This 6 mile circular walk in the Chilterns takes you through the two lovely villages of Hambleden and Medmenham, some woodland, and along the River Thames.
This was also to be my first walk in 5 months (if you don’t count walking around the streets and parks of London).
My first time out of London in 5 months.
Yes. This was my first post lockdown 2.0 walk.
When it came to deciding where to go or what route to take, I felt a little overwhelmed. I usually like to study a map and work it all out, but this time I needed some help. I was lacking creativity and my planning skills were a bit rusty, so I headed over to the Chilterns website to see what they suggest. That my friends, is how I settled on the Hambleden and Medmenham circular walk.
What was the Hambleden and Medmenham circular walk like?
Let’s get something out of the way first. This being my first time in the British countryside in 5 months meant that I would probably like anything. Anything that wasn’t all pavements, cars, noise and crowded parks. So my opinion of the Hambleden and Medmenham circular walk is probably influenced by this.
That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this walk. Green grassy fields of sheep and lambs (it was lambing season), cherry blossom blooms, quiet pretty villages with brick and flint houses. The River Thames (which looks nothing like the London bit), with swimmers, kayakers and a few barge boats moored up.
My happy place
Once we arrived in the Chilterns, I had a strange feeling when I took those first few steps out of the car. Not a bad feeling. It was sort of unfamiliar, but also familiar at the same time. I can’t really describe it. The first time in a long time stepping on ground that doesn’t belong to the city. Feeling and breathing air that didn’t smell of fumes or carry the sound of cars and other people.
I felt happy. Happy that I was here. Happy at the thought of the day ahead of me.
All the green
One thing I noticed was how green the grass was. Luminous green. Not like any green you see in the city parks. That’s when it hit me, I have experienced this before. My very first walk after the first lockdown was the Ashridge Drovers walk in the Chilterns. There, I was also struck by the luminousness of the green.
I wonder, is the reason I notice this type of green because I had been stuck in a concrete jungle for so long. Or, is luminous green a Chilterns Hills thing?
Ok, I have rambled enough. You probably want all the details now. So here we go.
Logistics for the Hambleden and Medmenham circular walk
- Start: Mill End car park (Chilterns, Buckinghamshire)
- Finish: Mill End car park (Chilterns, Buckinghamshire)
- I started this walk just south of Hambleden, however, seeing as it’s a circular walk, you could start anywhere really. I noticed a car park in Hambleden if you want to start there.
- How to get there: Ok, this one doesn’t have train access. Sorry. However, the nearby village of Henley on Thames does. You could make this a longer walk by starting from there, and walking north along the River Thames and crossing at Hambleden Lock. You can see that route on my Henley to Hambleden walk guide.
- Anyway, If you are coming by car, Mill end car park is located on Skirmett road, directly south from Hambleden. The drive from central London takes roughly 1h20min (this can vary greatly depending on London traffic).
- Distance: Just under 6 miles (9.5km)
- Time: We walked it in 2h50min. However, it can be walked quicker. We went slower than my normal pace, took lots of pictures, sat down and admired the views.
- Terrain: Grass, dirt trails, some tarmac road.
- Elevation: Mostly flat, with a few little hilly bits.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Amenities: Mill End car park has a toilet. Hambleden has a post office with a cafe.
- Tips: It wasn’t muddy when we walked it in April. However, it looked like some bits could be during rainy periods. Take change for the car park (can also pay by card). At the time of writing, it cost £3 for 4 hours.
Map for the Hambleden and Medmenham circular walk
Now, I made a mistake when out on this walk. Once we hit the River Thames, we stopped for a snack break. I paused my tracker. I then forgot to start it again when we continued on. Once I realised, I panicked and accidentally ended the whole trail. As such I have two maps for you. Part one and part two. Stick them together and you have the whole route for the Hambleden and Medmenham circular walk.
nb. I only put google maps for part 2 as its very simple to follow without a trail app.
