Dancersend Wildlife Walk

This walk is about the treats that await you in and around Dancersend Nature Reserve. In spring bluebells, primroses and cowslips, in summer many species of butterflies and the Chiltern gentian, in autumn fungi and the trees with their colourful display and winter where the birds are easier to spot.

Technical sheet
No. 28149771
A Halton (Buckinghamshire) walk posted on 28/10/22 by Chiltern Society. Update : 02/11/22
Calculated time Calculated time: 2h45[?]
Distance Distance : 8.09 km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 144 m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 147 m
Highest point Highest point : 276 m
Lowest point Lowest point : 176 m
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Chiltern Hills
Location Location : Halton (Buckinghamshire)
Starting point Starting point : N 51.772245° / W 0.71349°
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Start: The café at Wendover Woods. Nearest postcode HP22 5NQ. Grid ref: SP 890090.
An alternative start point is the Dancersend Nature Reserve car park at Waypoint (3) , Bottom Road, Tring HP23 6LB Grid ref: SP 904088

(D/A) Facing the entrance to the new cafe, go left past the toilets and turn right following the Firecrest Trail. After 80m turn left on the Easy Access Hilltop Trail to a wooden barrier directly ahead. Do not go through, instead turn left uphill and follow this path through the trees, bearing left at a fork to a bench. Turn right at the bench to meet the exit road for Wendover Woods (A). Turn right along the road for a few metres to a footpath left on the other side.

(1) There are two footpaths here: take the path to the right past the electricity poles and follow the winding woodland path. Bear left at a fork, continue forward, ignore the path to the left and go through a kissing gate into a field. Go straight across the middle and pass the next gate onto a road.

Turn left along the road for 140m to a gate on the right signed for the Icknield Way. Go through the gate and continue along the bridleway whilst taking in the lovely views on the left towards Dancersend, Tring and Ivinghoe Beacon. Pass through a gate and stay on the main bridleway to a lane.

(2) Cross directly over the lane into Pavis, Black and Northill Woods Nature Reserve (B) and follow the Ridgeway for 500m to where a footpath crosses. Turn left to join the footpath and, after 100m, join a sunken path. Follow it left down to the bottom of the hill.

Just before reaching a lane, turn sharp left on a bridleway for 300m to a 4-way path junction. Stay straight ahead on a footpath for a further 300m to reach a field gate. Go through into the yard of Dancers End pumping station (C). Turn right past the buildings, go through the brick gateway and bear right into the car park (alternative start point). Go through the gate on the right, walk through the meadow and bear left out of a gate into a lane.

(3) Cross directly over, through both the first gate and the second on the left to enter Dancersend Nature Reserve (D). Follow the permissive path along the valley floor, bear left uphill, staying in the same direction as the line of overhead cables. The path then bends right under the cables and down to a gate.

(4) Go through the gate, climb the steps ahead and walk along to meet a wide grassy track. Turn left up this track, follow it round the right-hand bend, go over a crossing footpath and gently descend to a T-junction.

(5) Turn right downhill for a few metres and fork left along a permissive path. Shortly after the path starts to descend fork right past a bench, go through a gate and turn right to a bench dedicated to Susan Cowdy. From the bench, continue straight downhill to the bottom past an information board for the Duke of Burgundy butterfly. Ahead is another information board explaining the grassland management that takes place in the meadow behind. If you have time go through a gate to the left and explore the meadow. From the board go right along the fence line and go through the right-hand gate ahead.

(6) Turn left across the wide track and go past the board on the left. After around 30m the Woodland Walk forks left. Continue straight ahead on the Permissive path along the edge of the wood to where the path ends at a wide track.

Turn left on the track along the valley floor, go through a metal gate and almost immediately bear right on a smaller path to pass through the next gate into a field. Bear half left up through the middle of the field, go under the overhead cables and head towards a fence line and the large nesting box at the top. Pass through a gate, turn right and continue to climb to the left of the fence through three further gates to reach a road.

(7) Taking great care, turn right along the road for 400m to a footpath on the left just after the entrance to Aston Hill Lodge. Take this path, go forward for a few metres to a driveway and turn right along it. Bear left at the gates to The Chalet, pass through a tall deer gate and continue on to the main entrance road for Wendover Woods.

(8) Turn left along the Wendover Woods entrance road for 120m and, just before the right-hand bend, bear left on a path up into the woods. Turn right at the fence and follow the sometimes overgrown path along the edge of the wood to a cairn which marks the highest point in The Chilterns (267m / 876ft).

