Paul (Serge to the forum community) has been on Bike Magic for far, far longer than I have. I met him and a few mates last winter and had a great (slushy) ride in the Forest of Dean, and this time he’s gone off to the Chilterns and found a good route. Here you go then, trail guide courtesy of Serge…
The Chiltern hills are always high on my priority rides when the weather has been good, ancient beech forest, little sunken trails, rolling hills and an extensive bridleway network gives the area loads of options for routes, plus the area is one of those rural middle England hideaways, so rural in fact that you are in Vicar of Dibley and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang territory, but thanks to the M40 cutting a path straight through the hills junction 6 it’s the gateway to hours of fun.
So one morning, with the threat of the school summer holidays looming and endless hours of supervising young children on trampolines expected and glorious sunshine and the promise of dry trails I set off for Watlington, with the aim of pushing my mental map of the area some more and just going that bit further.
The route I had chosen came thanks to the very organised Bucks Mountain Bike club, http://www.bucksmtb.co.uk/trailguides.htm who provide a very pro looking route section of their website, and so with printout, and a map – yep I am that old fashioned! I parked up in the free car park of Watlington, Now one of the things about this route is that if the weather is clear, chances are you will almost always be able to hear, or see Red Kites, a wonderful bird of prey, that were reintroduced to the UK only a few miles away about 15 years ago, to say its been a success is an understatement, these birds are now common in the sky of maybe 40 mile radius of the area, and certainly make taking the odd glance off the trail worthwhile.
So out from Watlington is head towards the massive hill that is the edge of the Chilterns and take a sharp left onto the Ridgeway, which, if anyone is not aware is a bronze age road, running for about 80 miles along the line of hills that the Chilterns form apart of. The Ridgeway is now thankfully free from the constant abuse of the motorised off roaders that almost destroyed it a few years ago, yes its still open to farm machines, but gone is the fear of loosing your whole wheel into a muddy puddle, but today it was bone dry, smooth and fast, now once you can see the M40 cutting across your path its time to take a right turn and start to climb, hill road, track is right word here, having long ago lost its battle to stay tarmac’d to the huge amounts of water that run off this hill side in the winters, hill road takes you through the centre of Aston Rowent nature reserve and onto the road running along the top of the first ridge of hills of today’s ride. Take a left and head towards the M40, watch out for crash barriers on the right side of the road, keen eyes will spot a thin literally single track running on the other side, get onto this, and it will soon dive off the road edge and down to a gate on the edge of Hailey wood. You now have a 100meter drop over 1km or so, its open and flows well, just watch the end where it goes into a gully – hit this fast and meet a horse or walkers and there are few bail-out options.
This gully spits you out at Wellground farm on the Wormsley Estate (where the red kites were reintroduced) and home to the Getty Family of Getty Images fame, and yes if you look carefully that is a replica of Lords cricket grounds you can see! Now from here either follow the bridleway south all the way to Northend, along small farm tracks, a tricky climb section that looks hugely fun in reverse and out into Northend, or attempt the climb up onto Ibstone Common, a Chalk gully with step ups that need medals for those who clean it, but does give access to a wonderful decent from the southern corner of Ibstone down towards Turville, where the Church is from Vicar of Dibley, and you can even see the windmill on the hill of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Rob Warner fame (I believe it was his childhoods home, or something like that). Anyway back up on the road towards Northend now. So at Northend, if you are in a meandering mood keep going up to Christmas Common and get on the bridleway down through Fire Wood, or take the more direct route from North end and then into Fire wood, the trail here is loose flint and forest dirt, slippy in the winter but always ride able thanks to the stone base, follow the route down to Turville park farm, and then out towards Stoner Park. Now get onto the B480 up to Pishill, and turn left up a minor road that links to bridleways, you want the north one, down through a field edge and into and up Pishillbury woods, again a cracking decent in the other direction, then out onto the road through Maidensgrove. Again here you have a good selection of ways on, basically you need to get to Warsburg Nature reserve, and the main valley floor track, either go towards the common and drop down past Big Ashes plantation or go through freedom woods, either way follow the valley floor east till you hit a five path intersection. Now for best riding go west up a track to Park Corner, then bang along the B481 to Cookley Green, then enjoy a great 2km trail back down to the five path intersection, and then make your way back to Cookley Green, or just head straight up thinking how good this trail would be coming the other way!
So at Cookley green take the Shakespeare way North until you hit a road going across you, straight ahead is a bridleway, that is really good, it twists and turns with natural berms in sunken trails through really old woods, it’s a delight with sun speckling through the woodland canopy, and brings you out onto Dame Alice farm, and then back onto the Ridgeway, So head North East back towards Watlington, you will have done a minimum of 20 miles, with 2000 feet of decent or more, Hope you enjoyed it, and next time maybe try some other options.