Tring Circular walk
The Chilterns: An open ridge walk to Ivinghoe Beacon, gentle forests, and a classic village pub for tea.
Ivinghoe Beacon and Chiltern woodland
Main walk 16.3km (10.1 miles), five hours walking time. For the whole outing, including meals and trains, allow eight hours.
Shorter walk from Ivinghoe Beacon to Bridgewater Monument: 12.8km (8 miles)
Tring to Berkhamsted: 20.6km (12.8 miles)
Shorter walk from Tring to Berkhamsted: 9.4km (5.8 miles)
|Maps||OS Landranger Map: No 165. OS Explorer Map 181|
|Toughness||4 out of 10|
The first part of this route - following the Ridgeway along the Chiltern escarpment to Ivinghoe Beacon - is exhilarating, offering downland scenery as fine as anything on the South Downs. From the Beacon itself, it seems as if you can see half of England on a fine day.
Then, by way of contrast, you are plunged into the ancient Chiltern beechwoods of the Ashridge Estate. Lovingly preserved by the National Trust, they provide fine autumn colours in late October or early November. Tea is at the Monument Cafe, a popular kiosk with outside seating on the Ashridge Estate. All of the climbing is in the first half of the walk: the second half is all flat or downhill.
Towards the end of April and more particularly in early May, this is also a magnificent bluebell walk - arguably the best in the south east. The star attraction is Dockey Wood, just off the main walk. But Flat Isley, passed later in the walk (and reachable by a small diversion from option a) is just as good and less well known or frequented. Lastly, Old Copse to the south of the Monument Cafe (on option b, but also reachable from the main walk as a short stroll) also has extensive displays. Being further north and higher up, all these woods are at their best a week to ten days later than others in the south east.
a) Short cut from Ivinghoe Beacon to the Bridgewater Monument: This option avoids Little Gaddesden (and the lunch pub) by using a direct 4.7km (2.9 mile) route from Ivinghoe Beacon to the Bridgewater Monument, for the most part on an easy gravel track through beech woodland but with occasional escarpment views. There is an optional diversion into the woods midway, which also takes you through the wonderful bluebell wood of Flat Isley (see Features above). In all this option reduces the main walk to 12.8km (8 miles).
b) Extension to Berkhamsted: This pleasant walk initially through woodland (with bluebells in season - see Features) and then over open hills offers an alternative ending to either the main walk or option a) above that is 4.3km (2.7 miles) longer than the standard version, making a total walk of 20.6km (12.8 miles) if you add it to the main walk, or 17.1km (10.6 miles) if combined with option a). It has some bluebells in late April and early May.
c) Short walk from Tring to Berkhamsted: This walk goes direct from Tring station to Aldbury and the Bridgewater Monument (both offering refreshment options) and then joins option b) above to make a short walk of 9.4km (5.8 miles), including a particularly fine section of the Ashridge beech woods.>/p>
The 137km (85 mile) Ridgeway is supposed to be the oldest long distance footpath in England. Linking Ivinghoe Beacon with Avebury in Wiltshire, it is a route that has been in use for at least 5000 years. It is part of a track that originally stretched from the Wash in Norfolk to the Dorset Coast, and was used in more recent times by livestock drovers. Until the Enclosure Acts of the mid eighteenth century, the Ridgeway was a series of tracks on the crest of the downs, much as it still is today between Pitstone Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon. There is a map set in stone on the top of the Beacon that details the whole route
The most famous owner of the Ashridge Estate, across which much of the afternoon section of this walk passes,was Francis, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater. Known as the "Canal Duke", his pioneering work in the sector is commemorated in the Bridgewater Monument, erected in 1832 and next to the first tea stop on this walk. You can climb the monument for a small fee from 1pm to 5pm April to October weekends and bank holidays for fine views over the countryside: ask in the tea kiosk opposite to get access if the tower is not open during these hours (it depends on how many volunteers the Trust has available on any given day).
