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
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living