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Henley, the Greys and the Rotherfields

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Henley, the Greys and the Rotherfields
Author: Ecoworrier, Published: 07 Jan 2019 Walk Rating:star0 Henley, the Greys and the Rotherfields, Oxfordshire Walking  Guidestar0 Henley, the Greys and the Rotherfields, Oxfordshire Walking  Guidestar0 Henley, the Greys and the Rotherfields, Oxfordshire Walking  Guidestar0 Henley, the Greys and the Rotherfields, Oxfordshire Walking  Guidestar0 Henley, the Greys and the Rotherfields, Oxfordshire Walking  Guide
Oxfordshire, Henley
Walk Type: Woodland
Henley, the Greys and the Rotherfields
Length: 14 miles,  Difficulty: boot Henley, the Greys and the Rotherfields, Oxfordshire Walking  Guide boot Henley, the Greys and the Rotherfields, Oxfordshire Walking  Guide boot Henley, the Greys and the Rotherfields, Oxfordshire Walking  Guide
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This superb 13.5 mile circular walk, from the pretty Thames-side town of Henley, visits historic houses, Chiltern woods, unspoilt villages and a number of pubs. The route is adapted from a walk originally published in Raymond Hugh’s Adventurous Walks in the South Chilterns. (These lovely books are sadly out of print, but it is worth buying them if you ever see one for sale second-hand because of the unique combination of his sense of humour, local history, interesting path choices, hand-drawn maps and his clear love of (some of) the local pubs). The original walk description was a paean to the Brakspear Brewery, which was based in Henley until 2002. The brewery has now been converted into flats and the beer is brewed elsewhere. Raymond mentions eleven pubs in his original walk description of which eight still exist. He writes a few lines about each pub and its wares, which suggests that he must have visited them (purely for research purposes). This updated version of the walk is a paean to Chiltern woodlands – the walk visits a variety of types and ages of woods, which makes it a particular delight in Spring or Autumn.

This walk is a challenging adventure - it involves some steep climbs, you will need to navigate the many twists and turns carefully and there are a couple of sections that can get very muddy. Most of the walk is along woodland paths, but it does take you across two golf courses and through a couple of fields that can contain livestock. Except in Henley itself, the roads that our route crosses are usually fairly quiet. There are several kissing gates, steps and many stiles to negotiate along the way. This walk will take 6 to 7 hours (longer if you do too much research).

If you are feeling really adventurous, you could combine this route with another iFootpath walk, The Cherry Tree Inn Woodland and Well Trail.

The walk starts at the western (Henley) end of Henley Bridge. Henley-on-Thames can be reached by train and bus. The nearest car parks to our start point are at the railway station or Mill Meadows, near the River and Rowing Museum. Approximate post code RG9 1BF.

Alternatively, you could start the walk at a number of other points - Greys Court (park on Rocky Lane to the west of the estate unless you are an NT member and confident that you can complete the walk before the NT car park is closed), Rocky Lane (when the route crosses it for the second time), in Rotherfield Peppard or Rotherfield Grey.

Walk Sections

Start to Grims Ditch
Start to Grims Ditch

Start point: 51.5376 lat, -0.9007 long
End point: 51.5526 lat, -0.9382 long

The walk begins at the western end (the Henley side) of Henley Bridge. Before setting off, it is worth noting that the 14th Century Angel Inn is built into the bridge. The current bridge was built in the 18th Century and the pub remained part of the structure. With the bridge at your back and the pub on your left, walk up the High Street passing Henley church on your right. When you reach a traffic-light controlled crossroads, you will see the Town Hall ahead and uphill of you. Our route goes to the right of the Town Hall and continues up West Street, passing to the right of The Row Barge. When West Street ends, turn right following the sign for Hop Gardens and Public Footpath to Fairmile. There are some nice Victorian buildings on your right at the start of this lane and the views over Henley open up as you progress. Hop Gardens ends at a T-junction at which you should turn left into Crisp Road. When the first row of houses on the left ends at a turning area, take a signed footpath on the left (immediately after house number 71).

The path leads uphill between gardens and then turns right to run behind houses, still climbing. When you reach Lambridge Lane, turn right and follow this lane to its end, passing some magnificent properties with great views. There are a couple of gates along this lane, which are usually open. There are stiles alongside them if the gates are locked. When the lane turns right into the last house, continue straight ahead through a kissing gate to join a narrow tree-lined path onto a golf course. Keep to the signed path, being careful of flying golf balls, going straight on to pass to the right of the 16th tee. Continue along the track with trees on your left. When the track forks, ignore the left fork to the 11th tee, instead continue straight ahead. The track peters out just before a row of scots pines. After these, follow footpath signs to bear slightly right to leave the golf course by a step-over stile and enter Lanbridge Wood. The entry to the woods is behind a green and has a footpath sign indicating our direction of travel.

