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Walk 1999 - printer friendly version

The Chilterns above Tring Walk

Author - Donald Morton

Length - 12.0 miles / 19.5 km

Ascent - 1250 feet / 379 metres

Grade - moderate

Start - OS grid reference SP971131
Lat 51.808115 + Long -0.59301566
Postcode HP4 1LX (approx. location only)

The description of this walk starts from the car park at the Bridgewater Monument (Grid ref SP971131) on the National Trust Ashridge Estate. If the car park is full there is lots more extra parking on hardstandings off to the left of the drive down to the Monument. It is also possible to start from Tring Station coming by train - or car at weekends when the station car park, busy and £ 5 during the week, is "at the moment" free. Starting from the station either turn left to join the walk on the Grand Union Canal stretch at bridge 135 or turn right to join the walk at grid ref SP952124 - see below.

From the recommended start, walk to The Monument. This is an 1832 memorial to the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, a pioneer of canal building, which may be ascended weekend afternoons in season. Turn right along the track marked Mobility Vehicles Trail. Follow this broad obvious track for some 2km ignoring all paths left and right; by way of confirmation you pass over a bridge, pass a wooden house on the left and, quite a bit further on, a log seat with a view over the cream painted Duncombe Farm and the valley and hills beyond. Not too long after this you reach a crossing footpath. Turn left and go down through the woods - bluebells in season - and then up a short rise to come out into a field through a metal kissing gate. Go through a second gate and down the field with woods on the right, Duncombe Farm towards the left and Aldbury ahead. When the edge of the woods swings right go straight on to a gate on the far side of the field by the Farm entrance. Turn right down the tarmac lane and follow this to a T junction (Grid ref SP961139).

Turn right and walk a couple of hundred yards - beware traffic - to a footpath opposite a bungalow. Turn left onto the footpath to follow the field edge, hedge on left, as it curves round to the right so that you are facing the prominent silhouette of Pitstone Hill. Where the field edge bends sharp left, continue walking straight on across the field, maybe not very well restored after ploughing but signed, and aiming to the left of Pitstone Hill. At a track carry straight on over the next field now aiming for two low trees on the other side. When you reach these, bend right to follow the field edge to a metal gate by a finger post. Go through, cross the Ridgeway, and keeping to the left of Pitstone Hill, go straight on; path marked by posts. From here there is a panoramic view of the Vale of Aylesbury and over to the right Ivinghoe Beacon (821ft) starting point of the Ridgeway 84 miles to Wiltshire, and the original Icknield Way 100 miles to Norfolk. Nestling below the Beacon is the village of Ivinghoe with its prominent 13th Century church. Just before the second post, turn left to reach a cross track. Turn right on this and go down a cleft to arrive at a fence. Ignore the gate in the fence and turn left to follow the fence along the side of the hill - can be slippery if wet. The ponds over to the right are chalk pits, part of the now defunct and removed Castle cement works; they always have an interesting colour and in sun light are a vivid duck egg blue - chalk particles in the water, light refraction and all that stuff. At the end of the fence turn right through a bridle gate and down an enclosed path; ignore a path on the left, and at the end go through a metal barrier, do a right/left dog leg and come out at a road.

Turn left and go along road to the entrance to Park Hill Farm. Turn right here and follow Public Restricted Byway 62 (so says the finger post) straight down to the Grand Union Canal. Turn left along the tow path. The tow path is part of the Grand Union Canal Walk 145 miles from London to Birmingham. You join it where the canal runs through a rather dark and gloomy cutting at the Tring Summit, after it has climbed up from the Vale of Aylesbury by a series of locks: from now on it is downhill to London. Walk along the towpath through the cutting. If you want to shorten the walk you can leave the tow path at Bridge 135, turn left past Tring Station and rejoin the walk at grid ref. SP952124 in 0.5km - see below. Otherwise continue on the towpath through the cutting and then open country in the Bulbourne valley until you reach Bridge 137 at the Cow Roast Lock. Cow Roast (originally Cow Rest) was where cattle were rested on the drive from Wales and Hereford to the London markets.

