A lovely patch of the Chilterns can reveal a new aspect each time, so when I set off for Little Hampden, I had been there before on the Buckinghamshire Way, but a circular walk around the Hampdens was all new, and all delightful.
It was also liberating not to be carrying a camera so I could just enjoy the walk and the many vistas that sit better in the eye when free than if I feel obliged to record them in a box. (It does mean I am limited though to borrowed pictures to illustrate this post.)
We parked in the estate car park at the northern edge of Cobbler’s Hill Woods and plunged into the woods. It was a gloriously sunny day and had not rained for a week, so it was mainly dry underfoot. It is only a little wood and with good, clear paths, but woodland paths change and criss-cross unexpectedly and we needed compass work to find the way. There is a main bridleway that we joined which did not get the instruction about being dry for us, and the hungry mud sucked two boots off.
Emerging doubtfully but at the correct spot, we headed along Cobblershill Lane a short way until a path struck promising the due south, with beautiful open vistas, running all downhill towards a land and the unusually named Hotley Bottom.
This landscape is still a wonder to me: underfoot it seems to be made entirely of flint, rocks rammed tight together, with barely a skim of soil over the top, yet it manages to be so green. All along this walk I observed the same, and it is a tribute to the force of nature in the Chilterns that on what should be bare rock hills, is such gloriously verdant, abundant farmland and forest.
A few steps clambering up a bank at Hotley bottom take the path up along a hedge-line path and out into a wood, where we zig-zagged to keep westward to Honor End Farm, and thence west to Great Hampden, along apparently an ancient linear earthwork, Grim’s Ditch, though there was no sign of it.
Great Hampden is small but remarkable. It appeared essentially as a church and a grand house, the latter the ancient home of the Hampden family, of whom John Hampden, a Puritan, effectively started the Civil War. It is too a peaceful place for that sort of thing. Even so, I avoided accosting any locals to demand that they pay the King’s ship money, just in case.
Past Hampden House, a sharp north turn took up onto the Chiltern Way, through woods and over fields and eventually to Little Hampden. Here we encountered familiar ground, meeting the Buckinghamshire Way (I had lunch there on the first walk). Instead of walking straight across the valley though on the Buckinghamshire way route, we wandered down through the village itself, to the church; an interesting one perched up on a bank. (Closed of course – COVID et.)
Then we went across the valley, on the last dip and climb. over blooming fields and up through woodland, to Cobblerhill Farm (and another meeting with the Buckinghamshire Way). Then it was just a gentle walk down the lane to the car park, and a fine day it was.