• Laura Purkess

Buckinghamshire & Hertfordshire

Location: Haddington Hill (Wendover Woods), Buckinghamshire / Pavis Wood, Hertfordshire

Nearest town: Wendover, Buckinghamshire

Peak: 267 / 244 metres above sea level

Ranks: 27/48 (Buckinghamshire) / 35/48 (Hertfordshire)

Difficulty: ★★★ (when starting in Wendover town and walking up to Pavis Wood and back)

Date climbed: 4 September 2021

2021 had passed by in a blur. Suddenly, August was behind us, so on the first Saturday of September, we set off from home in the hope of hiking up our high-points tally for the year (six so far).

We did so by tackling two in a day - Buckinghamshire & Hertfordshire - on an out-and-back walk that took us up onto the ridge-line of the Chilterns, then along woodland trails that form part of the national trail known as 'the Ridgeway'.

Considering we were in South East England, the difficulty of the climb took us by surprise. The path we took from Wendover to climb up to the plateaued summit of Haddington Hill was extremely steep and gravelly.

However, once on the ridge line, the route from Buckinghamshire's high point over to Hertfordshire's took us across unkept fields and along footpaths that skirted the edge of picturesque valleys. Of course, neither of these high points require three-star walks to summit. That was very much our choice. Just like the Chiltern's other high point, Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire, these are among the easiest in the whole country to summit because you can simply drive to the top.

And, just like on Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire, there were thousands of others who found themselves in Wendover Woods, Bucks, for reasons other than it being a significant - albeit low-ranking entry on the county topper's hit list.

Dunstable Downs has views, kites and gliders. Wendover Woods is a real family-friendly playground, complete with cafes, picnic areas, walking and cycling trails, a spectacular Go Ape center, and, last but not least, the Gruffalo! As August's humidity and thunderstorms gave way to the clear, dry skies of September, the locals were out in force.

Having climbed up the northern edge of Haddington Hill, we picnicked with a view back out across Wendover towards the flat farmland to the north. We then stopped for ice cream at the Wendover Woods café, and that was Buckinghamshire ticked off. The highest point in Hertfordshire sat just 3km to the east, at the north-eastern corner of Pavis Wood. From our new friend, the Gruffalo, we walked east through fields and woodland until we eventually joined the Ridgeway, Britain's oldest road(!). It is now part of the 87-mile long national trail that runs from Overton Hill in the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire, to Ivinghoe Beacon, just a few miles north-east from where we were (back in Bucks).

The Ridgeway took us to our destination: an unremarkable, albeit rather pleasant, patch of leafy Chilterns woodland that stood beside a bend in the road. It was aptly named Shire Lane and ran from the village of Cholesbury to that of Hastoe.

It was at that point, in the figurative heart of rural England, that we finished off the remainder of our thermo flask tea, ate a chocolate biscuit, and turned around to start the same 5km route in reverse, which took us back down off the hill and back to our car.

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