Walk Distance: 3km
Walk Duration: 1hr 20 at toddler speed (!) , about 50 minutes at a normal pace.
Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 171 Chiltern Hills West; OS Landranger 165 Aylesbury and Leighton Buzzard
Suitable for: Children in slings or carriers, good little walkers (the uphill stretch is steep but short – our 3 year old walked the whole route without problems or moaning), older children.
Walk Features: lovely snowdrops and aconites at Swyncombe’s St. Botolph’s churchyard in late winter, cake afternoons on Saturdays during February (call to check first – contact detail online), lovely views, Ridgeway National Trail, some stiles to climb, livestock mean dogs are not able to run free on whole route, there was a Portaloo behind the Church at time of writing but suspect this facility is for use of those attending the cake afternoons only and probably is not available outside of February.
Despite being on our doorstep, it took a combination of three years, a chance flyer at the library and a recommend from Christine over at A Family Day Out before I discovered Swyncombe and its snowdrops. As the name suggests, this walk is best during February and late January/early March (the latter two depending on the weather and how early things are growing) when the churchyard of St. Botolphs Church at Swyncombe is carpeted in nodding white heads of snowdrops and bright yellow aconites. Time your walk for a Saturday afternoon in February and you are also likely to coincide with one of the organised tea and cake afternoons at the Church aimed at visitors to the snowdrops.
The walk, which takes you up onto the Ridgeway then back through the lovely grounds of Swyncombe Estate, would be pleasant all year round though and decidedly less muddy and slippy on the uphill wooded section during dryer times of year! There are options to extend this walk along the Ridgeway or to include as part of a longer circular walk from nearby Cookley Green should you so wish – check the relevant OS maps.
You can approach the walk in either direction. The way below tackles the short, steep section as an uphill whereas walking in reverse would be a gentler climb but need some care heading downhill at the end if the ground is wet and muddy. Carrying Baby Beth in the sling during a muddy February outing meant I was much happier going up the steepish bit with her than down it!
The walk starts from St. Botolph’s Church at Swyncombe. Pass the St. Botolph’s on your left, following the track. Just beyond the Church there is a footpath signpost. Follow along the broad flat track past farmland on either side.
A short way along the Ridgeway is signposted off through a kissing gate to the left of the track. Head through the gate and up the side of a field before passing through another gate and into woodland. The path climbs steeply up through the woods before emerging at the top into another field.
Follow the path at the top for a short way before turning off left onto a footpath that turns back towards Swyncombe and the church, leaving the Ridgeway which trails off to the right. Over the stile the walk continues through Swyncombe Estate parkland and an area used for grazing sheep, so do keep dogs on a lead. There are some lovely views across the surrounding countryside and the estate along this stretch of the walk.
Go over another stile at the end of the field and follow the track until it reaches a small road. Cross over and continue on the path. When the paths fork, take the left-hand track back downhill. This takes you back into Swyncombe Estate’s parkland again and down a lovely grassy gallop back towards the church. At the bottom, turn left before reaching the house ahead of you – there is a small gate and avenue tucked down by the hedgeline which leads back to the Church.
Cross over the drive, along the grass and through the gate into the churchyard of St. Botolph’s, ending your walk with a wander around the graveyard to admire the snowdrops or an exploration of the ancient Church building which is recorded back to the 10th Century.
Map of Route:
Parking is available and is free along the lane outside St. Botolph’s church. Please take care to park on the side opposite the church though and leave room for access.
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