Take the wide path behind the cairn and where it bends to the left, bear right, follow the path to right of the access road to a gravel crossing path. Turn left over the access road to return 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. 269 m - Wendover Woods Cafe
1 : km 0.36 - alt. 276 m - Exit Road
2 : km 1.92 - alt. 250 m - Lane
3 : km 3.63 - alt. 202 m - Dancersend
4 : km 3.98 - alt. 228 m - Gate
5 : km 4.54 - alt. 235 m - T-junction
6 : km 4.88 - alt. 198 m - Right-hand Gate
7 : km 6.18 - alt. 256 m - Road
8 : km 7.22 - alt. 261 m - Entrance Road
D/A : km 8.09 - alt. 269 m - Wendover Woods Cafe

Useful Information

Start: The café at Wendover Woods. Nearest postcode HP22 5NQ. Grid ref: SP 890090.
An alternative start point is the Dancersend Nature Reserve car park at Waypoint (3) , Bottom Road, Tring HP23 6LB Grid ref: SP 904088

Parking : Wendover Woods pay & display car park.

Local transport: None at the start. Bus 50 runs between Aylesbury and Wendover on Mondays to Fridays which could add 20 minutes to the walk. On Sundays Bus 50 runs between Aylesbury and Ivinghoe and stops nearby on the B4009.  Full details can be found on

Terrain : An immensely interesting stile free walk on good surfaces but can be muddy at times. Two steep climbs. There are numerous gates to pass through including an unusual deer gate. Cattle are often grazing in the reserve which is essential for maintaining the grassland.

Food & Drink: Wendover Woods Cafe. None on route.

This walk and the accompanying notes owe much to the assistance of Mick Jones, warden for BBOWT at Dancersend. For further information go to

This walk is included in the book "More Great Walks in the Chilterns" available from Chiltern Society, White Hill Centre, White Hill, Chesham, Bucks, HP5 1AG Tel. 01494 771250 and from Amazon

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) Wendover Woods: are owned by the Forestry England. Covering 325 hectares, they are a mixture of coniferous and broad-leaved trees. Once owned by Alfred Rothschild, they were heavily felled during WWI to support the war effort. In 1919 the Air Ministry bought the site and planted conifers. They passed to the Forestry Commission, who planted beech, spruce, larch and pine. A Chiltern Society volunteer group has worked here for many years, helping to manage the Woods for recreation, preserve ancient monuments and encourage biodiversity.

(B) Black, Northill and Pavis Woods: These are ancient beech woods covering the steep slopes around the end of the Dancersend valley. They are owned by Bucks County Council, but now managed by Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT). They have many interesting archaeological features, including old woodland and parish boundary banks, sunken trackways and deep pits where marl, a chalky type of clay, was dug to spread on the acid heath that could be found at the tops of these hills centuries ago.

(C) Pumping Station: The Grade II listed station was built by the Rothschild’s in 1867 primarily to supply their estates at Tring, Halton, Aston Clinton & Waddesdon. In the early 20th century the site was taken over by Buckinghamshire Water Board before passing to the Thames Water Authority in 1975. An area of old chalk pits with a number of rare plants and insects is now managed by BBOWT as part of Dancersend Reserve, but access is by permit only.

(D) Dancersend Nature Reserve: This fabulous reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest managed by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. The reserve was established in 1939 in memory of Charles Rothschild who set up the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, now the Wildlife Trust movement. The soil at Dancersend ranges from acid to alkaline supporting a wide variety of flora and fauna. There are ten types of orchid including pyramidal, common spotted, bee, fly and greater butterfly. Other plants include Chiltern gentian, clustered bellflower, stinking hellebore and wood vetch. Look out for butterflies including dingy skipper, green hairstreak and both dark green and silver-washed fritillaries. Over 600 species of fungi have been recorded, including the remarkable collared earthstar whose outer layer splits and folds backward into a star-shaped pattern. A signed Tree Trail will introduce you to 12 species of tree typical of Chilterns woods.

(E) Dancersend Reserve Extension: Three fields that were ploughed up for cereal production towards the end of World War Two were purchased in 1999 and are gradually being restored to flower-rich meadows. Some of the rarest plants on the reserve have been established here, using seed collected by volunteers. Chalk scrapes have been excavated to create the right conditions for some of the most threatened butterfly species in the Chilterns.

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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.