Pete's Walks - Shorter Ashridge walk (part 1)

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If you are considering walking this route yourself, please see my disclaimer. You may also like to see these notes about the maps.

Google map of the walk

The National Trust's Ashridge Estate (which includes Berkhamsted Common and Northchurch Common) is a delightful area of beech and other woods mixed with open grassland and farmland. As well as the Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail and my Alternative Ashridge Walk, there are numerous shorter walks that can be done there. These pages describe a walk I did on Friday, October 17th 2008 - I was particularly hoping to enjoy the autumn foliage (though it was a little early to see the trees at their most colourful) and to spot some Fallow Deer during the rutting season.

The walk is just under 5.5 miles long, and is in effect a much shortened version of Walk 3 of my Chiltern Chain Walk (done in the opposite direction). The walk took about two and a half hours, though that included numerous stops to take photographs.

The Bridgewater Monument, Ashridge

I parked at the car park at the end of the drive to the Bridgewater Monument, and started by walking back down the drive for a couple of hundred yards or so. I then turned right at a footpath sign, and followed a broad track into the trees (it starts in a small parking area off the drive).

Looking down the drive, from near the monument

 

The start of the footpath, leading away from the drive

It was very pleasant walking through the trees (beech, oak, silver birch, and occasional conifers). After about half a mile, there was a large pasture just to the left of the path, with the road between Ringshall and Berkhamsted running beyond the hedge on the far side. As well as cattle, there are usually some Fallow deer in the pasture and indeed there were some today, although a long way off. As I carried on, a mature Fallow buck (the male Fallow deer are bucks rather than stags, apparently) crossed the path ahead of me, and a little further on I saw four or five hinds a little way to the right of the path.

The footpath, close to the large pasture on the left

 

A Fallow buck crossing the path ahead of me

A little further on, the footpath crossed a bridleway (I would later come back along the bridleway from the left) and around here I spotted a Nuthatch close to the path. The path then came to a road (Tom's Hill was to my right, with Aldbury a short distance further on), close to a cottage on my left. I continued along the path opposite, with an area of conifers to my right. I heard a Fallow buck roaring or bellowing to my left somewhere, but it was out of sight behind the trees and holly bushes.

The path continuing on the far side of the road to Aldbury

Further on, the woods narrowed to a thin belt, maybe 200 yards across, with the large grassy expanse of Northchurch Common to the left and fields to the right. I kept straight on, or slightly right, as I crossed several minor path junctions, so that soon I was walking close to the fields on my right. The path eventually led to the hamlet of Norcott Hill

The path through the narrow belt of trees, approaching the paddocks on the right

 

The path entering the hamlet of Norcott Hill

I followed the path to the left and continued along the lane past the buildings of the hamlet. Where the lane turned sharply right, I went straight on along another footpath. This ran a short way through more trees, emerging at the top of a bracken-covered slope on another part of Northchurch Common. I turned right here, soon going back into the trees on a path that  curved left and followed the edge of the woodland, with fields nearby on my right and occasional views over to Berkhamsted in the valley below.

Looking over part of Northchurch Common

 

The path along the edge of the woods

This is a particularly good area for seeing Fallow deer, and occasionally Muntjac deer. The path descended a little valley and started to rise up the other side. At one point, I came to a short but steep and muddy section - at the top of the rise, about 30 yards from me was a large Fallow buck, staring down at me. I raised my camera but it moved off into the bushes before I could get a photo. The path then descended again into another small valley where it crossed the drive to a house down to my right (there are often deer beside the drive, but not today). As I continued up the path, I could again hear but not see a Fallow buck roaring. But a bit further on a hind ran across the path in front of me, and a bit further on I managed to photograph a young buck in the trees to my left.

The path beyond the private drive

 

A young Fallow buck

Part 2 of this walk

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