Ashridge Estate boundary trail walk
This walk includes some of the outstanding features of the estate, including Ivinghoe Beacon, ancient woodlands and dramatic scenery
A challenging walk through woodland and grasslands
You may see wild fallow and muntjac deer, so please keep dogs under control. Fallow deer roam in groups whilst muntjac tend to be solitary. The route is clearly marked with Boundary Trail circular, green signs. These each bear an arrow showing the direction in which to go.
Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre by Bridgewater Monument, grid ref: SP970130
Start at the Ashridge visitor centre, near the Bridgewater Monument. The visitor centre is on the left as you drive or walk up towards the Monument from the main road. Continue towards the Monument. Once there, take the path on the right, leading off the main track into the woods. You'll see a line of wooden stud posts across the start of this path. In late summer, note that many of the sycamores along the path have tar spot fungus (black marks) a good indicator of unpolluted air. Also look for butterflies in sunny clearings and signs of badgers. Their tracks are seen in many places, as are holes called dung-pits or badgers' latrines. Go forward over the wooden bridge which crosses an ancient drovers' path, worn down into a deep groove over the centuries by villagers taking their animals to graze on Pitstone Common. As you continue down the path, on your left is a mound called Bell Barrow due to its shape. It's thought to be a Bronze Age burial mound.
The wooden lodge, next on the left, is a replica of a Victorian shooting lodge that burned down in 1989. Further along on the right is a bench with views of Pitstone Hill and Aldbury Nowers. Note the hazel trees that have been coppiced to provide wildlife habitat. Nearby fallen cedar is still alive and growing. As you walk through the pine woodland between here and point 2, enjoy the smell of the conifers.
Follow the path, past a small cottage (Clipper Down Cottage) and go through a gate then downhill. Ignore the track on the left with the yellow arrow on the post. At the bottom of the slope, the path splits. You will see a sign for the Ashridge Boundary Trail. This is a green, circular sign on a post at the side of the path with an arrow showing the direction in which you should go. Follow the direction shown on the sign onto a rougher, downhill track.
The path now passes through dense scrub which is inhabited by many types of birds. As you leave the scrub, on the left there are views to Pitstone Hill.
Where a wire fence joins the path from the left, continue straight ahead along it. Where the fence turns left, you should turn right. Follow the direction shown on the signpost for the Beacon onto a grassy path. Follow this path up the hill this part of the walk is quite steep.
On the left you can see the spectacular deep valley of Incombe Hole, a natural feature dating from the last Ice Age.
As the path flattens out, do not go through the gate or stile but instead follow signs for the Ridgeway and the Ashridge Boundary Trail. When the path splits, go through the 'tunnel' in the scrub with a yellow arrow sign at the start. When the path emerges on the other side of the scrub, you'll have a spectacular view towards Ivinghoe Beacon. Continue straight ahead, parallel to a fence on your right. Turn right through the gate and follow the track over the hill and down to the road. Take care crossing the road as the chalk is slippery and visibility is not very good. Take any path to the left up the slopes of Ivinghoe Beacon. There are several signs showing the way. The next part of the walk is quite steep.
The Beacon is one of the highest points on the estate with amazing views of surrounding countryside. It's the site of an iron age fort and beacons are still lit here on special occasions.
When you reach the stone plinth with a map of the Ridgeway, take the path to the right and continue through a gate. Do not go through the next gate you reach. Instead turn down the path to the right and through another gate, half way down. When you reach flat ground, there's a T-junction go right. Follow this path through a gate where it will start to climb uphill. You will come to another path after about two to three minutes, with signs for the Icknield Way. Turn left onto this path, which takes you through a wood and up a steep flight of steps.
At the top of the steps, go through a gate into a farmyard. Turn left and go through another gate in front of you. Turn right and cross the field. There is a gate ahead with a green arrow sign go through it. Carry on, following the green arrows (there are arrows on most gates). The path gradually bends to the left with woodland on your left, on the other side of a wire fence. At the end of the path, turn right past a large house with a reservoir station next to it. Carefully cross the road and continue on the public footpath straight ahead. Follow the directions shown by the Ashridge Boundary Trail green arrows, which are on posts at the side of the path. Eventually you'll come to a series of short posts across the path. Behind these posts is a road. Cross the road.