Maintain your direction of travel north-west, following the footpath signs and keeping the woodland edge to your left. This section of path has recently had new footpath signs, but if you can’t find one then follow the arrows painted on the trees. Ignore all side turnings to eventually descend into a valley. Ignore a well-signed footpath off to the right at the base of the valley, and then take the right fork in front of a large holly bush (following the arrows on trees). On your left you should now see an earth bank and corresponding ditch, known as Grims Ditch. Ignore a path off to the left (and out of the woods) as you climb out of the valley. At the next junction of multiple paths and tracks, continue straight ahead following arrows on trees with Grims Ditch on your left.

The ditch and accompanying bank is one of a large number of ancient earthworks across the country that are named Grims something. This one is believed to date from Celtic times and more recently marked the course of the route from Henley to Wallingford.

Grims Ditch to Greys Court
Grims Ditch to Greys Court

Start point: 51.5526 lat, -0.9382 long
End point: 51.5456 lat, -0.9535 long

When you reach a prominent crossing path, turn left to cross the line of the ditch. Follow the footpath signs, and if in doubt the arrows on trees, as this path heads west and then gradually turns south-west following the line of the edge of the wood, which is on your left.

Eventually, the path meets a lane beside Broadplat Croft. Cross the lane and follow a short section of path and then turn right along the drive to Forge Works. After 25 metres, the drive forks. Take the left fork and then immediately turn left to join a footpath signed to Greys Court. The path passes between a field on your left and buildings on your right. When the buildings end, go left through a gate and then turn right to follow a fenced path along the edge of a field. Soon after, ignore a marked path on the right and continue ahead passing a pond on your left. The woods on your right are full of bluebells in the spring. Go through the gate into the field and follow the footpath along the right-hand edge of the field. Note that our path is now marked as part of the Chiltern Way and a circular route around Greys Court (grey arrows).

Go through a second gate into a field (that is used as the NT overflow car park) and continue along its right edge. At the far side of the field you will climb and go through a gate into the National Trust car park. Follow the right-hand edge of the car park, passing first an attractive brick maze and then the NT ticket hut. Follow the tarmac drive past Greys Court. This historic property, with many interesting stories, and its accompanying gardens and parkland are well worth a visit if you have time and funds, and there is a tea shop and National Trust gift shop.

Greys Court to Rocky Lane
Greys Court to Rocky Lane

Start point: 51.5456 lat, -0.9535 long
End point: 51.5501 lat, -0.9819 long

Follow the drive past the house, ignoring turnings off to the right. The drive descends, passing “Greys Fort”, and as it bends left to join a lane, continue straight ahead through a gate. Ignoring grey arrows to the right, cross the lane, and go through a second gate into a field. Cross the field and a shallow valley to go through a gate into woods. Continue straight ahead through the woods to the top of the slope to emerge into a small field with a derelict barn to your right. Continue ahead to arrive at Greys Green cricket pitch. Turn right to pass in front of the Reg Frewin pavilion and continue around the edge of the pitch until you reach a track alongside Greys Cottage (just before the road).

Turn right along the track. Pass a second property and go through a small gate, leaving the Chiltern Way Extension. Go through a second small gate to carry straight on, following a fenced path between fields. The path goes into a small beech wood and forks. Take the left-hand fork (straight on) and follow the path with the edge of the wood on your left. At the far side of the wood, the path continues between fields and through a kissing gate. Carry straight on along the left-hand edge of a field. Go through a kissing gate to follow a fenced path round a garden and into the hamlet of Shepherds Green.

Turn left onto a track across the centre of the green and after a few steps, turn right onto a gravel track passing in front of “The Strip”. As the track turns right to enter a second property, continue along the edge of the green and then turn right down a short path to go through a kissing gate between two gates. Turn left to follow the field perimeter behind houses. At the far side of the field, go through a kissing gate and continue straight ahead across the next field heading for the right corner of a copse. Enter the copse and follow the obvious path ahead, keeping the field on your right.

At the far side of the copse, go through two kissing gates in quick succession and then follow the path across a field, with a fence on your left, to enter another wood through a kissing gate. This wood is a great place to see bluebells in spring and its owners are currently trying hard to encourage users to stick to the clearly marked paths to avoid damaging the bluebells. A few steps into the wood, turn right onto a bridleway and follow this as it continues through the wood, bending slowly left until it emerges onto Rocky Lane by a parking place.

