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Jordans and its Waters of Peace

Visit a Quaker settlement and museum recalling the life of a famous poet.

Distance 6.8 miles (10.9km)

Minimum time 2hrs 45min

Ascent/gradient 98ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Paths across farmland and some road walking, 12 stiles

Landscape Undulating farmland and woodland on edge of Chilterns

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 172 Chiltern Hills East

Start/finish SU 991937

Dog friendliness On lead where signs request it and at Jordans

Parking Car park off main street, almost opposite church

Public toilets In main street, near Milton's Cottage

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1 From the car park turn right and walk through the village. After ¾ mile (1.2km), bear right into Back Lane, swinging left after a few paces. Keep left at the fork, avoid a stile in the boundary and continue to a wide gap in the hedge, just before the field corner. Cross into the adjoining field and continue to maintain the same direction, following the path for about 60yds (55m) to a stile. Keep ahead in the next field, with the hedge on your left, and make for the next stile. Follow the clear path across fields and between trees until you reach a stile and waymark.

2 Turn left and skirt the field to a gate and stile. At this point the path runs through trees to the next stile beyond which is a drive. Follow it alongside New Barn Farm to the road. Turn left and left again at the junction. Bear right just beyond a left bend and follow the waymarked track to Willow Court Stables. Go through a kissing gate and follow the fenced path alongside paddocks.

3 On reaching a path crossroads, turn right and pass through a kissing gate, under power cables. Make for a stile and gate and cross the recreation ground. Continue ahead, cross the drive to Manor Farm and follow the wide tree-lined path. Head for a path junction and go straight ahead between houses. Cross Copse Lane and follow Seer Green Lane into the village. Keep ahead to the junction and turn right towards Seer Green. Pass Old Jordans Quaker Guest House and follow the road down to the Meeting House.

4 Turn left into Welders Lane and pass the entrance to a youth hostel. Continue along the lane to a track on the left, signposted 'Grove Farm'. Walk along to a stile on the left, just before a private property sign, and head diagonally across a paddock, passing beneath power cables. Cross four stiles, then turn right and follow the fenced path to a galvanised gate. Keep along the woodland edge, pass a path on the right and continue to a junction by the corner of a wire fence.

5 Swing right and pass through the trees to a stile by the road. Cross over and follow an enclosed path. Eventually you'll come down to a track by a bungalow called Brymavic. Cross over and continue on the path as it skirts a bowling green, playing fields and a recreation ground. Look for a path in the corner and keep to the right of a school. Go down to the road, turn right and return to the car park in Chalfont St Giles.

A simple stone in a quiet burial ground in the Chilterns marks the grave of outspoken Quaker William Penn (1644-1718). There is nothing here that indicates what this man achieved in his lifetime - the founding of Pennsylvania in 1682.

Penn had a difficult life. Imprisoned on several occasions for speaking out against the religious principles of the day, he always remained loyal to his beliefs. It was Penn who secured the release, in 1686, of almost 2,000 people imprisoned on religious grounds. He and his two wives, Hannah and Gulielma, together with ten of their 16 children, are interred in the burial ground beside the historic Meeting House. The house was built by Quakers in 1688 as soon as the Declaration of Indulgence, issued by James II, ended the persecution of non-conformists. Step inside and, looking at the plain wooden benches and the walls decorated with portraits, it is as if time has stood still.

During the 17th century Old Jordans Farm, next door to the Meeting House, was a meeting place of the early pioneering Quakers, as well as the scene of religious persecution. The farm, whose history can be traced back to 1618, was inherited by William Russell, son of Thomas Russell, the sitting tenant. He eventually bought the freehold - the deed, complete with the thumb-prints of the principals and witnesses, now hangs at Old Jordans. Over 300 years ago William Penn worshipped here with fellow Quakers, but meetings were frequently broken up by order of the local court. Undeterred, these people continued to spread their message, often travelling to the far-flung corners of the country.

Old Jordans remained in Quaker hands until the early years of the 18th century. By 1910 the Society of Friends discovered that the farm, now virtually derelict, was up for sale. They acquired it the following year, members carrying out extensive improvements and adding a wing in 1920. In recent years a new building has replaced the old refectory.

On the south side of the garden lies the Mayflower Barn, originally the main barn of Old Jordans farm and, like many Buckinghamshire barns, built of old ships' timbers. The barn, built the same year the Mayflower was broken up, is said to contain timber from the ship. The dining room door at Old Jordans is also believed to come from the vessel which carried the Pilgrim Fathers to America.

Today, Old Jordans is a Quaker guest house and conference centre. It attracts visitors from all over the world and has been called a 'well where men come to draw waters of peace'.

What to look for

The little estate office at Jordans recalls the life and work of Fred Hancock, secretary of the village for 25 years. A plaque on the wall draws your attention to his achievements, pointing out that he worked tirelessly to realise the ideals of the founders, devoting himself wholeheartedly to the maintenance and welfare of the village.

Where to eat and drink

The Merlin's Cave pub in Chalfont St Giles offers the likes of liver and bacon, chilli con carne, bangers and mash, sandwich platters, toasted sandwiches and oven-baked jacket potatoes. Morning coffee, afternoon tea and dinner are available at Old Jordans.

While you're there

John Milton (1608-74), one of England's greatest poets, settled in Chalfont St Giles in 1665, fleeing the plague in London to finish Paradise Lost (1665). He chose a cottage in the main street, and today his home and garden are open to the public. Have a look around the village and you may well recognise it as Walmington-on-Sea in the film version of Dad's Army (1971).

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