The Ruislip to Harefield loop walk is a favourite that mixes woods, open countryside and history all in 2 hours. It skirts the edge of Mad Bess Wood and passes through Bayhurst Wood before going across country and onto Harefield Parish Church. A word of warning, in the winter boots or wellies are essential, there are many muddy areas.
The route escapes the crowds walking around Ruislip Lido and cuts through the quietest parts of Ruislip Woods. Once you have left the woods the trail takes you beyond intto open country with some excellent views towards London. The turning point on the tour is the ancient Harefield Parish Church and the Australian Military Cemetery.
Begin the journey at the small road (HA4 7TP) beside the Six Bells on Ducks Hill Road just north of Reservoir Road. You can either park in this little cup-de-sac if you are arriving by car or use the Lido parking nearby along Reservoir Road.
Enter Mad Bess Wood and follow the path behind Ruislip Cemetery. Here is the explanation of the name Mad Bess Wood, according to the Watford Observer, “Mad Bess was the wife of an 18th Century gamekeeper, a demented old woman who prowled the woods at night looking for poachers. “Beware Mad Bess” was the poacher’s motto, with good cause, by the sound of it.“
The route then crosses Breakspeare Road North and enters Bayhurst Wood. Make your way through to the car park rather than taking the very muddy cycle route. Exit the car park keeping the mud track to your right and make your way along the Hillingdon Trail.
From woods to open country
The trail descends downwards and continues to follow the Hilligndon Trail. Pass through this ancient wood consisting mainly of oak and hornbeam. As you proceed you’ll find it becomes a narrow area of woodland on each side of the path. At the end point you will cross a stile enter a wide open area of countryside.
Climb to the top of the field and rest. Take the opportunity to look back for a beautiful view of west London.
Stick to the Hillingdon Trail and enter the next field passing by the smallest of copse. This is the highest point of the tour.
St Mary’s and the Australian Military Cemetery
Following the top side of the field the route curves to the left and enters another wood and you soon arrive at St Mary’s, Harefield Parish Church.
If you arrive here in the morning on a sunny day there is a seat facing the church. Sit, enjoy the sun and contemplate St Mary’s. There has been a church here since the Norman Conquest. And there are still parts of the church that date back to the 12th, 13th and 16th and 17th centuries, including one of the bells in the tower.
On the other side of the church lies the Australian Military Cemetery. The cemetery contains 120 Australian service personnel who died in WWI and 6 from the 2nd World War all beautifully maintained.
Back to open countryside
After leaving this solemn reminder to previous wars keep to the path and turn back into open countryside. On your left you’ll see a lovely walled garden with an interesting looking house at one end. If anyone know the history of this house it would be great to hear from them.
Climb back up the field and over a stile turning right. Follow the edge of the filed and you will cross another couple of stiles as you return bak to the woods.
Return to the Woods
Another stile returns you to Bayhurst Wood. Follow the map and go straight ahead and keep to the right when you reach the summit. Soon you’ll encounter a compacted path with solid footing.
This path returns to Bayhurst Wood car park. Cross back over Breakspear Road North and into Mad Bess Wood again. Take a moment to read the notice board about Ruislip Wood and discover the history of the Woods.
These ancient woodlands originally covered most of Middlesex and prior to 1066 the area was a hunting ground for wild boar. Fortunately my friend and I only saw the odd squirrel on our journey.
If you keep to the map then you will have a slightly different path back through Mad Bess Wood to Ducks Hill Road. I hope you enjoy the 2 hour excursion around the Ruislip to Harefield loop.
There are many other walks to find after you have tried the Ruislip to Harefield loop. Go to Find a Walk – Britain to explore the choices.
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