Autumn colour trail at Ashridge
This route takes you through some of the most spectacular woodland and parkland at Ashridge.
Stunning views of Ashridge's autumn splendour
Every corner you turn, or hill you climb, will give you more breathtaking views of Ashridge in autumn. You will see some of the best of the autumn colours in the less-trodden areas of the estate.
Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre, grid ref: SP970130
Facing the visitor centre, turn left and walk round the back of the car park towards the gate. Beyond the gate, follow the path alongside the meadow.
When you reach the bottom of the meadow, take the path slightly to your left into the woods. The path continues to bear left eventually passing the edge of an area of recent coppicing on the right. You should pass a way-marker for Forester's Walk on the way. Visit this area again in spring to see the bluebells.
At the end of this path you will arrive at Five-ways - so called because five paths meet here. You should see a roundel in front of you with a way-marker for Forester's Walk. Take the path which bears slightly right (this would be the third exit if it were a roundabout), signposted Forester's Walk. You will soon see open fields which frequently contain livestock as well as fallow deer so please keep dogs on leads.
Continue on this path until you reach a crossroad where you will see a number of way-markers. Take the track to your left following the footpath signs into mixed woodland. Soon you will see traffic on the B4506 through the trees and a way-marker for Forester's Walk on your right. Before reaching the road you will pass a large pit and an enormous ancient beech tree at the edge of the field to your left.
Much of the Ashridge Estate is common land and these large pits scattered across the landscape are thought to be connected with commoners' rights to extract raw materials from the commons. Some of them are known to be clay pits used in the brickmaking industry which flourished here at one time.
Take care as you cross the B4506. On the other side you will find yourself in a small National Trust car park. Take the well-trodden path, called Lady's Walk, at the back of the car park close to the National Trust sign. There is a small way-marker with a white arrow highlighting this path. The left-hand side of the path is flanked by a large boundary embankment, on top of which are a number of ancient beech trees. To your right you will see a group of veteran sweet chestnuts and several pits. Please stay on the footpath and do not climb the bank as it is a delicate archaeological feature which is being worn away by footfall. Approximately 330yd (300m) further on you will see a field ahead and to the left - keep this field on your left. The isolated trees you can see in this field are remnants of parkland planting.
Lady's Walk is one of the most spectacular areas of the estate during the autumn.
As you reach the corner of the field you will see a post with a blue arrow. This points to a path which veers to the right and slightly uphill, flanked by an avenue of silver birch - take this path. As this path begins to rise, it bends to the left and in a few yards you will see the outline of Woodyard Cottage through the trees. Continue forward as the path skirts to the right of the cottage. Continue until you reach a well-surfaced track. Follow this track to Great Coldharbour Farm.
Deer in the autumn woods
If you are lucky you may catch glimpses of muntjac or fallow deer through the trees. In autumn the fallow deer are particularly active as the bucks are busy trying to attract females during the rut.
In front of the farm is a crossroads with way markers. Turn left onto a well-trodden path and take the left-hand option when you reach a fork in the path. Follow this path until you see an open field ahead - this is part of Berkhamsted Common. On entering the field, turn left and keep to the field margin along this edge. In summer, this area is alive with a variety of butterflies.
Continue along the field edge, ignoring several paths to the left, until you reach the corner of the field where you should see a path in front of you leading straight into woodland. This path emerges quickly onto College Road and passes in front of Ashridge House. Cross the road and continue straight ahead onto Frithsden Rise. Follow this road uphill until you reach a house on your left called Roddinghead House. Keep left alongside the house - the path soon blends into a narrow bridleway with a large field visible over the hedge to the right - this is the South Park.
Continue on this narrow bridleway until it reaches a kissing gate, where it ends. Please remember to keep your dog on a lead in this area as it is often grazed by cattle. Follow the path across the field and down the hill. There are a number of beech trees here so take the opportunity to enjoy the view and the splendid autumn colours down the valley towards Nettleden. At the far side of the field pass through a gate into another open field and continue forwards following a bridleway sign around the contour of the land into Golden Valley.
There are a number of young 'boxed' trees in this area. The boxes protect the trees from deer and cattle damage. These protected trees are part of the ongoing project to re-establish the historical parkland planting.
Cross the track which dissects the valley from left to right, following the line of the valley itself. Continue to follow the valley as it winds upwards until you reach a tarmac road.
Golden Valley was constructed by 'Capability' Brown in the 18th century when there was a fashion for naturalistic landscape design which favoured vistas and open parkland. The valley was reshaped by removing trees from the bottom and the sides and thinning sections higher up the slopes to allow glimpses of Ashridge House through the trees.
Cross the road and follow the worn track ahead which goes slightly uphill. You now have an open field in front of you with a golf green below and to the right. Turn left and skirt the edge of the field.
When you reach the top corner of the field you will find yourself at the edge of the great lawn - look out for goal posts. Stop a moment and immerse yourself in the view of the house. You will notice a track coming from the left and crossing in front of you like a T-junction. Turn right onto this track, skirting the edge of the great lawn and heading for a small stand of trees. Keeping these trees to your right and moving away from the house, continue to follow the path through an open area then bear left into a group of impressive ancient sweet chestnuts. Pass through the trees to the iron railings round the golf course. Keeping this railing to your right, follow the path until you reach a sign directing you towards the National Trust Visitor Centre and Bridgewater Monument. Follow this path as directed.
Colorful sentinels en route
There are beech, oak and lime along the final stretch of the trail from Ashridge House to the visitor centre, each adding their unique shades to the overall colour palette
Turn right onto Prince's Riding and walk towards the monument which you can see in the distance. Don't forget to look behind you to see Ashridge House framed by beautiful autumn colours. You will need to cross two roads, taking great care, before reaching the visitor centre where the trail ends.
View from above
If you have time then make the most of the opportunity to climb the monument where you can really appreciate the stunning views and take in Ashridge's autumn splendour.
Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre, grid ref: SP970130
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