Climb up to the lane and turn left. (Note that the Cow Roast pub has closed) Follow this lane - for a short distance part of the Chiltern Way - past the entrance to the Cow Roast Marina (narrow boats not yachts) and continue until you reach Norcott Farm Lane. Here turn left. Follow the lane over the railway, turn right opposite a red brick wall, and left up Norcott Hill at a T junction. When you reach the top of the hill the road curves sharp left and becomes private - "private road no parking". Here turn right through a very small - half a dozen cars - NT parking space and half left on a broad track through the woods. (This more or less continues the line of the road coming up the hill before it turns left.)

At the first waymark at the corner of a wide open space turn left (following ,among others, an axe sign - part of the Icknield Way Path extending the ancient trackway to Norfolk); at the second way mark a few yards further on fork right to come out onto the edge of a wide open space - Northchurch Common. Keep straight on along the left hand edge of this open area until you come to another way mark. Here turn left, still with the axe sign, through woods. At a fork go straight on to another way mark in a few yards. This is where you join the Hertfordshire Way. Do not, however, follow the HW sign which points straight on. The circular HW route has only been signed to follow anti clockwise and we want to go clockwise, so turn left with the axe and follow a broad, but maybe muddy, track which winds through the woods fairly near the left hand edge; because of the mud you may be tempted to stray to avoid, just do not get too far from the left hand edge. Where the open area on the left becomes less visible go straight on/rightish to a visible way mark. Here leave the Icknield Way Path and turn left to wind through the woods again fairly close to the left hand edge. Pass one way mark and, at the second, fork left to reach a finger post at cross paths. Go straight on, now with fence on left and soon come out by a large house onto a tarmac road (part of the circular Chiltern Way and where the sign pointing the way you have come from confirms that you have you have been on the Hertfordshire Way).

Continue on the HW by crossing straight over and go down the track which descends steeply down the scarp slope of the Chilterns with views looking north over Aldbury. At a crossing bridle path with stile opposite turn left passing Brightwood Cottage and Brightwood to come to a small lane. Cross the lane and continue down an enclosed bridle path. After crossing a "gallop" this continues along the edge of a field with hedge on the right. Just before reaching the road where there is a fingerpost (Grid ref SP958122) follow a clear path going diagonally left across a field towards a cluster of light standards which marks the existence of Tring station. This path is not recorded as a right of way on the Definitive Map, is not indicated on the finger post, but has apparently been used for years by walkers and is described as part of the Hertfordshire Way. It avoids a nasty bit of road walking and, when it reaches the station car park perimeter fence, turns right to come out at the road (Grid ref SP952124).

Cross the road to the pavement. If you wish to get back to Tring station turn left 200 yds. Otherwise, to continue to the Monument turn right. Continue past Northfield Road and about 100yds further on turn left up a concrete drive (signed Ridgeway but still part of the Hertfordshire Way). Where the drive turns left continue straight on a grass track to go through a bridle gate. Here the Ridgeway goes left. Leave it by going straight on along an enclosed bridleway. Continue on this, ignoring tracks to left and right until you come to a crossing footpath, where turn right to follow the finger post pointing to Aldbury 600m or 0.4 miles. Going down the enclosed footpath Aldbury church is straight ahead. Go through a metal kissing gate, over a track, through a second metal kissing gate, down by a large modern barn, through a wooden kissing gate, along a made pebble path, through a gate across a field and onto a road.

Turn left past the church to arrive in the centre of Aldbury, which has two pubs and tea rooms for refreshment, a village shop, many fine old cottages and larger buildings, a duck pond on the green and village stocks and whipping post. All in all it is one of the prettiest villages in Hertfordshire and often the choice of film producers. The largest house in the parish is Stocks, once the home of Playboy executive Victor Lownes, a training camp for Playboy Bunny Girls, scene of parties for the 'A' list and reputed to have the largest jacuzzi in the country; it has subsequently had varied uses but before that it was for 200 years the home of country gentry and then a Catholic school.

Leave Aldbury on Toms Hill Road signposted to Berkhamsted and Gaddesden. Just past Aldbury Club turn left up a gravel track signed the Hertfordshire Way back along the way you have come and, going forward, to the Monument and Tearoom. You might need the latter because it is uphill and quite steep all the way back to the starting point. Just follow the track, with glimpses to the left of Stocks, ignoring any paths to left or right until you come out at the Monument, which comes into view surprisingly late. The NT approved licensed tea room is on the right as you walk to the car park.

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