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The Phoenix Trail, Henton and Bledlow

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The Phoenix Trail, Henton and Bledlow
Author: NickC, Published: 18 Jun 2014 Walk Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Buckinghamshire, Chilterns
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
The Phoenix Trail, Henton and Bledlow
Length: 8 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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This circular walk includes two old railway lines, starting along one that has been converted into a leisure and sculpture trail, and crossing another that is still very much alive to the sound of steam trains on special days, thanks to the efforts of a restoration society. The first of these is the Phoenix Trail, which opened in 2002 and runs for five miles between Princes Risborough and Thame, with 30 artworks along the route, some of which are seen on this walk. The second is the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway, which runs most Sundays, some Saturdays and Bank Holidays.

The walk also skirts the edge of the Chiltern Hills and passes through a couple of pretty Chiltern villages straddling the Bucks/Oxon border in Henton and Bledlow – each of which has a pub. The terrain is relatively flat and easy, with metalled or solid track for over half the route, with some stiles and kissing gates in the latter stages. It is relatively long however. Allow 3 hours.

The best approach is from Princes Risborough. Go to the end of Summerleys Road (which goes past the top of the station) and turn left. After around a hundred yards there’s a metal railway bridge and you need to take the turn onto the track immediately after this, where there is ample parking for the Phoenix Trail (postcode HP27 9). For the more energetic/carless, it's a short walk to and from Princes Risborough Station.

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Walk Sections

Start to Hinton Cottage
Start to Hinton Cottage

Start point: 51.726 lat, -0.8633 long
End point: 51.7314 lat, -0.9004 long

Pick up the Phoenix Trail and head left, although there is an information board you may wish to look at just to the right. Given its antecedents, it should come as no surprise that this part of the walk is flat and straight, but this does not mean it’s without interest. A number of sculptures dot the route and if you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of, or hear, a steam train from the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway, of which more later. Watch out for cyclists and horse riders as you make your way along.

After about ten minutes you come to a road where the path dog legs slightly to the right, where the tracks of the original railway can be seen. The path follows parallel to the tracks for a short while before resuming its previous guise. After a wooden sculpture, the views open out over fields and, to the left, the Chiltern Hills. Keep going past a footpath cutting across the trail near a shelter until you reach Hinton Cottage, which bears all the hallmarks of being an old level crossing keeper’s cottage.

Hinton Cottage to Penn Farm
Hinton Cottage to Penn Farm

Start point: 51.7314 lat, -0.9004 long
End point: 51.7334 lat, -0.9173 long

The path doglegs again, this time to the left, and the trail soon picks up its straight trajectory. A trio of sculptures by Lucy Casson of unusual hybrid creatures sitting on top of old telegraph poles follows soon after. After this a farm begins to come into view on the left and this leads to a crossroads with a fairly well made up metalled farm track, clearly marked as a footpath, where you head left, leaving the Phoenix Trail and all its idiosyncrasies behind – at least for now.

Pass an entrance to the farm and continue down the road to an impromptu roundabout with a wooden bird house in its centre. This is the main entrance to the farm. Turn right here, heading up a, now less defined, farm track.

Penn Farm to Henton
Penn Farm to Henton

Start point: 51.7334 lat, -0.9173 long
End point: 51.7191 lat, -0.899 long

The path heads up a very slight incline, with the Chiltern Hills again coming into view on the left across open fields. Pass some derelict farm buildings on the left and an equally unloved red brick house on the right. By way of contrast, look out for the rather magnificent new mansion with multiple chimneys, in a dip on the left. The track does an elongated dog leg to the right and soon joins up with the drive to the new house, where the path becomes a firmer track.

The path now heads downhill and passes a bridleway on the right, and a hundred or so yards later diverts sharply to the left, after which it becomes more of a road, which twists around a bit and eventually brings you out onto a T-junction. You are now in Henton.

Henton to Bledlow Cricket Ground
Henton to Bledlow Cricket Ground

Start point: 51.7191 lat, -0.899 long
End point: 51.713 lat, -0.881 long

The route heads right here, but if you are so inclined, Henton’s fine pub, the Peacock, is available for sustenance if you head left, although it is more of a hotel than a pub. Stay with the road, heading slightly uphill, passing through the pretty (Oxfordshire) village of Henton, with its many fine buildings.

As the houses begin to run out on the left, take the footpath just after Upper Farm, passing between two fences and a gate, after which you need to cut half right out over some grass, heading for the entrance to this property. Very shortly after, on your left, pass through a wooden gate. Keep the gate to your back and head for the metal gate on the far end of the field now in front of you. This brings you to the Lower Icknield Way, or as it is known by the Highways Agency, the B4009.

Cross the road with care and pick up the footpath through the gate opposite, which heads out half left towards the hedge opposite over an open field. Pass through the hedge, over a plank bridge over a small stream via some stiles. Strike out half right across the new field in front of you, heading for another hedge. Cross over another stile into a fresh field, where you now head out half left. The Chiltern Hills seen earlier are now in plain view.

The path ends with a narrow plank which carries you over a small stream into the unexpected surroundings of the Bledlow Cricket Club.

Bledlow Cricket Ground to End
Bledlow Cricket Ground to End

Start point: 51.713 lat, -0.881 long
End point: 51.7259 lat, -0.8633 long

Head right, past the pavilion, and head up the road. After about thirty yards, pass through a pair of metal kissing gates, over the Chinnor and Princes Risborough line – do so with care, as this is still operated by enthusiasts. Pick up the path on the other side, crossing a corner of a field. At the end of the field, go down some steps onto a road, where you turn right.

Bear left at the triangle of grass, at the top of which is another pub, the slightly less grand Lions of Bledlow. Continue down Church Lane, through the village, with its unusually shaped church and, on the left, a sunken garden. This is in fact part of the manor’s garden, the manor being owned and lived in by the Lords Carrington.

At the end of the road you reach a T-junction, where you head left on the road for fifty yards, picking up the track by the side of a house with round windows in its side wall on the right. Go down this and pass through a yard with random old agricultural equipment in it and through a kissing gate in the top right corner.

Follow the left hand edge of this field and then cross over the field that follows. Pass through a gate and a third, smaller, field and on reaching a road by a church, bear left, keeping a pond to your right. This is Horsenden, where the manor is owned by the rock star JayKay.

Stay with this road until it forks, where you need to head left, following the signs for the Phoenix Trail. As before, look out for other users. You pass over the steam railway line again and follow the track down to your starting point.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2014 by the author NickC 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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