Chilterns Boxing Day Walk: Christmas Common (3 miles)
Where else? Everything about a walk at Christmas Common on a crisp winter’s day makes perfect sense.
The walk below appears exactly as it does in our book, The Chilterns Year Round Walks, complete with map, pictures and step-by-step directions. You can even click here to download it and take it with you.
The small village perched high on the Chiltern Hills derived its name from the holly trees which naturally grow in the area. Now there is a Christmas tree farm here, keeping the festive connection alive. The woodland paths are easy to navigate and the trees give good shelter from the wind. The second half of this walk follows a sunken path, dating back to Saxon times. People once used these ancient routes to travel through the landscape, as farmers took their animals to market, woodsmen hauled timber to the villages, and merchants travelled between settlements selling their wares. At the end of the walk you can reward yourself with one of the loveliest pubs in the Chilterns. The Fox & Hounds has a series of cosy rooms and log fires to welcome walkers and their dogs, and serves delicious food.
- Terrain: The start of this walk is easy walking along woodland paths. The first half of the walk goes downhill, with a steep section in the middle, then an uphill return. However, if you wanted a shorter, more level option, there is a shortcut marked on the map that halves the walk.
- Starting point: The Fox & Hounds pub (GR SU 714931).
- How to get there & parking: Christmas Common is seven miles south of Thame. From the M40, take exit 5. The pub is just past the crossroads, as you head south through the village on the Nettlebed Road, and there is parking opposite the pub.
- Sat nav: OX49 5HN.
- Refreshments: The Fox & Hounds serves food every day. It has a lovely garden and welcomes dogs in the bar area.
1 With your back to the pub, turn left and walk up to the crossroads. Take the right down Hollandridge Lane, then follow the restricted byway sign. Pass cottages on your left and fields on your right. Ignore the first footpath, then opposite the entrance to Queen Wood Farm, turn left to follow the bridleway signed ‘Oxfordshire Way’.
2 Follow the bridleway through Queen Wood, ignoring side tracks and looking out for the white arrows painted on the trees. After about a mile, you come to a path on your right, heading almost back in the same direction. This path will lead you to point 6, avoiding the steeper part of the walk.
3 Stay on the main path until you come to a bridleway.
4 Turn right and walk steeply uphill to the edge of the wood. Then follow the path towards Hollandridge Farm, passing the farmhouse on your left.
5 You are now back on Hollandridge Lane. Turn right and walk up the sunken lane, and back into Queen Wood.
6 Keep on the track until you reach the crossroads, then turn left to return to the Fox and Hounds pub.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
One of the pleasures of walking through woods is being surrounded by the sound of birdsong. The chiffchaff is easy to identify as it got its name from its characteristic song, which sounds like it is telling you its name. They used to migrate over winter and return in spring, but increasingly chiffchaffs are now overwintering.
In early spring, you can hear woodpeckers as they try to attract a mate. Jays bury acorns in the autumn to sustain them through the winter months, and they can sometimes be spotted hopping along the woodland floor in search of food. They also help the oak trees to spread, as they don’t remember where all their acorns have been buried. These shy birds have a characteristic screeching call.
The country’s favourite bird is the robin, and they have successfully made their home in woods, hedgerows, parks and gardens, although you won’t normally see two together, as these little birds are in fact aggressively territorial.
- Alex Batho