The Toughest Climb in the Chilterns

A 130m climb up the north face of Coombe Hill is as tough as it gets round here. Starting in Wendover you visit several quieter summits before the big one and are rewarded for your efforts by lovely, varied scenery and great views.

Technical sheet No. 25889613

A Wendover walk posted on 23/08/22 by Chiltern Society. Last update : 21/09/22
Calculated time Calculated time: 5h00[?]
Distance Distance : 13.51 km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 407 m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 404 m
Highest point Highest point : 256 m
Lowest point Lowest point : 122 m
Easy Difficulty : Easy
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Chiltern Hills
Location Location : Wendover
Starting point Starting point : N 51.761055° / W 0.745788°
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Coombe Hill


Start : Shoulder of Mutton pub, Wendover

(D/A) From Shoulder of Mutton pub, head uphill on the Ellesborough Road. Immediately after crossing the bridge over the A413 bypass take the footpath to the left through a gate. Note that this footpath is currently (2021) diverted. Initially the path runs parallel to the road but, after after passing through a second gate, follow the HS2 diversion between wooden fences round to the far side of the field where you then pass through two gates to join Bacombe Lane. Turn right up the lane for 150m.

(1) Turn left on the footpath running on a broad track between gardens. It curves right around the bottom of the gardens then continues between hedges across a field. Pass through a gate in a large hedge and continue in the same direction cutting across the corner of an open field.

Pass through the next hedge and cross the next field in the same direction. The path climbs to the edge of a wood of large beech trees. Look back at the view across the valley before entering the wood. Turn right after 100m at the first fork in the path heading steadily uphill through the wood.

(2) After the path drops steeply, bear right and the path starts to climb again to the left of a single stranded wire fence. The path is joined by a bridleway from the left and becomes a wide bridleway. Keep on the main path which soon leaves the wood crossing an open field between fences.

Bear left into woods again. The path runs between fences then gardens and eventually becomes a road which brings you out by the Dunsmore (A) village pond.Turn right on the Kimble road. Look out for a footpath to the left after 70m.

(3) Cross a stile beside a gate into an open field. There are two footpaths here: you take the rightmost heading towards the cluster of houses in the valley. After crossing several stiles you reach the lane in the valley bottom.

Cross straight over the lane and up a broad stony track on the other side. The track becomes rougher after passing the houses then becomes a bridleway climbing steadily up a hollow in the slope. Where you come to a major junction of paths, keep straight on up the footpath, leaving the bridleway which now forks right. The footpath continues up the bottom of the hollow for a stretch before curving left and climbing more steeply. The path becomes a broad track again near the top of the hill.

(4) Keep straight on where you join the Ridgeway and follow it as it descends on a broad stony path to the junction of a road and a lane leading left to Buckmoorend Farm Shop (50m, open Wed-Sun, coffee, tea, etc).

Cross the lane, pass through the hedge and follow the bridleway that runs parallel to the road. Follow the bridleway round to the left at the corner and soon pass through the hedge to emerge beside the road again. Follow the little path winding through the roadside bushes until you reach a bridleway to the right after 200m.

(5) Take the bridleway heading West uphill. The bridleway initially climbs between fences and hedges. If you look to the right here you will get some glimpses of Chequers and its estate houses. The path becomes more open as it enters a narrow strip of mature trees.

Continue steadily uphill through Pond Wood and shortly after the path starts downhill, you reach a junction of paths (about 700m from the road). Turn right up a broad track (marked as a Byway), still climbing gradually up the ridge. Look out for a footpath to the left after 250m. Take this path down the side of the ridge towards a road.

After crossing a track, the path descends more steeply to meet a bridleway just before the road. Turn right here. The bridleway drops down some steps to join a broader track which runs at the back of a parking area.

(6) Just beyond the parking area you will see a steeply climbing footpath to the right of the broad track heading towards Pulpit Hill Fort. Take this path as it climbs very steeply up the hillside. At the top of the slope you meet a broader track. Turn left on the track.

After around 200m, before the track starts to descend, turn right on a path signposted 'Pulpit Hill Fort' (B). This path runs along the back of the earthworks of the fort. At the end of the bank turn left through the fort, continuing to the edge of the hill. When you come to a broad path at the top of the steep slope, you turn right. (Note that if you go about 50m to the left here, there is a gap in the trees where you get a view over the Vale of Aylesbury.)

(7) Follow the clear path descending, gradually at first, away from the hill fort. Keep straight on after exiting the National Trust area of Pulpit Wood. Cross straight over a stony bridleway on a footpath which soon emerges from the trees. The path descends diagonally across an open hillside to a fence. Turn left along the fence for a short distance.

(8) Instead of crossing the fence into the open field as indicated by the footpath sign, continue to the left of the fence by crossing a stile into a small patch of nature reserve. Walk along the top of the grassy ridge with the fence to your right. Where the fence curves away to the right, keep straight ahead to the top of the grassy knoll. Here is a good point to pause and look at the view.

From here turn right down the north side of the ridge and you will see a gate in the corner of the field. Pass through the gate and take the footpath ahead of you running a little to the right of the fence into trees. Bear round to the left and pass through a gate to shortly cross a road and then follow the footpath on a broad track through a belt of trees.

(9) The path crosses an open field and on the far side you take a path through box woodland. When you emerge from the woods you are on the edge of an open hillside. After a few yards, turn right and head straight up to the top of the hill. This is access land so there are no formal paths, but you should see signs of a walked path about 10m left of the fence.

