This circular walk from Maidensgrove farm takes in rolling, open fields and grassy common land, romantic woodlands, several farms, a village pond, and a really excellent pub, the Five Horseshoes, for lunch at best, a pint of beer and the view at the very least.
Paddocks, Pastures and Wooded Hills - The Maidensgrove Walk
Found this walk by accident, years ago, while perusing an Ordinance Survey (OS) map looking for a Saturday drive. There on the map, alongside the symbols for stately homes, golf courses and castles, was a footprint. Sure enough, that indicated a network of footpaths with wonderful views of the best of English rural landscapes in the Oxfordshire-Buckinghamshire borders. It's not part of any national trail but the paths included in this walk are all traditional public rights of way or cross open-access common land.
At only about two and a half miles, with a nice long break at the pub about three quarters of the way through, this country walk is not too long but just long enough to work up an appetite for a pub lunch. Its main challenges are a short steep descent into a valley followed by a longer, steady climb, and a tendency to slippery mud along certain sections in springtime and after wet weather.
- Where: On the Chiltern ridge, about 5 miles northwest of Henley-upon-Thames near the village of Stonor.
- Length: 2.56 miles
- Grade: Easy
- Map: OS Pathfinder 1156, Henley-on-Thames Sheet SU68/78
- Getting there: Leave Henley heading west on the A4130, known as Fair Mile. After about 1.5 miles, at Lower Assendon, take the right fork onto B480. Watch for signs to Stonor and Nettlebed after about 2.5 miles. Turn left onto Park Lane, pass through woods to open land, about 3/4 mile. Maidensgrove Farm is on the right. Park beyond it on the edge of the Common, on the right side of the road.See a map
This is an easy walk on an easy-to-follow path. Maps and walking guides of the nearby countryside are usually available at shops in Henley-on-Thames.
- Enter the access road to Maidensgrove Farm, following public footpath signs. Pass between the farmhouse and the barns.
- Horses are kept in fields behind the farmhouse. The path passes between a pair of fences separating it from two paddocks.
- Enter the woods and turn left, following the path which turns right down a short, steep descent. There are some stepping stones but they can be overgrown or concealed by mud.
- Climb up through the open woodland of Doyley Wood.
- After a short stretch between two open fields, turn left on the bridle path along the edge of another wood. This path is often very muddy.
- Pass an open-sided cow barn.
- Continue past the pond known as Russell's Water and turn left onto the paved road.
- Follow the paved road to The Five Horseshoes pub.
- From the pub, follow the paved roads, keeping the grassy common on your left, back to your car. Alternatively, you can cross the common, along dirt tracks, towards Maidensgrove Farm.
Follow the Countryside Code on rural walks
Lunch at The Five Horseshoes in Maidensgrove
The Maidensgrove Walk described on the previous page, is just long enough to work up a good appetite. About two thirds of the way along this country walk, you'll find The Five Horseshoes, delightful, 16th century pub.
If the weather is on the brisk side, grab a table inside, where it's all ancient beams, an inglenook fireplace, venerable brick walls, lots of horse brasses and wrought iron. A newer addition for dining has huge picture windows to enjoy the view of the Chilterns, a designated National Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
But when the weather is good, don't miss the opportunity of grabbing a table in one of the two beer gardens. The views are just lovely. And if you've taken a walk with your dog, the beer gardens are the only place Fido is welcome. On summer weekends they often prepare food from wood burning ovens, outdoors, until 9p.m.
Something for everyone
The menu ranges from luxurious English favorites - roast haunch of venison, prime fillet steak with all the trimmings, to pub classics like beer battered fish and chips, gammon steak and homemade sausages. With starters and wine you can easily spend £30 to £40 per person. But you can just as easily have a beer and a fat sandwich, served with handcut chips (french fries) and garnishes for under £10.
My own favorite is the aged fillet steak. At £23.95 (in 2011) it's the most expensive thing on the menu but it's worth every penny to a steak lover like me in a country not known for great steaks.
People on country walks must feel they've earned the extra treat of a dessert because The Five Horseshoes obliges with a separate dessert menu (or as they call it, a "pudding menu"). And I can tell you they serve a mean sticky toffee pudding.
The Five Horseshoes Essentials
- Address:Maidensgrove, nr Henley-on-Thames, Oxon RG9 6EX
- Telephone:+44 (0)1491 641282
- Hours:Lunch Monday to Friday noon to 2:30 p.m., Saturday to 3p.m., Sunday to 4p.m.; Dinner Monday to Saturday 6 to 11 p.m. Food is prepared to order so last orders on Saturday night are taken at 9:30 p.m.
- Prices:About £40 per person for three courses but casual diners can try their doorstop sandwiches with chips and garnishes for under £10. Children's portions are available from the same menu for reduced prices
- Visit their website
- Booking: This is a popular pub so booking for a meal is probably a good idea. Bookings are by telephone or through their website.