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Chilterns Walk
Berkhamsted and Northchurch Commons

Region - Chilterns

County/Area - Hertfordshire

Author - Donald Morton

Length - 5.0 miles / 8.1 km    Ascent - 440 feet / 133 metres

Time - 3 hours 0 minutes    Grade - easy

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Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - Berkhamsted and Northchurch Commons
Click image to see photo description.

This Hertfordshire walk provides a good sample of the Northern part of the Chiltern AONB being split almost half and half between the typical open country of the area, with wide views, and ancient woodlands, providing shade or shelter. Much of it is through the Ashridge Estate acquired by the National Trust some eighty years ago. Start the walk by Bridgewater School (Map ref. SP984090). It is possible to park in Bridle Way approaching the school.

Walk uphill passing the school gates on the right and continue up an enclosed footpath. At a cross track turn left along a gravel private road with houses on the right and the Bulbourne valley on the left. Where the gravel becomes tarmac turn right. It soon reverts to gravel still with houses on the right. At the end of the houses, go straight onto an initially muddy track; once you have ignored a track on the left it becomes stony and you go with it up through the woods to emerge on an open area in front of Northchurch Farm. Pass in front of the farm and turn right on the tarmac. Go straight on through a side gate next to white double gates; pass buildings on the right and go through a metal kissing gate into a field. Go diagonally left over the field aiming for a white post on the far side. Here go through a hedge gap, turn left and then right to go down the field edge with hedge on the left. At the bottom corner go through a gate and straight on down and up on a stony track. After swinging left and going through a gateway turn right to follow power lines along a field edge with fence and hedge, becoming a thin strip of woodland, on the right. At the field corner go over the stile and diagonally left to pass between the farmhouse (Great Coldharbour Farm) and the pond; go between farm buildings into the woods (Grid ref. SP989113).

You are now on Berkhamsted Common, on the National Trust Ashridge Estate and at the direction post just beyond the farm yard gate the walk turns left; although there is no marker to say so, this is part of the Hertfordshire Way. Follow the clear access track which runs through the woods quite close to the left hand edge. After passing Little Coldharbour Farm on the left the track passes through wood bollards and continues straight on through the woods. This part of the way can be quite muddy and there are several parallel tracks. The line of the track is quite clear, however. Just keep going straight on keeping reasonably close to the left hand edge of the wood until this starts to bend further away. Soon after this starts to happen, reassuringly, there is a cross track with a way mark post pointing the way straight forward. From here the track is clear going through the woods until it comes out to the B4506 at a road junction (Grid ref. SP977117).

Cross over the road and go down the minor road opposite signed to Aldbury and Tring. Soon after passing a "beware of deer" road sign turn left down a bridle path. This post does have a Hertfordshire Way sign but pointing the way you have come from. On entering the woods, you will see diagonally on the right some green banks. It is worth while making your way over to these; they are the banks topped with ancient coppiced trees which bordered the original ride through the woods. Sadly what would have been a superb path has fallen into disuse and branches from the old trees have blocked it. The current, twisting, path runs a little way to the left of it and has been formed by National Trust tractors more or less parallel to the original. You can make sure you are maintaining the right direction by keeping an eye on the line of the old trees to your right. Soon after the old and new paths more or less converge there is a way mark post.

The bridle path goes straight on but at this point the walking is easier and the views much better if you turn left and in a few yards come out to an extensive open common - Northchurch Common. Here turn right and walk along the edge of the wood. Ignore paths off to the left going across the common and also any to the right; continue straight on past one signed with an axe marker - this shows you have just joined the Icknield Way, one of Englands ancient trackways, for a short distance. Where the edge of the wood turns left across your route carry straight on into the woods. At the next marker post the path bends left. Then in a very short distance at a second marker post go a little more left to continue once again with the wide green space on your left and woods and scrub falling away to your right. Follow this broad green path ignoring all paths to right and left until you reach a low marker post. Here turn right; marked as a bridle path and also Grand Union Canal Circular Walk. The wide track goes down hill through woods over two crossing tracks and after the second goes up to hit the B4506 (Grid ref. SP978100).

Cross over the road and continue on the marked bridle path. Ignore a left fork signed Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail and go straight on and down to reach a tarmac road. Just before the road the path forks right and then continues on down over the road. If you miss the fork turn right down the road for a few yards to pick up the path. This reaches a grassy parking area by the side of the B4506. Cross this and go up the tarmac road ahead of you. Where this access road turns left go straight ahead on a gravel road to retrace your steps back to Bridgewater School, this time with the houses on the left and where the houses finish turning right through the barrier into the narrow enclosed path.

Other walks nearby

Walk 3503 Circular from Berkhamstedeasy4.0 miles
Walk 1399 Berkhamsted & Northchurch Commonseasy5.5 miles
Walk 1504 Potten End Circulareasy/mod6.0 miles
Walk 1007 The Ashridge Estate circulareasy/mod6.0 miles
Walk 1999 The Chilterns above Tringmoderate12.0 miles

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