Walk 2968 - printer friendly version
Hillesden from Steeple Claydon Walk
Author - Allan Friswell
Length - 4.5 miles / 7.3 km
Ascent - 170 feet / 52 metres
Grade - easy
Start - OS grid reference SP695269
Lat 51.936277 + Long -0.99048655
Postcode MK18 2HN (approx. location only)
Lying some 12 miles to the north west of Aylesbury, evidence suggests that the earliest setters began the creation of the village around 660 AD on a site close to St. Michael's church. The name Claydon derives from the Anglo-Saxon for clayey hill with Steeple thought to have been added in recognition of the steeple on the church. St Michaels' has a pleasant but unremarkable interior, the only point of interest being the vestibule, which is shared by bellringers and the congregation as they come to the service! The pub is an agreeable place with a large games room and garden, a proper "local" serving Courage Bitter, Greene King IPA and a guest ale.
To reach the start: From Winslow, follow the signs for the Claydons. Arriving at Steeple Claydon, take the road to Calvert (Addison Road) and the pub is 50 yards on the left (Grid ref. SP 695269). There is parking behind the pub but please ask permission before parking. Otherwise limited parking on the road is available but do remember not to block access.
Waymarking on the route is generally good. The going is very heavy in places in winter, as I know to my cost! But the walk is generally flat and of easy grade, with the climb to Hillesden the only heart-stirrer, more than compensated for by the church and beautiful views.
Turn left from the pub, and walk 300 yards up the road to the footpath opposite Vicarage Road. Cross the field to a bridge, then ahead to a second bridge and stile at the corner. Go half right to a stile in the hedge, often obscured. Then follow the right hand edge of the field to the road. This path may well be cropped over in summer, despite regular reports to the RoW people! If in doubt keep heading due west!
Turn right and walk up the road for 300 yards to the path on the left. Make for the far left corner, where you cross a stile by the stump of an ancient tree. Go straight ahead over two stiles and a bridge. Then the same again! Keeping the farmhouse on your right, make for the gap straight ahead, passing a large pond on the right. Cross the next field to an old gate with a bridge. Negotiate this and make for the white gable end of the former Seven Stars pub and exit to the main road.
Turn right and walk 400 yards to the small lay-by and footpath on the right. Go through the metal gates, and follow the path past the tranquillity of Jubilee Lake. At the gap in the hedge cross the field veering slightly left to another gap in the opposite hedge near the corner. Cross the field in line with Hillesden Church. Over the stile and make for the far left hand corner with its stile and bridge. Keep the hedge on your right and after 300 yards go carefully through the gap and turn left. At the corner of this field turn right along the track, then left after 25 yards through another gap, and then cross half right to the bridge at the mid-point of the hedge. Climb the hill to the church.
Rightly described as the Cathedral in the Fields, All Saints' Church, Hillesden is quite simply a marvel. Walking through the pristine churchyard and through the thick oak doors still bearing the bullet holes of the Civil War, you are confronted by a vast airy light interior. Angels are painted on the walls; other carved angels carry musical instruments. The Jacobean pews have linenfold panelling. There are fluted pillars to the arcades and traceried screens. George Gilbert Scott, who was born just down the road in Gawcott, and who is best known for his Albert Memorial and the facades to St Pancras Station and Lichfield Cathedral, restored the building. The church is open all day. A must.
Continuing the walk, turn right along the track that is bordered in late June by brilliant flowers of cornflower, poppy and oxeye daisy. The views across the fields to Quainton are magnificent. You pass by Church Farm (now a private dwelling?), and a paddock of deer bred for venison. The path turns left past a pond. The eponymous steeple of Steeple Claydon is now visible ahead. Turn right and follow the track ahead and then left. Go straight on to the gates where you turn right. At the second set of power poles, you will find your stile and then cross the field in the direction of the metal bridge situated where the power cables cross the hedge. Cross Padbury Brook. Follow the path with the pumping station on the left, and go through two kissing gates. The path then leads to the centre of the village where you turn left, then right into Addison Road once more.