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Chilterns Walk
Ashridge Estate Circular

Region - Chilterns

County/Area - Hertfordshire

Author - Donald Morton

Length - 4.5 miles / 7.3 km

Ascent - 350 feet / 106 metres

Time - 2 hours 40 minutes

Grade - easy

Start - OS grid reference SP970131
Lat 51.808132 // Long -0.594466
Postcode HP4 1LX (approx. location only)

Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - Ashridge Estate Circular Photo from the walk - Ashridge Estate Circular Photo from the walk - Ashridge Estate Circular Photo from the walk - Ashridge Estate Circular Photo from the walk - Ashridge Estate Circular Photo from the walk - Ashridge Estate Circular
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The walk starts from the drive leading down to the Monument on the National Trust Ashridge Estate (Grid Ref SP 970 131). Half way down the drive on the left hand side is a new car park. It is suggested that this is used. (If full, there is another car park down by the Monument, which is open weekend afternoons Easter to Autumn half term, and tea rooms, open 10- 5 Easter to December - or parking on the grass verges is allowed.)

Starting from the suggested car park, turn right up the drive and continue over the B4506 and straight on up the wide grass avenue (Prince's Riding) which apparently leads straight to Ashridge . Unfortunately, the golf course constructed in the 1930s when the estate was broken up was designed to have one fairway cutting across it so if golf is being played it is necessary to go to the right and skirt round the hole before continuing up the Riding and across a grassy sward to the road in front of the house. This castellated mansion, built by the Duke of Bridgewater, was designed by James Wyatt and completed in 1825. Within 100 years the estate was being sold to pay death duties and the house has at times been a wartime hospital extension (twice), an intended Conservative Party College, a girl's school and now a business school. At one time there were occasional public open days for the house; this appears to be no longer so, but the gardens are open summer weekends and bank holidays.

At the road turn left and walk along it -it is a toll road but there is no charge for pedestrians and the toll booths seem rarely to be manned. At the second left bend in the road go straight on over grass towards the war memorial seen ahead. Descend into the dry valley - a typical Chiltern "bottom" - known as Golden Valley and turn left. At the road turn right and then opposite a waymark post on the right turn left up a sunken stony track (not designated as a public footpath and take care in autumn when the leaves cover the stones and holes). The track comes out a golf course. Go straight on along the side of the course to pick up the track again. This becomes a tarmac road between very large houses, presumably on plots also sold off in the early 20th Century.

Turn right down the drive to The Hook and Birchwood and then fork right down a broad path between two garden fences, continuing through woods across a fairway - the tee is just to the right, through more woods and then up between two more gardens. This time they can be glimpsed, and admired, as settings for two interesting examples of interwar houses for the wealthy. At a crossing drive you can detour straight on up a footpath for refreshment at the Bridgewater Arms opposite when you reach the road, the village shop left, and a sight of the estate village of Little Gaddesden right. Otherwise, turn left to follow the tarmac drive to, you may think aptly named, Witchcraft Hill. Here the track enters woods, degenerates through gravel to mud getting gradually narrower until it emerges via a stile into rough pasture. Follow the path left and then right along a holly hedge to come to the B4506 at Ringshall.

Cross the road and turn left. There are estate cottages lying well back on your right and when you get to the end of these, opposite an Art Deco bungalow with bright blue roof tiles, turn right along the end cottage garden. Before, coming level with the cottage itself fork left into the woods, soon reaching a waymark. Here turn left down a broad grassy ride. This goes straight on past three waymarks. The ride deteriorates and can be quite wet: at one particularly boggy part a parallel track bears off to the right before rejoining the main ride further on. At a waymark at the top of a rise bear right. At the next waymark go straight on but at a prominent dead tree, with a waymark post on the right turn left and very soon reach the drive to the Monument and tearoom which are to the right: the suggested car park is to the left.

Please maintain social distancing - keep at least 2 metres away from other walkers.

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