On your left you pass Frithsden Beeches the trees here used to be coppiced. These coppices now play an important role in encouraging wildlife.
On the other side of the road is a footpath. Follow the path through the wood, alongside the golf course. You'll come to a gap in the fence with a path marked with a yellow sign. Do not go up this path. Instead, turn right and follow the line of the fence. As the fence bends to the left, you'll enter a narrow valley with steep sides. Carry on along the valley. At the far end, the trail crosses a road.
On the other side of the road, slightly to your right is another valley. Go down this valley. After crossing a stile, you reach a fence blocking the valley. Turn right and follow the direction shown on the green sign for the Boundary Trail. At the top of the slope, turn left alongside the fence. Cross a stile into a wooded area.
You have walked through Golden Valley, which was remodelled by landscape designer, 'Capability' Brown in the 1760s.
Continue to follow the path which turns right, then left. Carry on along the edge of a ploughed field and across a stile. After crossing a field, following the path in the grass, youll come to a gate. Go through the gate into a farmyard and through another gate immediately in front of you. Follow the path downhill. Before you go into the farmyard, look behind you for a spectacular view of Golden Valley and Ashridge House.
At the bottom of the slope is a road. Turn right onto the road. On your left is a path marked as the direction for the Boundary Trail. Follow this path uphill. As the path splits, go right in the direction shown for the Boundary Trail. You'll reach an alleyway between fences. Continue along this, crossing a road. At the end of the alleyway, turn right in the direction shown for the Boundary Trail. You're in Great Frithsden Copse, the European larch growing here is used in the estate's saw mill.
Follow the path, with the golf course on your left. Cross the road. On the other side, you need to cross the golf green. When you come to the first line of trees, which run parallel to the road you've just crossed, turn right along a rough path. Follow the path, going straight ahead (there are signs for the Ashridge Boundary Trail on some but not all of the posts). You'll come to a house (Great Coldharbour) on the left. Follow the path by the side of this house - there is a direction sign for the Boundary Trail.
Follow the path through a field and over a stile. Keep going along the edge of a ploughed field. The path bends to the left and goes downhill, then starts to climb. On your right is Spooky Wood which is owned by us and managed by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. In the centre of this wood is an area of rare chalk grassland, which provides an excellent environment for wild flowers, birds, butterflies and invertebrates.
The large open space is part of Northchurch Common. This area was dug up during the Second World War to grow food.
Just before a 'no trespassing' sign, there's a sign for the Ashridge Boundary Trail on the left. Follow this and go along the edge of the field. Go through a gate and follow the track to the right. Straight ahead on the left is a gap in the woods. You'll go through a farmyard. After this, there's a fence on each side of the track. Once past the fence, the track splits. Go along the right hand track. Go through the second of the two openings in the woods on the right. Follow the path and cross the road and walk down the track. When you reach a major track, follow the direction shown on the sign for the Ashridge Boundary Trail and turn left going downhill. At the bottom of the track follow the sign for the Ashridge Boundary Trail going right up a grassy slope. Be careful there are many tree roots you could trip over. After the path goes downhill, there's a post on the right with a sign pointing right. Follow this down the narrow path through the bracken. The path takes you to an open space. Go up the slope to your left. At the top of the slope, turn left. Continue along the main path, which twists. Ignore any turnings to the right or left. When you reach an open space, go diagonally to your left to an opening into a wooded area. On a post at the edge of the wood is a sign showing the direction of the boundary walk. The path bends to the right and at the end of the wood you are at the corner of a large open area. Follow the path here, which is marked with a sign for the Ashridge Boundary Trail. You reach a track. Go right and follow the signs for the Ashridge Boundary Trail.
You will come to a main road with a car park to your right and then a service road. Cross both roads. As you go along the track, there's a bench where you can sit to admire the views. Continue to follow the directions shown on the signs for the Ashridge Boundary Trail towards the Bridgewater Monument where you will complete the walk. Why not visit our shop and Exhibition Room or reward yourself with a cup of tea at the café?
In front of you is the Bridgewater monument - a 33m-high granite column built in 1832 to commemorate the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater's pioneering canal work.
Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre by Bridgewater Monument, grid ref: SP970130
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