More walking ideas for the Chilterns will be at the End
A guide to the Hambleden and Medmenham circular walk in the Chilterns
The trail starts in the field directly opposite the car park. To get to it, you take a right out of the car park and then the field entrance is on the first corner on the left.
When researching this walk, it did concern me slightly that this bit of the walk into Hambleden was alongside the main road. However, it ended up not being an issue at all. Not many cars drove along it, so you could barely tell it was there.
The walk into Hambleden
Once in the field, you head north towards Hambleden. You can roughly see a grassy trail, or just look ahead to the rooftops. There was a sort of stream running through the filed. It was odd. The kind of stream that I wondered if during the height of the summer it wouldn’t be there.
On the other side, the sheep were roaming. Ah, the sheep. I missed the sheep. Lambing season was right about now. I wondered were they were.
Note: Lambs did make an appearance later.
At the end of the field you exit and enter into another field (from my memory, there might have actually been a couple of times you do this). At the very end, you cross over the bridge to enter the lovely village of Hambleden
Hambleden is cute little village, even said to be one of the most attractive in the Chiltern Hills. Buildings made of brick and flint, a 14th century church and a post office which also serves as the local shop and cafe.
Fun fact: Hambleden has been used as a film location quite a few times. Including 101 Dalmatians, Chitty Chitty bang bang, the Avengers, Sleepy Hollow and Band of Brothers. I guess it’s quite famous then.
What struck me was how immaculate the whole place was. Everything was very….neat.
Anyway, following the main road through the village as it curves right. You walk past a few houses, then at the car park, continue straight up the hill where it says private. It’s ok, you are allowed to walk here.
Leaving Hambleden to walk towards Medmenham
At the end of the road you will hit a junction with a signpost. Here, take a left and continue under the trees before things open up again. The trail here does become a bit muddy further on.
At the next junction take a left to walk along the trail uphill. Make sure to take a look back for a gorgeous view of the trail with houses and fields in the distance.
At the top of this hill, walk through the gate on the right, to continue along a narrow trail heading towards the woods.
North Cot Wood (The first woods)
As you enter the woods you take a left up what looks like some sorts of stick steps and continue along this trail. You will pass a gate on the right. Don’t take it. Continue straight through the woodland.
A bit further along you will go uphill slightly and should see this tree with a white arrow. Follow it.
Now things get interesting. There will be a small hole through the bushes and trees. You will probably need to duck down to get through it.
That was the interesting bit. Bare with me, I haven’t had this much excitement in a long time.
A bit further along, you will exit through a gate onto the road. Pick up the trail again directly opposite. You will make a sort of V.
Walk past the sign that says Hambleden Estate.
Through here, you should see on the right a sign saying ‘short cut’. Don’t take it. It will lead you the correct way, but then you would miss out a good bit. Instead, if you follow the trail straight and up, it will lead you to the right where you will then walk with a field of sheep on your left AND at the right time of year (March/April) you might get to see the cherry blossoms.
Continuing along the trail, it will soon curve to the left (there are no other trails yet. So it’s easy to follow) As it curves, you will see a gate up ahead.
Walk through the gate to the field of lambs…..
Now I do realise that you may not get to see lambs if it’s not the right time of year, but if you come and do the Hambleden and Medmenham circular walk around spring time, you stand a good chance.
The trail continues straight so that you are on the edge of the field. However, we walked slightly off trail as to avoid the lambs hanging out on it.
I used zoom to take pictures so I’m not as close as I look.
Leaving the lamb field to the next woods
At the end of this field (on the left) you will see a V stile. Go through the V and head to the next lot of woods ahead of you.
Follow the narrow trail as it snakes though the woods, then at this junction (below) go right and it will lead you through more woods.
Continue following the trail as it turns left and takes you downhill (quite steeply I might add), and down to the road.
Walk into Medmenham
At the road, take a left and walk past the sign for Medmenham. The map I looked up online seems to direct you straight along this road into the village. However, if I can avoid main roads, I do.
