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DAY OUT RECOMMENDATION | 7 Mile circular walk from Aldbury Village across Pitstone Hill and the Ridgeway up to Ivinghoe Beacon, and back round through the Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire

By Emma McNamee – 10th February 2020

Why I love this walk

As walks go, this one has got it all.  Pretty village starting point, grasslands, undulating hills, woodlands, stunning views for miles from the top of Ivinghoe Beacon,  and a touch of history as you wander through Ashridge Estate with its ancient iron age monuments and the towering granite column of Bridgewater Monument.  There’s no surprise that the walk you’ll be taking in, on the Hertfordshire-Buckinghamshire border, falls within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Your Starting Point

Your starting point is Aldbury Village where you can usually find roadside parking, or slot in around the village green.  Head up past the village parish church, St John the Baptist, with the church on your right, and just after the church garden cemetery you’ll see a footpath sign taking you right towards Pitstone Hill.   Follow this trail on the edge of a field alongside the hedges, and when the path takes you through a metal gate slightly to the left, still going straight on, but adjacent to a farm brick wall, follow this onwards.   Eventually the path comes to a T junction where you’re essentially continuing in a straight on direction, but you’ll need to turn left and immediately right again, over any stiles as you head forward.

Fore!!!!! Watch out for the golf balls

At this point, the 18-hole championship course of Stocks exclusive golf club should be laid out in the valley in front of you.   Follow the natural grassy path forward through the middle of the golf course making a gradual ascent, heading for the woods in the distance.   Take a pause at one point to look back at the views across the village and picture perfect valley beyond.   Breathe in the open fresh air.  Soak up the beautiful countryside surrounding you.   When you reach the top of the course, walk along the left edge of the trees and through a kissing gate in to the woods – there should be some yellow waymark acorn signs to keep you heading in the right direction.

Follow the path through the woods until you come to a fingerpost at a junction in the path beside some wooden steps.  Turn right up the steps and continue to follow the pathway and waymark signs across the Ridgeway over Pitstone Hill.    To your left, take in the view of Aylesbury Vale and Pitstone Cement Works that operated from 1935.  Cement from here was used to build Heathrow Airport and many wartime runways.  In 1999 its four brick towers were demolished as part of local redevelopment plans.

Across the Ridgeway to Ivinghoe Beacon

Follow the natural path as it continues forward with gentle hills, curving round to the left and right.   Eventually after a fairly steep incline round to the right of a deep ditch and through a wooden gate you’ll come to a fork in the path at the top beside another wooden gate.  Don’t go through this top wooden gate, but follow the path straight on beside the hedge to the left of it, and in to the woods.  When you come out the other side of the woods, follow the path down to a car park at the bottom.  Cross the car park and make you way across the road in front, heading straight on up and over the hills in front of you with a hedge and wire fence to your right, as you make the climb up to Ivinghoe Beacon, which marks the end of the Ridgeway National Trail.    This would be your perfect break for a picnic stop, although it can be rather windy at the top.

From the top, admire the stunning countryside views across the Chilterns, land that has been farmed for centuries.  The area is steeped in history back to the Bronze Age – look out for the remains of an Iron Age hill fort at the top of the Ivinghoe Beacon.    Ivinghoe and Pitstone Hills have also been appointed as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) given their wildlife, so enjoy and take it all in!

And on to Bridgewater Monument in the Ashridge Estate…

When you’re ready to move on with your walk, head back down  to the road you crossed by the car park.   Cross back over the road and instead of heading back up the hill in front, take the footpath to the left, walking parallel to the road that curves right round the bend, alongside hedges and through trees.  You’ll eventually come out in an open grassy area, often used for parking and picnic stops too – a less wind-swept option for a picnic break should you so choose.

Continue straight on across the grass and at the other end of the grassy area there will be a gravel path to the right that takes you through some of the woodlands and commons of the Ashridge Estate.  It will be signposted “Private Drive” but it’s also a bridle path that will eventually lead you to Bridgewater Monument.   This is a long stretch of the walk – just keep following the path through woodlands that are part of the 4000 acres of Ashridge Estate, maintained by the National Trust.

The pathway will gravitate you towards Bridgewater Monument, built in 1832 in memory of the third Duke of Bridgewater who once lived in Ashridge House and was reknown for his efforts in building canals during the Industrial Revolution.   If you’re visiting during a weekend between April and October, and your legs have got it in you, climb the 172 winding steps to the top of the monument which will allow you to see for miles on a clear day, across the Chilterns and in to London.

An opportunity to indulge at the National Trust shop or tearoom

You’re fairly near the end of your walk so you may want to take some time to have a look around the National Trust Visitor Centre and shop, or grab some refreshments at the Brownlow Café and tearoom.   If you didn’t pack a lunch for your walk, they’ve got some fantastic daily specials, along with sandwiches, baguettes, salads, scones, jacket potatoes and a good range of naughty but nice home made cakes.  Indulge!  You’ve earnt it.

When you’re ready to make a move, with the tearoom and shop to your left and leaving the Bridgewater Monument behind you, exit the grassy area at the other end from where you entered follow the track downhill through the woodlands.  When the track forks, stick to the right continuing downhill to the end of the path which will lead you back in to the centre of Aldbury Village.   And that’s you done.

Your last point of indulgence in Aldbury village, should you so choose before heading home, is The Greyhound Inn – a quaint, traditional country pub with character and good dining options in the heart of the village.  They also have a few accommodation options to offer from ensuite rooms to a two bedroom cottage or a barn conversion for anyone wanting to incorporate an overnight stay and make the most of exploring the area.

If you’re reading thus far, thank you for joining me on this walk either virtually or in The Great Outdoors, and look out for some other walks around Herts as I explore in the weeks ahead.

With love,

Emma x

 

To find out more about the local area and Ashridge Estate visit: https://nationaltrust.org.uk/ashridge-estate

Emma McNamee
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