(10) At the top of the ridge walk left to the tumulus at the north end of the ridge and look all around at the view. From here, head straight down the steep hillside aiming for a gate in the hedge below (the direction is just to the left of the white cottages beyond). Pass through the gate and cross the field heading for the church. Cross the road and pass through the churchyard to the left of the church.

(11) Take the path past the church tower, down some steps, through the second part of the churchyard then continue in the same direction across the first field. Turn right and you soon come to a tarmac lane and pass a few cottages on your left.

Where the lane turns sharp right keep ahead on a grassy track, later becoming a narrow path between fences, which brings you to a road by some houses.

(12) Turn left on the road for 50m then take the footpath to the right. Follow it along the edge of several fields until you meet a crossing path where you turn right.

You are now heading directly towards Coombe Hill, 'though it is largely obscured by trees. You soon enter a golf course. Ignore the golfers’ path round to the right and instead continue straight ahead across the first fairway and after passing through a narrow belt of trees the path passes to the right of the club house and brings you to the Ellesborough Road.

(13) Cross the road. Ignore the first bridleway on your left and continue straight ahead through a wooden gate. Immediately after the gate, there is a path on your left - this is your route to the top. The path climbs directly up the slope. Initially through the trees it is very steep. As you emerge from the trees the gradient eases and you see the gilded top of the monument in front of you.

(14) From the monument (E), turn left on the grassy path heading East towards Wendover. You follow the Ridgeway into Wendover so look out for the signs. The path descends steadily and there are fine open views over the town. After a mile you reach the Ellesborough Road. Cross, turn right on the pavement and you will soon be back at the starting point at Shoulder of Mutton pub. (D/A)

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 137 m - Shoulder of Mutton pub
1 : km 0.72 - alt. 158 m - Broad track - Gardens
2 : km 2.02 - alt. 217 m - Drop steeply - Dunsmore
3 : km 2.97 - alt. 234 m - Gate - Open field
4 : km 4.2 - alt. 254 m - Ridgeway
5 : km 5.22 - alt. 185 m - Bridleway - Ellesborough Church
6 : km 6.51 - alt. 205 m - Parking area - Pulpit Hill
7 : km 7.17 - alt. 249 m - Top of the steep slope
8 : km 7.59 - alt. 209 m - Fence - Stile
9 : km 8.13 - alt. 199 m - Belt of trees
10 : km 8.56 - alt. 216 m - Top of the ridge
11 : km 9.08 - alt. 152 m - Church
12 : km 10.13 - alt. 130 m - Houses
13 : km 11.12 - alt. 172 m - Ellesborough Road
14 : km 11.54 - alt. 251 m - The monument - Coombe Hill, Chilterns
D/A : km 13.5 - alt. 140 m - Shoulder of Mutton pub

Useful Information

A circuit from Wendover visiting several quieter summits before the 130m climb up the north face of Coombe Hill. The reward for your efforts is lovely, varied scenery and great views.

Note: This route crosses the HS2 cut and cover ‘Green’ tunnel and so is likely to be diverted during HS2 construction. See HS2 Watch for the latest information.

Terrain: Mainly good, well waymarked paths. Total ascent 465m

Start & finish: Shoulder of Mutton pub, Wendover

Food & drink: Pubs, Cafes and shops in Wendover, farm shop at Buckmoorend

Parking: Pay Car Parks in Wendover at the Station and Library. Some on street parking.

Local transport: Train to Wendover Station

Alternative Start: Park below Pulpit Hill (Waypoint 4) - Wendover, with all its refreshment options will then be roughly half-way through the walk.

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) Dunsmore : A hamlet in the parish of Ellesborough. The name is Anglo Saxon and means Dunna's Moor.

(B) Pulpit Hill : As you near the steep scarp slope of the hill you will see the well preserved remains of a multivallate hill fort used in the bronze and iron ages. The fort uses the contours of the hill with a single ditch above the steep slope and a double ditch on the flatter east side. Much of the surrounding wood and grassland is an SSSI.

(C) Beacon Hill : At the North end of the ridge you will find the remains of a Bronze Age bowl barrow. The barrow was excavated in the 19th century then used as a gun emplacement in WW2. Now the sheep use it for shelter.From here there is a great view over to Coombe Hill (be afraid). The view of Ellesborough church with the Vale of Aylesbury behind is particularly pretty. Just below you to the left you will see the wooded mound called 'Cymbeline's Castle' (a Norman Motte and Bailey castle).

(D) Ellesborough Church : The church has a very picturesque setting atop a knoll at the base of the Chiltern hills. It is mainly 15th century and faced with flint and dressed stone giving the exterior a harmonious appearance. They serve afternoon teas on Sunday afternoons (2-5.30) from Easter to the end of September.

(E) Coombe Hill : This is the highest viewpoint in the Chilterns. The monument stands at 257m above sea level. From here you have an extensive view over the Vale of Aylesbury. On a clear day you can see Didcot in the West and the fine wooded hills to the east of Wendover. The monument was erected in 1904 in memory of Buckinghamshire men who died in the Boer war. Coombe Hill is not the highest point in the Chilterns. The monument itself stands a little below the 260m summit of the hill, but the highest point in the Chilterns (267m) is hidden in Wendover woods.

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