Rocky Lane to Crooked Billet
Rocky Lane to Crooked Billet

Start point: 51.5501 lat, -0.9819 long
End point: 51.5538 lat, -1.0138 long

Cross Rocky Lane and go through a gap in the hedge beside a stile and follow the footpath straight on across the field to enter a wood. Continue straight ahead through conifers to a T-junction. Turn right, and then after about 60 metres, turn left onto a narrow path marked by a yellow footpath sign. This path takes you through a lovely section of mixed woodland to later meet a track. Turn left along this track, signed as a footpath, and after about 20 metres, where the track bends left, leave it to continue ahead along the path (following the arrows marked on trees). Our route here runs north-west, roughly following the edge of the wood to our left. The path climbs gently. Just before the end of the wood, ignore a turning to the right, emerge onto a road (the B481) and turn right to walk through the hamlet of Highmoor.

Walk past the derelict Dog and Duck pub and ignore a byway to the right. About 20 metres further on, cross the road carefully to join a footpath on the left, which leads up a short drive before going to the right of the drive in front of Appletree Cottage. Follow the left-hand edge of a field to enter a small copse of holly bushes. Turn right to follow a path through the centre of the copse. Go over a crossing path and follow the fenced path that bends right and then left to run through a narrow strip of woods (in a westerly direction).

At the end of the strip of woods, cross a stile and follow the right-hand edge of a field with the views opening up ahead. At the end of the field, go through a kissing gate and bear gently left across the next field descending a pretty valley. At the bottom of the valley, go through a small gate and climb the other side of the valley, heading diagonally left across the field towards a kissing gate at the far side (approx 50 metres in from the right-hand corner of the field).

Go through two kissing gates to enter the next field and continue to climb diagonally left, aiming to the right of a small barn on the ridge ahead. At the time of writing it looks like they are going to rebuild the house that used to stand to the left of this barn. At the top of the field go over a stile (or through a kissing gate) and turn left along a track. This track passes two houses on the left and descends gradually, eventually bending right. Ignore side turnings until the track forks. Take the right fork to descend to a narrow lane.

Cross this and continue along a bridleway to meet a second lane. Cross this and maintain your direction of travel to leave the bridleway and follow a footpath (the right fork). The path goes gently uphill. Ignore a crossing path to continue ahead, where the path bends left to skirt the grounds of Bushwood House. The path eventually reaches the drive to the house. Turn left along the drive to reach a lane. Turn right along the lane to get to The Crooked Billet, an extremely attractive thatched building. The Crooked Billet is a restaurant rather than a pub, and is probably not an ideal walker’s lunch stop unless you are celebrating a special occasion.

At this point, if you felt that 13.5 miles was not challenging enough, you could add a visit to the pretty village of Stoke Row and the fascinating Maharajah’s Well by continuing past the pub and turning right when you eventually reach the main road (see the iFootpath walk called The Cherry Tree Inn Woodland and Well Trail for details).

Crooked Billet to Rotherfield Peppard
Crooked Billet to Rotherfield Peppard

Start point: 51.5538 lat, -1.0138 long
End point: 51.5294 lat, -0.9796 long

After admiring The Crooked Billet, retrace your steps along Nottwood Lane. Ignore the driveway to Bushwood House. When the lane bends right, leave it to continue ahead along a bridleway, ignoring the bridleway that leads downhill to the left. Our bridleway runs south-east along the slope with the edge of the wood visible on your right. Ignore any side turnings, staying on the bridleway to reach a lane after a short descent, with a house on your right. Cross the lane and follow the bridleway into Bear Wood. This is one of my favourite parts of the walk and you should find lots of nature, but hopefully no bears, in this next section.

Sections of this bridleway can get churned up when its muddy or be hidden under autumn leaves, so if you are in any doubt about the route look for the painted arrows and dots on trees. Continue south-east along the bridleway to cross the head of a shallow valley. At this point, a large white house is visible through the trees to your right. Sometime later, the bridleway meets a marked crossing path. Turn right to pass through some wooden posts and then turn left immediately to follow a footpath south-east along the edge of a conifer plantation with a wire fence on your left.

Eventually, the path descends to join a track and passes through a gate to reach a junction of paths and tracks beside a Forestry Commission sign for Greyhone Wood. Take the second left, a bridleway leading downhill and slightly north of east. The bridleway follows a low earth bank on the right, another ancient boundary. As the bridleway starts to descend and bend left, watch out for a blue bridleway arrow to your right. Take this route. (If you reach a sharp left turn then you have missed the junction). Our route descends into the valley becoming steeper as it goes. Be careful, as this section can be slippery in the wet.

