Pete's Walks - Dunstable Downs and Markyate (page 1 of 4)

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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

I did this 12 mile circular walk on Sunday, 1st July, 2012. It was the reverse of Walk 1 of my Chiltern Chain Walk (this time I did it anti-clockwise), and starting at Bison Hill (Grid reference SP 999184) rather than Dunstable Downs (just to avoid paying for parking).

I started off walking very late, about 10.25am (I'd had a very long but enjoyable day the day before, moth trapping from 4am then going to a WildAboutBritain get together at Ivinghoe Beacon and College Lake). I went up the stairs from the car park on Bison Hill and took the bridleway running between hedgerows. I followed the bridleway for about a third of a mile, virtually to its end, turning left immediately past a bungalow on the left. This led uphill through a couple of pastures belonging to the Dell Farm Outdoor Activity Centre (external link, opens in a new page). I didn't see the Jacobs Sheep that are often here, but I did see Mel the Jersey Cow, Crocus the black Dexter cow and a herd of goats (which don't seem to be mentioned on the web site, presumably they are very new, certainly I've not seen them before). There were a group of children obviously enjoying themselves in the small enclosures behind the farm on my right. The path then led past Whipsnade Tree Cathedral and into Whipsnade itself.

Start of the bridleway from Bison Hill to Whipsnade


The bridleway from Bison Hill to Whipsnade


The path approaching the Tree Cathedral, Whipsnade

Whipsnade Tree Cathedral is a 9.5 acre garden planted with trees in the shape of a Cathedral, with grassy avenues representing the nave, chancel, transepts, etc. It was created by Edmund Kell Byth  as an act of ‘Faith, Hope and Reconciliation’ in remembrance of two of his friends, Arthur Bailey and John Bennett, who were killed in World War I. Work started in 1932 and continued in stages, the first religious service being held in 1953. In 1960 it was donated to the National Trust. Religious services continue to be held occasionally, by several different denominations. There are three houses in Whipsnade named after Blyth and his two friends.

The path going past the Tree Cathedral (the trimmed hedges are the outside walls)

From the entrance to the Tree Cathedral I continued ahead along a roughly-surfaced road, crossed the minor road through the village and walked through the grass of the common here to reach a path running along some garden hedges on the other side. I turned left alongside the hedges, and followed the path as far as Whipsnade church. I walked through the churchyard, passing right of the church, and carried on through a meadow behind the church. There was a path junction immediately after the meadow, where I turned right and followed another hedgerow downhill to reach the former lane between Whipsnade and Holywell. Turning left, I followed the old lane for a third of a mile, then took the bridleway on the right that runs between a mature hedgerow and the boundary fence of Whipsnade Zoo(unusually there were no Wallabies or Chinese Water Deer to be seen today).

The path on Whipsnade common, heading towards the church - the trees in the distance are on Whipsnade Heath


Whipsnade church (looking back)


The path through the meadow behind Whipsnade church


The path going down to the old lane


The old lane from Whipsnade to Holywell, here forming a 'green tunnel'


The bridleway beside the fence of Whipsnade Zoo

Whipsnade Zoo is owned by the Zoological Society of London and was opened to the public in 1931, the world’s first open zoological park. It covers almost 600 acres of chalk down land on the northern edge of the Chilterns. There are over 6,000 animals at the zoo, including many endangered species. Unlike some zoos, most of the animals are kept within sizeable enclosures, while others (such as wallabies, Muntjac deer and peacocks) are allowed to roam freely around the zoo. Several animals are part of international breeding programs, helping to ensure the survival of endangered species.

When the bridleway following the Zoo fence went right at a junction, I continued ahead on a bridleway that went through a small field and continued alongside the hedgerow with a  large field of oil-seed rape (no longer flowering) on my right. The bridleway here dipped down and up again to reach a wood (I think it's Church Grove, but it's possibly Mason's Plantation). After continuing through the wood for a while, I turned left at a path crossroads. This path crossed a pasture with a few mature trees in it, then I went right to pass through the churchyard around Studham church. From the church I followed Church Lane to its end, then turned right down Valley road.

The bridleway continuing towards Studham


The path in Mason's Plantation (or Church Grove, I'm not sure where one ends and the other begins)


The path to Studham church (hidden behind the tall tree in the centre)


Studham church


Valley Road, Studham


Part 2 of this walk

Chiltern Chain Walk (2) main page

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