The route guides you through some of the most spectacular woodland and parkland at Ashridge and takes in the best of the Autumn colour away from the more usually frequented hot spots.
- Bus stop
Start: Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre
Facing the front of the visitor centre turn left and walk around the back of the car park towards the gate. Follow the path beyond the gate alongside the meadow.
When you reach the corner of the meadow continue straight on into the woods. The path will bear slightly left eventually passing though an area of recent coppicing on your right hand side. This area is particularly beautiful in Spring when the bluebells are out.
When you arrive at FiveWays - so called because five paths meet here - take the straight on option that bears right: this would be the third exit if this were a round about. Following this path you should soon be able to see an open field ahead and to your left through the trees. These are the Old Dairy Fields. These fields frequently contain livestock and fallow deer. The foot path comes very close to the corner of the field, when it does resist the temptation to turn left and skirt the field and continue on the main track.
Before you reach the road that comes up from Aldbury you will come to a cross roads marked by a number of footpath waymarkers. Take the track to your left following footpath signs into mixed woodland. Before long you will see traffic ahead on the B4506. Before reaching the road you will pass a large pit and an enormous ancient beech at the field edge to your left. Much of the Ashridge Estate is common land and the pits scattered across the landscape are likely to be connected either with commoners' rights to extract raw materials from the commons, or with the brick making industry that once operated in this area.
Take care crossing the road. On the other side you will find yourself in a small National Trust car park. There are three paths at the back of the car park. Two are clearly visible and the third is slightly hidden to the left of the car park. Take the middle of the three. This is Ladies Walk. This path is flanked clearly on the left by a large boundary bank. This is topped by a number of ancient beech trees. To your right you will see a number of veteran sweet chestnuts and several pits. Please remain on the lower path and do not walk on the boundary bank as this is an archaeological feature that is suffering from human erosion. After approximately 300 metres you will begin to see a field ahead to the left. When you reach the field continue to follow the path alongside the fence, keeping the field to your left. The isolated trees in this field are remnants of the parkland planting.
Before you reach the corner of the meadow the path becomes a convergence of informal and formal track-ways. You will see a track coming downhill from your right flanked by an avenue of silver birches. Disregard this path and take the similar one straight ahead which bears right away from the field. This path is also flanked by sliver birches and rises slightly as it begins to turn left. After a few meters you will begin to see the outline of Woodyard Cottage through the trees. Continue forwards as the path skirts around the right of the cottages. Ignore a path coming in from your right and continue onto a well surfaced track. Turn right onto the track and follow it to Great Coldharbour Farm.
In front of the farm there is a cross roads marked by way-markers. Here turn left onto a well trodden path. When you come to a marked fork in the path take the left option. As you follow this path you will begin to see an open field ahead. This is part of Berkhamsted Common. When you enter the field keep to the field edge and follow it with woodland on your left and field to the right. This field margin is particularly beautiful in the summer as it swarms with butterflies.
Continue along the edge of the field, ignoring a number of paths to the left, until you come to a corner where you should see a bridleway post set back into the field edge. Follow the path straight on, as marked, as it exits the field through a narrow stretch of woodland to emerge onto the College Road which leads to Ashridge House. Cross the road and continue straight ahead, up hill on a tarmac path marked ‘private road no vehicular access’, following the ‘permissive bridleway sign’ towards Little Gaddesden. When the road splits beside Roddinghead House stay left skirting the house. You will soon join a narrow bridleway with a large field on your right visible over a hedge. This is the South Park.
Exit the narrow section of bridleway through a kissing gate with a notice asking that you keep dogs on a lead. Please respect this sign as the field is often used for cattle. Follow the path across the field as indicated. There are a number of benches which give you the opportunity to stop and enjoy the view which opens up down the valley towards Nettleden. As you follow the track down the field the boundary of Ashridge Management College is to your left. There are many beautiful mature trees within this boundary and through them you will also get glimpse of the house itself. There are also a number of tree boxes in this area of the park. The boxes protect young trees from deer and livestock and have been installed as part of an ongoing project to re-establish the historical parkland planting. At the far side of the field pass through a gate into another open field ahead and continue forwards around the contour into Golden Valley following a bridleway sign.
Cross over a track which crosses the valley right to left following the valley itself. Golden Valley was constructed by Capability Brown in the 18th Century following a fashion for naturalistic landscape design which favoured vistas and open parkland. The valley has been shaped by removing trees from the base and sides of the valley and opening up sections higher up the slopes to allow glimpses of Ashridge House. Continue to follow the valley as it winds upwards until you come to a tarmac road.
Cross the road by the Ashridge estate boundary trail sign. Follow the worn track directly ahead of you slightly up hill. There is a bridleway sign hidden in the grass to the top and right of this little path. You should now have an open field in front of you, and a golf green below and to your right. Turn left and skirt the edge of the field.
When you get to the top corner of the field the path arrives at the edge of the great lawn which is riddled with golf flags. Here enjoy the view of the college. You will notice a track coming in from your left. Consider this as a T-junction with the path from the left crossing in front of you. Turn right and skirt the edge of the great lawn towards a small stand of trees. Skirt the edge of this stand keeping the trees to your right moving away from the house. Continue to follow the path as it opens up on both sides, bearing slightly left and into a stand of impressive ancient sweet chestnuts. Pass through this stand and you will see the iron fence of the golf course. Follow the line of the fence to your left. You will come to a sign directing you towards the National Trust’s visitor centre and Bridgewater monument. Follow this sign.
Turn Left onto Princes Riding and walk towards the monument that you can see in the distance. Don’t forget to look behind you as you will see Ashridge House framed by autumn colours behind you. You will need to cross two roads, taking care to look for traffic, before returning to the National Trust visitor centre.
End: Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 9.5 km
- Time: 3 hrs
Mainly well trodden footpaths and surfaced tracks but some sections are across uneven fields.
- How to get here:
By road the visitor centre is located off the B4506 between Berkhamsted and Dagnall
Toilets and cafe can be found at the National Trust visitor centre.
- Contact us