At Great Kimble I crossed the Aylesbury Road. The sign for the North Bucks Way is unequivocal, with two footpath signs pointing through the hedge into a field. Then you are abandoned. In the field are the ridges and bumps of an abandoned mediaeval village, and beyond a hedge a pond which was once a moat. Of the path though there is little sign or none. It is possible that the path has been moved, or just deliberately obscured. I threaded between electric fences (horses are the thing here) to a stableyard, where the Polish farm hand tried to tell me politely in limited English to push off and that there is no path through there. I could see no alternative I might have missed so assuming the North Bucks Way to be gone effectively, I took a side path across to the lane by the church , and onto the Aylesbury Ring, which meets the North Bucks Way later on. (One weekend I will drive over there and walk that section of the North Bucks Way from the other end and see if the Polish stablehand was right. There are few ways across the railway, so I cannot fail to hit upon it. Mind you, the Aylesbury Ring route form the scarp top might be the better way in any case.)
Anyway, down into the cutting and across the railway line, and through farm fields to Smokey Row, marvelling in how flat and fertile everything suddenly was after the hills. The Aylesbury Ring and the North Bucks Way soon unite at the next lane, Kimblewick Lane, and head north-north-west, and thereon it is a slog through paths, farm tracks, one long, broad farm track (in the course of which the Ring eventually heads off its own way), towards Bishopstone. Approaching the village I entered a wide, green path occupied by solidly built bullocks, with that blank, puzzled look on their faces which oxen usually have, but these were in a skittish frame of mind, and on a path a herd of skittish bullocks, half a ton of beef charging about at random is not comfortable. What if one of them had remembered what it was like to be a young bull? Having got past them, some started trotting after me – but soon got bored and wandered off.
The pub in Bishopstone was closed for refurbishment, so it was then on to Stone, where The Bugle Horn at least was open and able to serve a pint of lemonade.
I should at that point have called it a day and got a bus from Stone to Aylesbury to get the train, but tantalisingly on the same fold of the map is Waddesden and I reckoned that if I legged it at speed, I could get there before the last bus, or at least at a reasonable time. What I only realised after I had started is that I was already exhausted: I do not feel tired when walking, but when I get clumsy or stop thinking straight, or when it seems to be dark before time, that is tiredness. However between Stone and Waddesden is nothing but open fields.
It is actually a lovely walk, but it was getting dark (or at least it seemed darker) and I was not able by this time to enjoy it. The upward route starts by skirting the Hartwell House Hotel, then north over fields (nearly missed the path here) via Waddon Hill Farm and on to the infant River Thame, which is very pretty. The along the Thame Valley Walk (also the North Bucks Way; also the Midshires Way) over two footbridges crossing the Thame’s backwaters, to an estate bridge to Eythrope Park. At this point I required careful map and compass work to pick the path and ploughed on (my thinking was beginning to shut down) until suddenly I was in the middle of nowhere, n a plantation with no clues other than to follow whichever path or break seemed to be going north. I stumbled out onto an estate drive completely bemused as to where I was. Having now checked the maps again in a better state and compared it with satellite photos, it seems that I had followed exactly the right route. I came upon a sign marker for the Aylesbury Ring (here again) and went north-north-west, to a point by a lodge which I had marked out before as a waymarker, and on to a road. I could see Waddesdon Manor in the distance.
Through the Waddesdon Stud, the footpath was clear to the very edge of the National Trust’s land – Waddesdon was once the palatial home of Lord Rothschild, but when the family’s fortune fell, the house, built like a grand French chateau, fell into the grasp of the Trust. At this point I did get lost again puzzled in a slightly befuddled state and fading light by the estate paths and missing the path I needed. I did get out though, following instinct and driveways. Aain, I will have to revist at more leasure and see where the path through the woods actually lies. Still, I emerged at Waddesdon, by the Five Arrows. End of a long day’s walk, that was as long as two days’ walking. I will return to Waddesdon to head north soon.Please donate to the Stroke Association: click here.