The Chiltern Way is a 133 mile circular long distance path through Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire. It was officially launched in October 2000 by The Chiltern Society to mark the millennium and to provide walkers in the twenty first century with a new way of exploring the diverse beautiful countryside which all four Chiltern counties have to offer. The route begins at Hemel Hempstead, chosen because of its good communications links, and is intended to be walked in a clockwise direction.
On leaving Hemel Hempstead the route heads south over the Bovington plateau and across a scenic section of the Chess Valley to picturesque Chenies. After Chorleywood and Newland Park the way descends into the Misbourne Valley and photogenic Chalfont St Giles. It then crosses quiet upland Penn country passing Coleshill, Winchmore Hill and Penn to reach the Wye Valley at Loudwater. The Way then heads for the northern slopes of the Thames Valley, skirts Marlow and passes through quiet wooded hills before descending into Hambleden Valley, one of the jewels of the Chilterns. Following the Hambleden Valley north the Way passes through Fingest and Turville and climbs to a high ridge at Southend Common.
Now in Oxfordshire it takes one of the most beautiful Chiltern Paths descending through woodland to Stonor Park and the estate village. The Way then heads west, eventually reaching the ancient village of Ewelme from where it heads east to the top of Swyncombe Down, one of the most spectacular projections of the Chiltern Escarpment. It then crosses the Ridgeway Path at Cookley Green and the Oxfordshire Way at Hollandridge. It then passes through the beautiful Wormsley Valley to reach Stokenchurch. The Way then climbs up Bledlow Ridge, crosses the Risborough Gap to Saunderton and then to Lacey Green. From here the Way leads northeast-wards across the heavily wooded of the Hampden Country, following parts of Grim's Ditch, crosses Hampden Bottom and joins the South Bucks Way at Little Hampden.
From Cobblers Hill the Way continues northeast-wards crossing the dry upper reaches of the Misbourne Valley before rising across uplands including Buckland Common to reach the Bulbourne Valley and Grand Union Canal back in Hertfordshire. The Way now heads for Aldbury before climbing to cross the wooded Ashridge Estate and descending into the Gade Valley and Bedfordshire. Now heading north across another range of uplands and skirting Whipsnade wild animal park, the Way arrives at the top of Dunstable Downs where it reaches its highest point and superb views abound.
The Way then begins its circumnavigation of the Luton/Dunstable conurbation, eventually crossing the M1 motorway. The Way then climbs onto the most northerly ridge of the Chilterns passing through Sundon Hills Country Park to Sharpenhoe Clappers with a abundance of panoramic views. Now turning east the Way passes through the former estate village of Lilley before turning south and joining the Lea Valley at Easy Hyde. The final 12 miles of the Way then leads you westwards through quiet hills to the hilltop village of Flamstead before turning southwest-ward to cross the Gade Valley at the picturesque hamlet of Water End. There is now one final to cross at Potten End before returning to the start at Hemel Hempstead.
Due to its close proximity to transport routes throughout its length the Chiltern Way offers considerable flexibility in planning an itinerary. However, allowing 9 days will allow time to 'stop and stare' and enjoy a relaxing journey without the need for any 'route march' days. Good transportation links also means the Chiltern Way is suitable for planning day excursions along part of the route. None of the route will present any particular difficulty to reasonably fit walkers.
In 2003 extension loops were officially added to the Chiltern Way to take it to both extremities of the Chilterns including the beautiful Oxfordshire section of the Thames Valley and the spectacular downland of the Barton Hills. If you decide to walk the full extended version of the Chiltern Way the total distance is increased to 278 km and you should allow 14 days.
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