And I did.
Slightly further along, past the Medmenham sign you will see a small trail leading though an opening to the right. Take it.
Welcome to the chocolate field
Ok, ok. This isn’t real chocolate. But it did remind me of the sweet brown good stuff. I might have lucked out with the timing as it probably doesn’t always look like this, depending on when things are growing there.
Keeping to the left, follow the trail along the edge of the chocolate field, and when you see the trail split, go left to leave the chocolatyness.
Continue along the dirt trail (I think during winter/rainy periods this will be quite muddy. Just a hunch). And at the next signpost go left through the gate.
Walk over the road, and pick up the trail again on the others side.
Slightly along this narrow trail you will go through a gate into another field. Continue straight (look out for the house on the hill to the left) and then through a gate at the end.
Welcome to Medmenham
You will see some of the homes and the top of the church. Follow the trail as it leads you to the main road.
Now, we didn’t actually have a look around the village. So maybe you want to do that on your own. I think you will go left at the road to have a look.
We instead went right and followed the road past the houses. Now, I mentioned earlier how immaculate Hambleden looked. Well, this was the same x4. And probably quite wealthy. The father along we went, the larger the houses seemed to get, with big driveways and sports cars, semi hidden behind gates and big hedges.
Walk from Medmenham to the River Thames
Walking along this road, it will take you straight to the River Thames. Now, I actually live next to the river in London. I see it all the time. But this was different. It looked fresh. It even looked inviting to swim in.
We actually did then see a couple of ladies swimming in it. When I saw that I changed my mind. I did not want to swim in there. It looked very very cold. I felt cold just looking at them. I would like to get into open water swimming, but now is not the right time of year to start. Baby steps.
There are a few benches along here which makes a lovely place to stop for snacks.
We did stop for snacks.
I mentioned at the beginning that this is where I messed up with my tracker. So this is where (if you are following the map I made) you switch to part 2. Although to be honest, you don’t really need it for the rest of the walk back into Hambleden. It’s all pretty uncomplicated.
Walk along the River Thames back into Hambleden
For the next chunk of the walk you walk along the river (river to your left). Passing by barges and lots of sheep in the big open field. Possible even some ducks……And a mini beach.
At the very end through a gate (from memory I think you will have a couple of gate crossing), continue on the trail on the left of the field and it will curve you around to the right and past a few houses.
Go through the first gate past the houses, onto to road.
From here continue straight along this road where you will get a lovely view of the Chiltern Hills to your right and brick houses up ahead.
You will see, when the road curves to the right, there will be a little trail going straight. Take this trail and follow it along to reach the main road.
The end of the Hambleden and Medmenham circular walk
At the main road go left to walk past the farm house B&B. Then take the first road on the right (with the car park sign).
From here you just follow this road until you reach the car park where you started.
Other walks in the Chiltern Hills
I mentioned earlier the Ashridge Drovers walk. This was another first post lockdown walk. Not too challenging or long.
Just down the road (or river) you have the Henley to Marlow river walk. This 9 mile walk is very simple, clean and posh, as you walk along an immaculate trail from one pretty town to another.
Another one from Henley is the circular walk to Greys Court. It has a few hills, but not too much, and you can throw in a visit the grand Greys Court. If that’s not your thing, then you can just walk on by and admire from the outside.
Also just along the River, you could try the Little Marlow Circular walk. This one is 6 miles, very easy and dog friendly, takes you past some pubs and around a pretty lake.
One that I highly recommend, is the Ivinghoe Beacon walk. A bit longer and more challenging, but offers absolutely stunning views. Particularly along the ridge.
For even more of a challenge and even better views, then I recommend the Wendover circular walk. I think this might have the best views I have seen on a walk in the Chilterns.
Or if you head up to the North Chiltern Hills, you could try out the Three Springs walk. Very short, but there are some country pubs around so it would actually make a lovely post Sunday lunch walk (or pre, to work up an appetite).