Henley on Thames – Hambleden – Medmenham – Mill End round
Hambleden is a small pretty village in South Buckinghamshire close to Mill End near Henley on Thames which is in Oxfordshire. The cottages in the centre of the village are made of brick and flint, the Norman Church of St. Mary the Virgin dating back to the 14th century was built of flint and chalk and the Elizabethan manor house opposite the church was built in 1603 of flint and stone. Charles I stayed overnight in the manor house in 1646 while fleeing from Oxford and Lord Cardigan who led the Charge of the Light Brigade was born in the house and is now the home of Maria Carmela Viscountess Hambleden and the village was also a base for USA soldiers during the build up to D-Day in 1944. The village houses a post office with a shop and tearoom and also a pub the Stag & Huntsman with B&B accommodation. Hambleden has often been used as a location for films such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Witches, Dance with a Stranger, some scenes in 101 Dalmatians, the opening scenes of the recent remake of The Avengers and also Sleepy Hollow starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci which was a month long location shoot at Lime Tree Valley in Hambleden. The Stag & Huntsman Inn was originally known as the Dog and Badger and it is said that it changed its name in 1820 and the pub at nearby Medmenham took the original name and sign.
Medmenham is situated on the River Thames and like Hambleden it is a village in South Buckinghamshire close to Mill End near Henley on Thames. Many executives who work in London, High Wycombe and Maidenhead live here. The village has some old timber framed brick and flint cottages and some estate workers cottages where built from local chalk rock at the beginning of the 20th century. The Church of St. Peter & St. Paul is of 12th century and sits on the junction of the main road and Ferry Lane and opposite on the main road is the Dog & Badger built in 1390. A Cistercian abbey was founded in Medmenham in the 12th century under the ownership of Woburn Abbey and at the Dissolution of Monasteries in 1547 it was seized and given to the Moore family and sold privately to the Duffields. Today the abbey is a private residence not open to the public. The village and Ferry Lane ends at the Old Ferry crossing which ceased to be used after the Second World War. RAF Medmenham was a Royal Air Force station based at nearby Danesfield House specializing in photographic intelligence and once the home of the RAF Intelligence Branch. It was also a sister organisation to Bletchley Park and was the interpretation centre for one of the largest photographic reconnaissance operations ever under taken. Danesfield house, a former country house, is now a hotel and spa and is situated on a plateau which slopes steeply down to the River Thames.
Mill End is a small hamlet only a few miles from Henley on Thames but is in South Buckinghamshire also situated on the River Thames. The hamlet consists of about fifty houses some on the river bank and the rest on the northern side of the road, the A4155, which passes through the centre. Mill End Farm opposite Hambleden Lock has been run by the Bowden family for over 45 years and farms most of the land in and around the Hambleden area and Hambleden Mill which is situated near Hambleden Lock has now been converted into flats. The scenery here is more characteristic with the rolling Chiltern Hills in the background above Hambleden taking over from the flat peaceful area of the River Thames towards Henley.
The River Thames at 215 miles long is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the UK. It rises at Thames Head in Gloucestershire and flows into the North Sea at the Thames Estuary. The part of the river that flows through London is tidal with a rise and fall of 23 feet.
The Chiltern Hills form a chalk escarpment known locally as the Chilterns and a large portion of these hills was designated officially as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1965. They cover an area of 322sq miles and are 11 miles at their widest and stretch 46 miles in the southwest to northeast diagonal from Goring on Thames to near Hitchin in Hertfordshire. The highest point at 876ft is mark by a stone monument at Haddington Hill near Wendover in Buckinghamshire.
Look and listen for the call of the many Red Kites that are flying everywhere around this area. They are magnificent birds of prey with a distinctive forked tail, reddish plumage and up to a six foot wingspan. By the end of the 19th century these once common birds were made almost extinct in England by human persecution. People thought they were a threat to game rearing and sheep farming but then realised they scavenged on carrion or fed on insects, earthworms or small mammals. The RSPB and English Nature led a project seeing over 90 birds re-introduced to the Chilterns from Spain there are now 250 pairs breeding here.
After a look at Henley on Thames we make our way by car to Mill End car park to start our walk.
We turn right out of the car park and walk a short way to the t-junction where we turn left through the gate on the left into a field and head forwards following the hedge on our left and parallel to the road. At the end of the field we go through a gate, cross over a track and go through the gate opposite and walk through the field towards the buildings of Hambleden. At the end of the field we walk to the left of the bridge and turn right onto the road into Hambleden. When we reach the church we turn right and walk forwards up the lane past the Stag & Huntsman and the car park and along the tarmac track Private Road Access Only. After a short way we turn right and follow the track, ignoring a footpath going off on the left, until the track splits. We turn left slightly uphill for a short way and follow the path to the right and head into the woods via a gate. We ignore the path off to the right and head forwards through the wood until we come to a small road where we cross straight over and take the path with a sign Hambleden Estate. We head forwards, again ignoring the path going off to the right, along the edge of the wood slightly uphill. The path takes a sharp left out of the wood and into a field. We continue along the top of the hill with the fence on our left and then drop down into the wood and follow the yellow arrows, passing an open field on the left, to the main road (A4155). We cross the road and turn left and walk on the footpath until we come to the Dog and Badger on the left and a church on the right. We turn right into Ferry Lane and walk forwards through the village of Medmenham until we meet the River Thames. We turn right and follow the river and towing path until we come to some buildings we turn right and then left through the hedge onto a tarmac lane. We follow the lane and turn right just before some buildings to the main road at Mill End where we turn left and then right along the road back to the car park.
This is an easy walk through fields, woodlands and by the riverside. There are a few slight inclines and declines. There is a small section of the A4155 please use the pavement for your safety.
Approx 5.75 miles allow 2 hours using OS map Explorer 171, Chiltern Hills West.
Starting point Mill End free car park.
Hambleden in the Chilterns near Henley on Thames in Oxfordshire.
Directions and Parking
From the M40 take junction 4, the A404 to Marlow. At the roundabout turn right onto the A4155 and follow this road to Medmenham and Mill End. Turn right at Mill End and Mill End’s free car park is on the left. There is also a free car park in Hambleden.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets in Mill End car park, the next nearest ones are in Henley on Thames. For refreshments there is a post office with a shop and tearoom and a pub the Stag & Huntsman in Hambleden and the Dog and Badger in Medmenham but there are many shops, cafes and pubs in nearby Henley on Thames.