Walk of the Month: Who needs New England, when we've got the Chilterns

This is just the time for a spot of domestic leaf-peeping, says Mark Rowe

Autumn colour is one of Britain's greatest and most unsung delights. You may see it more dramatically in New England, but it is no less glorious in the UK.

One of the most serene of places to drink in this experience is the Ashridge Estate, 27 miles north of London and straddling the Chilterns as it crosses the border between Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The area is best known for the Bridgewater Monument and Ivinghoe Beacon, which offers truly striking views.

This is an area not only of fantastic woodlands but also of commons, steep, chalky grasslands and rolling countryside, which make up the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Most of this land is open to the public, and is owned and managed by the National Trust.

Ashridge has almost 5,000 acres, so you can revisit it many times without retracing the same paths. Look upwards and you may spot red kites, part of a successful reintroduction project. Elsewhere, you can hope to see buzzards, goldcrests, lesser-spotted woodpeckers, fallow and muntjac deer (at this time of year you may catch a deer rut) and, possibly, badgers and dormice if you're lucky. Autumn is a good time for fungi: look for the large "chicken of the woods" fungus that grows on trees and the fly agaric toadstool – red with white spots – on birch trees.

This walk, starting at Tring station (though the National Trust visitor centre by the Bridgewater monument, two miles along this route, is a good starting point if you come by car), follows the old drovers' paths. This network of ancient green lanes was used for hundreds of years to move livestock – the process of "droving" – from the villages of Aldbury, Ivinghoe and Pitstone to their common lands.

From Tring station, turn right and follow Station Road. After the road junction, turn left over a cattle grid, signposted for the Ridgeway, up a paved road, keeping ahead over the grass to a metal gate and a crossroads of paths.Go straight ahead, signposted Aldbury. After 800 yards, turn right, again signposted for Aldbury. Far up to your left, you'll see the Bridgewater Monument. The path drops down along the side of racing stables and on to Station Road where you turn left to reach the centre of Aldbury, a pleasant place to linger.

Head up the hill, along Toms Hill Road, and then take the bridleway that forks left, signposted to the National Trust Visitor Centre. It's a steady climb under a delightful canopy of trees, leading to an open common with the National Trust teahouse on your right and the Bridgewater Monument, dedicated to the third Duke of Bridgewater. Take the waymarked Ashridge boundary trail on the right and follow this path as it winds through the woodland. After a mile, the woods open up with fine views across the vale to Aldbury church. You pass through a gate by Clipperdown Cottage and, 800 yards further on, take the left-hand fork downhill, waymarked as the boundary trail. Cross over a stile, and the Vale of Aylesbury opens up ahead.

The path joins a fence before turning sharp left to join the prehistoric Ridgeway, thought to be Britain's oldest road. If you keep going for 80 miles or so, you'll end up at the Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire.

Follow the Ridgeway National Trail's black acorn fingerposts, crossing a road to pass through a car park and up a small hill. Looking back you can just spot Ivinghoe Beacon perched up high. Look out to your right for an ancient ditch with steep sides, a sunken track known as a hollow-way. Full of hawthorn, it is a wildlife haven.

Keep ahead along a grassy flank of track up Pitstone Hill, following the white acorn signs to pick up Grim's Ditch, thought to be an Iron Age earthwork. Pass through a gate to enter Aldbury Nowers, a wildlife reserve and SSSI managed by the local wildlife trust. The path is sheltered by overhanging trees, and the woodland is dense and captivating. Keep ahead, following the white acorn and Ridgeway signs. Eventually, you'll pick up the crossroads you encountered at the start of the walk, where you turn right, following the signpost for Tring station.

Compact facts

OS MAP: Explorer 181, Chiltern Hills North.

Distance: Six miles.

Time: Three hours.

Further information:

The walk is best accessed from Tring, which is served by Silverlink Trains (08705 125240; silverlink-trains.com). For more information about Ashridge, contact the National Trust (nationaltrust.org).

Further browsing This walk can be downloaded from the website of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (chilternsaonb.org)

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?