Studham Common to Nettleden and back

A shorter walk than usual today, I was only walking for about 3.5 hours. I started from the car park at Studham Common. The temperature was 2C when I set off at about 9.40am (it had only risen to 3C when I got back), and it was a grey overcast morning, although the sun broke through and it brightened up later on.

I crossed the road from the car park and followed the path west along the top of the common. I crossed another road and continued on, now in a wooded section of the common. I passed Studham School on my right, and followed a field edge to Valley Road. I then went half-left on a path going diagonally uphill across a ploughed field, to reach the lane to Dagnall. On the other side I followed a bridleway alongside another field, then through a small wood, before descending steeply into the Gade Valley (nice views here in both directions, with Ivinghoe Beacon just visible to the north).

Across the road in the valley bottom, I continued alongside another hedgerow as the path climbed fairly steeply up the opposite side of the valley. At the top of the hill, on the edge of Hudnall, I went half right across a flat field (meeting my second jogger of the day) and then across a couple of small sheep pastures. Little Gaddesden church was a short distance to my right. I crossed the drive to the church and went through a small meadow, then an alley behind some houses, and next along a fenced path between paddocks to reach the road through Little Gaddesden.

I crossed over and went through a pub car park, then folowed a path between fences downhill. This took me into a part of the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate, by part of Ashridge Golf Course. I turned left on a good path (part of the Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail) which ran for some distance with trees either side. I crossed the drive to Ashridge House, and carried on along Golden Valley, a broad strip of grass through  a valley bottom with woods on either side. A few scenes in the BBC’s brilliant ‘Cranford’ (last episode tomorrow night, sadly) were filmed here. Near the end of the grass strip I turned left and walked uphill through the trees, noticing a Great Spotted Woodpecker as I did so.

I passed through another bit of Little Gaddesden, then took the path to Nettleden. This is one of my favourite local paths, as it goes for almost 1.5 miles along a valley without passing anything – no houses, farms, not even any hedgerows. Sometimes the fields here are grass, sometimes arable crops – usually the path is very distinct, but today it was a little faint and at the far end had disappeared completely – I had to guess the line and follow it as best I could.

I just touched the edge of Nettleden, immediately turning left and going uphill on a clear path beside another hedgerow – I saw a Bullfinch fly along here, the fifth I’ve seen recently (I usually only see them maybe 6-7 times a year, if that). The path took me to St Margarets, close to a Buddhist monastery. From there, I took a nice path downhill through a paddock and then a couple of pastures to the village of Great Gaddesden. Again, I just touched the edge of the village, before returning to another pasture where I crossed a series of small footbridges to cross the river Gade and reaching the main road running through the Gade Valley.

I now went uphill again, the path initially by a hedge, then heading half-left across the field (some root crop) to a wood. There was a pleasant path through the wood for about a third of a mile, then I followed hedgerows through three grassy meadows to reach a lane just outside Gaddesden Row. I continued on down a track, where I saw several redwings in a tree, then followed the edge of an empty sheep pasture. I carried on alongside hedgerows for another half-mile or so (this is part of my favourite local walk), when suddenly I saw a buzzard fly from a tree. I soon saw a second one quite nearby. As I continued along the hedgerow, I saw some fieldfares and a couple of jays.

I reached a road where I turned right, now in Clements End, a hamlet in the parish of Studham. I followed the road as it turned left, then turned right on a footpath along a gravel drive. Just before reaching a house this went slightly left and crossed a paddock where three horses grazed on some straw. I then continued on alongside a wood on my right, and then went through a gap in the hedge of me to return to Studham Common, where I turned left to return to my car. It was only about 1.20pm, so I saved my packed lunch until I’d driven the couple of miles back to my home.

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