In 1759 Bridgewater employed engineer James Brindley to build a canal from Manchester to Worsley, Lancashire, one his other estates, to transport coal from his mines there. Brindley's innovation - a technique called "puddling" - enabled the canal to travel in an aqueduct across the Irwell River valley. The aqueduct became the wonder of the age, and sparked a canal building boom that lasted till the advent of the railways in the 1830s. Bridgewater himself is buried in Little Gaddesden Church. Ashridge House, which is situated at the other end of the grand avenue leading up to the monument, is now a well known business school. The grounds are owned by the National Trust.
Aldbury seems such a quintessentially typical English village that is hard to believe it is not a film set, and indeed has been used for this purpose on several occasions. With a pond, church, pub, post office, sundial and even a set of village stocks, it seems to have everything a village should have. Its population, 675 people in 1831, was said to have been swelled by the influx of workmen to build the nearby Tring Cutting, a major engineering feat of the early Victorian era, which allowed the London to Birmingham Railway, the first long distance railway line to reach London, to be built.
Berkhamsted (reached on the extension to the main walk) was the childhood home of writer Graham Greene, whose father was the headmaster of Berkhamsted School. Berkhamsted Castle, next to the railway station, is a classic Norman motte and bailey castle, built by Robert, Count of Mortain, the half brother of William the Conqueror. Thomas a Becket, Henry II's chancellor and later martyred when archbishop of Canterbury, lived here from 1155 to 1165. There is not much to see, just a few ruined walls, but entrance is free, and if you have just missed a train at Berkhamsted, it is worth a quick look. The castle is open until 4pm in winter and 6pm in summer.
Four trains an hour run between London Euston and Tring from Monday to Saturday; there are two an hour on Sundays (journey time 35-46 minutes). Take the train nearest to 9.30am to get to lunch in time on the main walk.
Berkhamsted is served by the same trains that call at Tring and is one stop nearer London.By car : Park at the large station car park at Tring, which costs £4 a day from Monday to Friday after 10am or any time at weekends.
|Lunch and tea||
The Bridgewater Arms, Little Gaddesden (01442 842 408). Located 10.2km (6.3 miles) from the start of the walk, this traditional country inn, now owned by the Greene King chain, serves food all afternoon daily either in its restaurant or bar area. It also has a small garden. This is the only possible lunch stop for for the main walk.
The Monument Cafe by the Bridgewater Monument on the Ashridge estate is a popular place for tea. It is self-service, with outside seating (though there is a small amount of covered seating in the nearby visitor centre), and there is invariably a queue at its serving window, But your reward for waiting is a fine selection of homemade cakes and you can also get some hot lunch options. Open till 5pm or even 6pm in summer, 4pm in winter, it is the recommended tea option for the main walk, and a possible lunch stop on the shorter walk options.
The Greyhound Inn (01442 851228) in the heart of the village of Aldbury, describes itself as "a chocolate box village pub simply oozing charm and character". It serves food 12-2.30pm and 6-9pm Monday to Friday, 12-9pm on Saturdays and 12-6pm on Sundays. It is a possible lunch or dinner stop in Aldbury towards the end of the main walk or near the start of the short walk from Tring to Berkhamsted.
Berkhamsted has various refreshment options if you are finishing the walk there. If you are rushing to get a train, the Platform Wine shop in the ticket hall of the station serves a full range of hot drinks to takeaway, as well as the alcoholic drinks its name suggests. Otherwise, turning left along the canal just beyond the station brings in a short distance to two pleasant waterside pubs - the Crystal Palace and the Boat. A bit further afield, a walk of 400 metres brings you to Berkhamsted's attractive high road, which has lots of tea options, including Mario's Gelateria and Espresso Bar, open till 5.30pm Monday to Friday, 6pm Saturday, and 5pm Sunday; Simmons Bakers, which serves hot drinks, has tables and a good selection of cakes, and is open until 5pm Monday to Saturday and 4pm Sundays; and Bel Caffe, open till 5pm daily. A later closing option is Caffe Nero, open to 7pm on Saturdays and 6.30pm other days. In addition the high street has several pubs, including the Crown, part of the Weatherspoons chain.
Picnic: Both Pitsdown Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon are excellent picnic spots.
This walk was originally published in Time Out Country Walks near London volume 2. We now recommend using this online version as the book is dated.
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Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Traveline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk