Footpath L16, Hillock Wood to Brimmers Road, Princes Risborough.

Kop Hill

Kop Hill, easily distinguished by its unusual shape, became famous in the 1920’s as the scene of many hill climbs by the drivers of early cars and motorcycles. The Hill Climb has been revived and been held annually in September for the last few years.

The outcrop of the Hill is also known as Soldiers Mount or Plum Pudding Hill and may have been a Roman lookout post. A number of Roman coins have been found on the summit and there is evidence of Roman occupation in the valley just below, beside Pyrtle Spring. It has been suggested the site of a Roman Villa may await discovery here.

A local legend relates that if, on the night of the mid winter full moon, the Hill is circled seven times, a Roman soldier on a white horse will appear. If approached, he will obligingly present one with a bag of gold.

The path winds gently downhill through a larch plantation before entering mixed woodland and descending very steeply, down a series of one hundred and eighteen steps, to a stile. 

Widespread views extend over Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Closer to hand, Kop Hill rises in the foreground, with Windsor Hill to the right, in the sweeping curve of rising escarpment to the north-east. 

From the stile continue straight ahead, keeping the boundary fence to the right. 

The path descends through the fields, crossing two more stiles, until it reaches a road, opposite Brimmers Farm

This path, together with the route to Pyrtle Spring, forms part of the six mile Princes Risborough Circular Walk, one of several that have been prepared by Buckinghamshire County Council.

Windsor Hill and the Black Hedge

Windsor Hill is the site of a nature reserve under the care of the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, (B.B.O.W.T.) . It is only open by application to the Trust.

Running down from Parslow’s Hillock, through the woodlands on the escarpment to the north-east, is the Black Hedge. The Hedge, which contains much blackthorn, hence the name, is claimed to be the oldest in the country. At the northern foot of Windsor Hill it emerges briefly as a division between two fields. Planted when hedges were first used in making boundaries, it is reputedly at least a thousand years old. It marks the extent of Monks Risborough Ecclesiastical Parish, the earliest recorded parish in the land, and is referred to in a Saxon Charter of A.D.903. It also serves as a modern day boundary between the civil parishes of Lacey Green and Great and Little Hampden.

At certain times and seasons of the year dark circles appear in the field to the right of the path, under Windsor Hill. It is not possible to see them at ground level, but they are sometimes visible from an adjacent vantage point. The circles are distinguishable as crop markings, and particularly after snow around February time. Although there is no known evidence of early occupation in this valley, it has been suggested they might represent the site of hut circles.

To the left of the stile is Winchester Wood Reservoir. This is one of Thames Water Authorities main reservoirs. Skilfully built into the hillside to blend with the surrounding countryside, it contains 13,500,000 litres of water, but not a drop can be seen!

One hundred and eighteen steps.

Pyrtle Spring

Evidence suggests the surrounding area was occupied as early as the fourth century AD. In the past, possibly from the time of the Doomsday Survey onwards, this Spring produced a stream sufficient to power watermills in Culverton and Princes Risborough.

The clump of trees around Pyrtle Spring.
The clump of trees around Pyrtle Spring.

Now, sadly, the flow has reduced to a tiny trickle and, in certain seasons, is completely dry. The Spring had become somewhat overgrown and neglected and has also suffered abuse, but plans are in hand to enhance the area

Pyrtle Spring, April 2009.
Pyrtle Spring, April 2009.

North-eastwards, along the escarpment, are alternative views of Brimmers Farm in its secluded hollow, the Black Hedge, Kop Hill and Whiteleaf Cross.

Turn right and follow Brimmers Road, north-westwards towards Princes Risborough, for a quarter of a mile, before entering a hedged track on the left. 

This, Bridleway R6, marks the Parish Boundary. Shortly, climb a stile on the right into a field, entering Princes Risborough Parish, and follow Footpath R5 to the clump of trees in the distance that surround Pyrtle Spring. 

Just before reaching the protective belt of trees around the Spring, turn left onto Footpath R4b. 

This path climbs slowly, with a fence on the right, to reach a stile in a crossing hedgerow and re-enters the Parish of Lacey Green.

Whiteleaf Cross

This is one of two turf cuttings in the Chilterns. Among the earliest references to the Cross is an engraving, dated 1742. Its origins remain unknown however, though historians have suggested it may date from prehistoric, Anglo-Saxon or medieval times.

Whiteleaf Cross from The Ridgeway near Risborough school

The chalk surface has in recent years been renovated to a pristine white condition, and the barrow above restored to its former shape after an archaeological investigation.

The other end of the rainbow was, of course, in Lacey Green.

To the west is Culverton, now incorporated into Princes Risborough. The original settlement, recorded at least as early as 1247, was of some size, lying a little to the south of the present site.

Running across the side of the hill to the south-west, more visible in certain shades of light, are a series of ridges. These are thought to be cultivation terraces or “lynchets”. If so, they are remnants from the common field system, an important element in Saxon or medieval communities.

For many centuries Lacey Green, Loosley Row and Speen formed part of the Parish of Princes Risborough. These, together with Culverton, were known, rather appropriately, as the “Upper Hamlets”.

This path, known as “Churchway”, takes a direct route between the Upper Hamlets and Princes Risborough Parish Church. The tip of the spire may be seen behind to the north-west. Generations of inhabitants from the “Upper Hamlets” have followed this ancient track, in times of joy and sorrow, to visit their Parish Church.