A Chiltern Traverse - practicalities
As at October 2013

This is very much 'a' Chiltern Traverse; the hills are festooned with paths and trails. Indeed, this makes careful map-reading (or GPS) essential, as it is easy to go down the wrong path. Of the established trails, we found the signage to be very good on the Ridgeway. The Chiltern Way could not be relied on 100%, nor could the Icknield Way.

There being so many choices, our actual route was based on the weather; continual rain makes a detour to a pretty village less attractive!

This version can be shortened, but because the Chilterns are so beautiful, and so near London, we have taken to doing last-minute two day walks (including travel) in winter, when the forecast looks promising; some more possibilities are mentioned below, together with a single day traverse.

1. Walking days
Our version took 3½ days, travelling to Dunstable the previous evening - making it quite a long 'short walk'. But it can be shortened: there are railway stations at Tring (end of day 1) and Wendover (end of day 2) or Princes Risborough (end of a long day 2). Or you could extend the walk to Goring or Pangbourne (which have better rail connections than Henley).

2. Getting there & away
There is no rail link from London to Dunstable, so we went out the previous evening on a commuter bus run by Marshalls Coaches from Baker Street (about 45 minutes). If you want to go out on day 1, there is no early bus, you would have to take a train to Luton and then a bus to Dunstable, making it a long day.

Henley is on a branch line, so the train service is not too frequent; we took a taxi (£15) to Reading which has lots of trains going to Paddington (30 minutes).

3. Leaflet, Maps
You definitely need the OS 1:2500 maps - 181 (Chiltern Hills North) and 171 (Chiltern Hills West). We also bought the 1:50,000 map number 166 (Luton & Hertford) to cover Dunstable and the very start of the walk, but you could maybe get enough information from the net.

4. The Route
B&B in Dunstable at Cherish End.
DAY 1: Dunstable to Aldbury (11 miles)
Start by climbing up on to Dunstable Downs. It's on the Icknield Way, but we found the signage a bit confusing, especially as parts of the Downs were cordoned off. No matter, you walk along the top and pick up the Icknield Way below the prominent 'Chiltern Gateway Centre'. We followed the Icknield Way; it meanders around, but it's worth it to see the Tree Cathedral and Whipsnade.
The pub at Dagnall (the Red Lion) is only open for lunch Thursday to Sunday.
We continued on the Icknield Way to Ivinghoe Beacon, then used the Ridgeway to get to Aldbury.
We stayed at The Greyhound Inn
DAY 2: Aldbury to Cadsden (12 miles)
We went via Tring Station to pick up our friends, walked along the canal, and then along the Chiltern Way to Buckland Common. There is a pub there, but we went on to The Old Swan at Swan Bottom (no lunch on Mondays). The other pub marked around there is now closed. Continuing along the Chiltern Way, we then took the quickest route to Cadsden as the weather was not good. At Durham Farm (rather run down, on the Chiltern Way just before crossing the A413) we have twice had dog problems. There is a crossing path at the last field boundary, and a diversion to the right might be worth it.
We stayed at The Plough at Cadsden.
DAY 3: Cadsden to Ibstone (9 miles)
We followed the Ridgeway over Whiteleaf Hill, past Princes Risborough, then the Icknield Way and other paths to leave the map at 787 on the path that goes down to Bledlow Ridge, and The Boot pub. Then down to Beacon's Bottom, across the A40, and on through East Wood to cross the M40 near Penley Farm. Our original plan was to stay at Turville, Fingest or Skirmett, but all was full there, so it was only a short walk to Ibstone, where we stayed at the Fox Country Inn Hotel.
DAY 4: Ibstone to Henley (8 miles)
This day was longer than originally planned, and the weather was awful, so we first went south across Holloway Lane to Turville Heath, to meet up with Drover's Lane. At the bottom of this we went left to get to the path at Upper Woodend Farm, which leads down to Greenlands, thence to Henley by the riverside. Because we had used minor roads and good paths progress was fast, and we arrived in Henley for lunch.

Chiltern One-Nighters

Train, London Marylebone to Saunderton, 3 hrs walk to The Fox, Ibstone (lunch)
3 hrs walk to The Swan, Nettlebed. Next day 2 hrs walk to The Highwayman, Exlade (lunch)
2 hrs walk to Goring or Pangbourne. Train to London Paddington.
The first day is longer, and hillier; not for short daylight days.

Train, London Marylebone to Princes Risborough, 2 hrs walk to The Crown at Radnage (lunch)
2 hrs walk to The Fox, Ibstone. Next day 2 hrs walk to The Stag and Huntsman, Hambledon (lunch)
2 hrs walk to Henley. Train to Twyford and London Paddington.
Works even in the shortest days; the second day is easy walking, and can be done in one session.

Train, London Marylebone to Saunderton, walk to Stokenchurch (lunch)
walk to Brackenhurst B&B, Russell's Water. Next day walk to Stoke Row (lunch)
walk to Goring. Train to London Paddington.
Not tried yet.

Looking nearer the Thames, you could start at High Wycombe or (shorter) Marlow, walk to Henley. Next day on to Goring or (shorter) Pangbourne. All accessible by train from London.
Not tried yet.

And a single day Traverse
Start at Princes Risborough or Wendover and walk to Chesham, which is on the London tube. We have done several variations of this in winter (going either way), and one question is to find a good pub halfway along that hasn't closed. For example, there are three marked on OS Explorer 181 around The Lee. The one at Lee Gate has closed, the other two are complete opposites. The
Old Swan at Swan Bottom (closed Mondays) is all you could wish for in a gastropub, while the
Cock and Rabbit at The Lee is resolutely un-modernised and quirky. In May 2018, leaving Chesham late we walked instead along Pednor Road to The Bell at Chartridge for lunch, then through lovely country and Bellows Wood to join the Chiltern link and Lee Common.

Another one-day would be Wendover to Princes Risborough, along the scarp. Hilly, but not long.