Exploring Ashridge

A view of Ivinhoe Beacon on the Ashridge Estate Herts

Why not explore somewhere new this summer or investigate areas near the visitor centre that you might not have noticed before.

Exploring the Ashridge Estate this summer

Far and wide

This might be the time to explore the Ivinghoe Hills if you haven't done so before. As the season advances getting out onto the open chalklands can be so rewarding. The views, particularly from the Beacon, are wonderful and there is always a cooling breeze if the weather is warm.

The hills are literally alive with a wonderful variety of wild flowers including some rare orchids. Of course that means you are bound to see some butterflies and, once again, we have some rare varieties such as the Duke of Burgundy.

If you are feeling particularly energetic you might like to try our 16 mile boundary walk which takes you from the visitor centre in a huge circle, and includes the Ivinghoe Hills, Golden Valley, Northchurch Common and much more, before you arrive back at the visitor centre for a refreshing brew at the Brownlow Cafe.

Special trees

If you have visited our new exhibition about some of the notable trees at Ashridge, you might like to have a look at some of them in situ.

For example there is the World War two tree on which American soldiers based at Ashridge, for training, carved the initials of the states they came from plus a V for victory and the date  - 1944.

Graffiti carved by American soldiers based at Ashridge during WW2
WW2 tree at Ashridge Herts
Graffiti carved by American soldiers based at Ashridge during WW2

Another beautiful area to explore is Frithsden Beeches which, as its name implies, contains mainly beech trees some of which are truly magnificent. The largest and oldest, which featured in the first Harry Potter film, sadly collapsed two years ago but there are plenty of others worth seeing.

Explore Northchurch Common

On May 29th we are inviting visitors to come to Northchurch Common and help us to survey  the ground-nesting birds there. This will be a free event where we will be asking families to see if they can locate the nests of skylarks and meadow pipits to give us an idea of how many we have across the common.

Ground-nesting skylarks at Ashridge
Skylarks on Northchurch Common Ashridge Herts
Ground-nesting skylarks at Ashridge

Obviously we don't want to disturb the birds but hope that children in particular will enjoy searching quietly for the nesting sites. Possibly this could become an annual event so that we can track the increase or decrease of these increasingly endangered birds.

Closer to home

There are areas around the visitor centre that rarely become crowded and have lots to offer. For example, have you investigated our new pond directly behind the centre at the edge of Meadleys Meadow?

The pond was created two years ago by our countryside team and a large group of volunteers. A digger was used to remove the bulk of the soil but all other necessary digging was done by hand and in all weathers.

Mallards making themselves at home on our new pond
shridge Herts
Mallards making themselves at home on our new pond

It has now begun to look like an established pond and recently a pair of mallard have moved in to take a look around. If they decide to stay we may have ducklings before long.

Looking after our feathered friends

At the edge of the pond is a recently installed bird feeding station that attracts a wide variety of, mainly small, birds but it is also visited frequently by a great spotted woodpecker. We have regular visits from 'twitchers' but don't know if they have spotted anything unusual so far. We hope they will tell us if they do.

To help you identify the birds there is a new, beautifully illustrated, information panel mounted close to the perimeter fence.

As the weather improves it might be time to rediscover a walk from our self-led list. They will reveal something new each season.

Don't forget we are here to help you - just pop into the visitor centre to have a chat with the volunteer on duty at reception or call us on 01442851227 if you need further advice.