At the bottom of the slope you will reach a T-junction. Turn right and follow this bridleway south with a new fence on your left. Continue along the bottom of this valley, following another low bank first on your left then on your right. Ignore a wide crossing track to maintain your route ahead. After approx 0.75km the bridleway leaves Greatbottom Wood to continue between fields, before entering Littlebottom Wood. Ignore a track off to the left and continue ahead to eventually reach Colliers Lane at a small parking area.

Continue ahead along the lane and, when it forks, take the narrower right-hand lane to continue eastward. You pass a parking area before reaching the B481 again. You have now reached Rotherfield Peppard. (If you are in need of refreshment then you can detour to the Red Lion just visible at the far side of the open space to your left. Unfortunately, the other pub that Raymond Hugh wrote about, The Dog, is long gone).

Rotherfield Peppard to Rotherfield Greys
Rotherfield Peppard to Rotherfield Greys

Start point: 51.5294 lat, -0.9796 long
End point: 51.5354 lat, -0.9543 long

Cross the B481 and walk across the village green towards the school and telephone box. On reaching the school, bear right along Church Lane and follow it to its end at the village church. Take the track to the right of the church, ignoring a footpath off to the right. When the track reaches a property, go through a gap by the gate on the left to follow a fenced path between fields.

At the end of the fields, go through a kissing gate to enter a new wood. This wood was planted in the last 20 years and hides Greys Green golf course. Ignore the crossing path and continue ahead, going gently downhill and north-east. Ignore all crossing tracks and start to climb to reach a fenced plantation. Keeping the fence on your right, continue in the same direction. When the path flattens out it also bends gently right. Continue along it ignoring all crossing tracks until you leave the golf course through a kissing gate.

Turn left onto a bridleway and follow it north along the edge of a more mature wood. The bridleway bends right and then left to reach a crossing track. Turn right along this ancient byway. At the next junction turn left to join the Chiltern Way on a bridleway. Follow this ancient track until you see a kissing gate and woodland burial ground sign on your right. Go through the gate and cross the left-hand corner of a field. Go through a pair of kissing gates and follow a fenced path towards the church in Rotherfield Greys. At the end of the path, go through another kissing gate and follow a path with the churchyard wall on your right to emerge on Greys Road with the Maltsters Arms on your left.

Rotherfield Greys to End
Rotherfield Greys to End

Start point: 51.5354 lat, -0.9543 long
End point: 51.5375 lat, -0.901 long

Turn right along the lane and pass between the church and an ornate shelter, which was erected in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. After the shelter, turn left to enter a field through a kissing gate. Follow the footpath that forks right, marked Henley 2.5 miles. Follow the right edge of the field alongside an avenue of trees and then down the side of a valley, where you should be able to see Greys Court to your left.

At the valley bottom our path continues along the left edge of a field before going over a stile on the left to enter another field. Turn right to follow the right-hand edge of this field. Cross another stile and continue ahead keeping the fence and hedge on your right. At the far end of this field, cross another stile to join a grass track. Continue ahead (eastwards) to go over a crossing track and run along the southern edge of a small wood. When you reach a junction take the right fork, maintaining your direction, to cross a stile and pass to the right of Lower Hernes through trees.

At the end of this wooded field, cross another stile to join a fenced path that continues along the bottom of the valley. At the end of this long field cross, or bypass, another stile, go across a bridleway and continue along a fenced path passing to the left of the Sue Ryder Woodland. To your left you will see the playing fields of Henley College, and eventually some tennis courts. Pass the remnants of a kissing gate and continue ahead to pass to the right of a college parking area.

Cross a lane and join a tarmac path opposite the parking area. As this bends left to go up some steps, continue ahead along a gravel path which leads to a lane. Continue along this lane to reach Paradise Road. Turn left along Paradise Road to shortly reach Gravel Hill opposite the ornate entrance to Friar Park. Friar Park is a neo-gothic mansion built in 1896 by an eccentric solicitor, Frank Crisp. Apparently, the grounds contain many follies built to satisfy Crisp’s childhood fantasies. The house and grounds were bought and restored by ex-Beatle George Harrison and are still owned by his family.

Turn right to go downhill into Henley town centre and retrace your steps to the bridge. Raymond recommended that his readers celebrate the completion of the walk in one of the town's many pubs, ideally with a pint of Brakspears, and reflect on what they have seen and accomplished.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2019 by iFootpath and the author mikecoker and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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