Aston Rowant Route, Chilterns

This short, stile-free walk shows the Chilterns at their best. There are quiet and hidden landscapes, a National Nature Reserve and superb views from the top of the escarpment.

Technical sheet No. 28955379

A Lewknor walk posted on 24/11/22 by Chiltern Society. Last update : 24/11/22
Calculated time Calculated time: 2h05[?]
Distance Distance : 5.59 km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 184 m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 185 m
Highest point Highest point : 261 m
Lowest point Lowest point : 154 m
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Chiltern Hills
Location Location : Lewknor
Starting point Starting point : N 51.654538° / W 0.95223°
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Start: Cowleaze Wood car park (OX49 5HX). Grid ref: SU 725 956

(D/A) From the southern end of the car park turn left on a path, locate the waymark post indicating the start of the walk and fork left. Stay on this path, follow the white arrows on the trees (courtesy of the Chiltern Society), for 900m to reach a gate at the far left-hand corner of the wood (A). A sign by the gate indicates that you are entering the Wormsley Estate (B). The valley below benefits from the absence of public roads, so often the only sounds are the sheep, the red kites and the pheasants.

(1) Go through the gate and continue downhill through two fields with views to the left and right. At the bottom a gate gives access to a metalled track.

(2) Turn left and soon pass the attractive buildings of Lower Vicar’s Farm, with its Grade II listed barn. Walk past the pond and stay on the lane as it ascends a long, attractive dry valley. It then enters a wooded area before reaching Upper Vicar’s Farm, and a few yards later crests the ridge again back at the road. (If a short cut is required here, a left turn will bring you back to the car park, but beware of traffic).

(3) Cross the road with care. Ignore the bridleway sign almost opposite. Instead, go left for 100m to another sign, just by the end of the rough parking area, past the metal gates. Turn right past an information sign to some picnic benches. (C) When ready to move on, go right along the old road for a few metres, then left through a gate to begin a delightful descent (D) towards Hill Farm, visible below you. (Turn right if you wish to visit The Leathern Bottle pub in Lewknor – approx 1km)

(4) Turn left up Hill Road, marked by an ‘Unsuitable for Vehicles’ sign. Follow this rutted chalky path uphill until, on entering the trees, you turn right by another Nature Reserve signboard (D), and pass through the gate to follow a permissive path. This track, later a path, contours round Bald Hill (on your left) before reaching another sign on the right by dropping down slightly to the edge of the Reserve.

(5) Here go through the gate and turn left on another fine grassy path following a line of power poles. These lead gently up towards the head of the combe, and at a crossing fence the path takes you right, over the top (E) of the open, shallow valley, with more wide-ranging views over your right shoulder.

(6) Soon the path goes left through a gate entering a steep, flinty and muddy farm track, then a gate takes you into a final field. A short pull along the side of the field with the hedge on your right will return you to the road on the ridge. Cross carefully and enter Cowleaze Wood to find a track running parallel to the road. Follow it left back to the car park.(D/A)

We hope you have enjoyed your walk. Please remember to rate the walk and add comments. We are interested in how we could improve the instructions or the route and would like to hear about any issues with paths on the walk.

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 258 m - Cowleaze Wood car park - Cowleaze Wood
1 : km 0.99 - alt. 233 m - Gate - Down hill
2 : km 1.42 - alt. 170 m - Mettaled track - Lower Vicar’s Farm
3 : km 2.73 - alt. 249 m - Road - Upper Vicar’s Farm
4 : km 3.82 - alt. 154 m - Hill Road
5 : km 4.53 - alt. 171 m - Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve
6 : km 5.17 - alt. 212 m - Farm track
D/A : km 5.59 - alt. 256 m - Cowleaze Wood car park

Useful Information

Start & finish: Cowleaze Wood car park (OX49 5HX). Grid ref: SU 725 956

Parking: Cowleaze Wood car park (Forestry Commission) in Christmas Common Road near Stokenchurch

Local transport: No public transport to the start. Buses 40 and 275 stop at Aston Hill. The Oxford Tube stops on the B4009 at Lewknor 

Terrain: An easy walk on well-trodden paths with two moderate climbs.

Food & drink: None on the walk but a 1km detour from waypoint will take you to The Leathern Bottle in Lewknor

This walk was created for the book "50 Great Walks in the Chilterns" available from the Chiltern Society, White Hill Centre, White Hill, Chesham, Bucks, HP5 1AG Tel. 01494 771250. Fax 01494 793745.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

(A) Cowleaze Wood: This 70 acre area of woodland owned by the Forestry Commission has an attractive mix of beech, oak, coppiced hazels and conifers. It is noted for its carpet of bluebells in the spring. In the wood there is a memorial to the seven-man crew of a Halifax bomber who died when their plane crashed during WWII. Look out for signs as the path starts to descend The crash site is only about 40 meters to the left of the path.

(B) The Wormsley Estate is owned and beautifully maintained by the Getty family. An estate and a manor house have existed at Wormsley since the 12th century. It was bought by Robert Scrope in 1574. His son Adrian was executed at Charing Cross in 1660 for being one of the signatories to Charles I’s death warrant. The estate was bought by Sir Paul Getty in 1984. He spent much of his time restoring the house and estate to its former glory. It now boasts a cricket ground modelled on The Oval, a library housing one of the finest private collections in the country, and an opera house. The estate is probably best known, however, for being the first release site for the reintroduction of the red kite.

(C) This is sited on the old Christmas Common road, now cut off by the M40 motorway. The road has been adopted by the authorities as a level ‘Access to All’ route running along the top of the Aston Rowant Nature Reserve, with information signs and picnic benches, from which you can enjoy stupendous views across the Oxford plain and to the west.

(D) Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) managed by Natural England. It covers 400 acres and is composed of flower-rich chalk grassland, woodland and juniper scrub. It’s a wonderful visitor-friendly site suitable for all ages. Grassland plants include at least eight different orchids, Chiltern gentian, autumn gentian, fairy flax and horseshoe vetch. Butterfly species include the rare silver-spotted skipper, chalkhill blue and marbled white. The site also has the area’s last remaining population of juniper. More information boards give insight into some of the wildlife and flowers found on the chalk scarp. Motorway noise does affect the area but the sinuous curves of the road and constant movement of vehicles may provide interest for some, and the other part of the Nature Reserve can be seen across the carriageways. This delectable walk on short springy turf comes to an end at Hill Farm.

(E) Bald Hill was the historic highest point in Oxfordshire at 257m, but boundary changes in 1974 meant that it was replaced by Whitehorse Hill at Uffington.

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