With you back against the stile, look half right towards the corner where the two woodland blocks meet.
The next reference point is about 250m away – a gate at the meeting point of the two woodland blocks. Go through this gate and continue along the trail. On your left is Chequers, the UK Prime Minister’s country home and personal gin palace (I made up that last part.
The trail is easy going and the only issue you’ll encounter is the deep mud that comes with heavy rainfall. But hiking wouldn’t be hiking if the routes we travel weren’t muddy! Next check point is the next stile on your left. Go through the stile.
Caution: you will now be walking across the Chequers estate. The grounds are monitored and patrolled by police teams, SAS soldiers and killer dolphins. DO NOT step off the marked footpath, or else…
Cross the next three stiles, keeping all signs warning of ‘danger of death’ on your left.
After about 5 mins of walking you’ll finally exit the estate of doom (which is probably how some PMs have felt about the place) via a stile. Now cross the road and head for the dirt track shown in the image below.
Caution: this crossing point is on a sharp bend. Traffic moves fast along this road so be on your guard before stepping off.
You’re now standing on the edge of the woodland that leads up a steep incline. Start walking along the trail and, after a short time, you’ll start to climb uphill. At the junction marked by the sign below walk straight on and up the hill. Follow this track for about one mile. [jr1] (don’t take any of the smaller paths that branch off the main track) and you’ll come to a road. Cross over, hop over the stile and walk up the hill (another steep one, but fortunately short).
Cross the road, hop over the stile and follow the footpath until you see a stile on your left. After bounding over this stile, walk towards the gate at the edge of the field. Cross here and you’ll find yourself standing on a road.
Turn right and start walking into the village of Dunsmore. At the crossroads, marked by a signpost, turn left.
Keeping walking along the road and after a short time you’ll see the track peters out into a footpath. Follow this path into the woods and turn left at the first signpost marked ‘Public Footpath’.
The next stage of the route it pretty easy to navigate. Follow the path until you arrive at a prominent tree growing in the middle of your direction of travel. On the tree you’ll see two arrows painted on the bark. Look left and you’ll see a track heading down a slight incline. Follow the arrow and keep walking until you reach a gate bounding[jr3] a road.
Turn right and follow the road uphill until you come to the Coombe Hill car park, which is on your right. To your front is a stile. A good reference point for this stile is the ice cream van that seems to be here all year round!
Go through the stile.
At this point you’ll see a gravelled track curving off to the right. Ignore this and start walking along the muddy footpath (which is more fun that walking on prepared routes), through the arch of trees. As you exit the canopy follow the track round to the right. As you round the edge of the woods you’ll see the war memorial about 500m away. Make a beeline for the monument.
Image 15. Take some time to relax and bask in the views of the Bucks countryside.
Several benches sit up against the treeline to your righgt. Take some time to pause, breathe in the views and have some lunch before preparing for the return route.
Ready? Let’s go.
Follow the track back the way you came. As you enter the arch you’ll see a stile on your right. Go through the gate and continue walking straight ahead. After a short distance you’ll arrive at a road. Turn right and walk downhill until you see a public footpath sign on the far side of the road.
Image 16. Public footpath sign pointing back in to Linton woods.
Cross the road and follow the track until you come to the first major junction (see image below). The path you’re about follow is part of the route you took to get to Coombe Hill. Turn right and walk downhill. Cross the next junction and walk until you come to the road that border Chequers.
Cross the road, enter the filed via the stile and walk along the trail. Keep Chequers (and the killer dolphins) on you right. Follow the route back across the stile and fields. Go through the third stile – on the edge of the woods – and turn right.
In the near distance you’ll see the next stile. Go through the gate and walk down in the slope into the woods. A good checkpoint is the deep gulley on the right of the track.
Walk along the track and go through the next stile. You’re now at the section of the route where I recommended using the single tree, or a grid reference, as a waypoint. Whichever method you choose, head across the field keeping the lone tree on your right.
Follow the track until you come back to the stile that opens onto a tree lined trail. Turn right, then left and go through the next stile. Descend the wooden steps (the old rifle range is on your left).
Head back along the track, keeping the scrub and woodland on your left. After about 500m you come to the stile at the main track. Cross the stile, turn left and follow the track back to the car park
And you’re done! Now take a well earned rest, or pop back down the road to the Plough at Cadsden – the food is fantastic. I hope you enjoy this hike – the Pulpit Hill to Coombe Hill circular walk is a real favourite of mine and is great for all levels of experience.