Route no: 11 Frieth, Southend and Ibstone – Beauty rating: 5/5 – Length: 13 miles – Difficulty: 4/5 This is a ride with stunning views through lovely villages of the Hambleden valley with many good pubs. All off road segments are downhill with 2 very steep road climbs
1 Start at Frieth – car parks at the school, Yew Tree and alongside road. Go up high street bearing left to Hambleden and Henley at the top. After 1/3 mile take right hand bridleway marked St Benedicts. Continue on as path leaves the tarmac – great views. In the distance you can see Luxters vineyard which you will be passing in 2 1/2 miles. Stay on the obvious middle path. Beware of loose flint and tree roots. At road go left into village and left again towards Hambleden.
2After 2/3 mile take right road (sign posted Chiltern Valley Winery). This is a steep climb up to Luxters where you can visit the winery, shop and taste their wares. Continue on the road as it flattens out and meanders through the magnificent beech woods. At junction go straight across (ignoring left to Fawley and Henley). Although you are 600ft up this part of the route is surprisingly flat. Take next road right to Southend (the village not the seaside resort!). Keep an eye out for deer in woods to your left. Keep straight on road with village to your right.
3 At junction go left towards Northend. After 300 yards at the crossroads take 1st right on narrow tarmac lane to Turville Grange (opposite Rose Farmhouse sign). At the Grange turn left along track. Stay on track as it bears right to become bridlepath between hedges. This path looses 300ft in 1/2 mile, you may wish to dismount the initial section, as it is very steep and very flinty. Stay on the obvious path as it ascends slightly and meets the road. Go right and follow down for half a mile turning left up the road by the Thames Water booster.
4 This road up to Ibstone starts gently then climbs sharply. At last the road bears round to right and flattens out. At Ibstone turn left for 100 yards then take right hand bridlepath by Ibstone School. Stay on main path it travels down past the house and enters forest on wide easy path. At bottom do not go through gate into Harecramp Estate but take right hand path into wood (path nearest the gate). Stay on this path ignoring wider, muddier track to your right. View on the way to Luxters.
5 At gate go straight on. This path is well used by horses and is subsequently extremely muddy in winter. Follow this path along valley bottom for 2/3 mile. At end of bridlepath go through metal gates onto road. Turn right, after 1/2 mile you enter Fingest and the Chequers pub. Turn left at the pub, after 2/3 mile turn right towards Frieth. After almost a mile you come across the Prince Albert pub on your right. Take tiny road alongside pub garden, then the next left to return to Frieth and start of the ride.