This is a walk I did yesterday (Monday 29/07/08). At about 17.5 miles it is the longest walk I’ve done for about a year or so. Here is a Google Map of the walk :-
Through looking at my local maps, I have long known that there is a bridleway running for about 2.5 miles south-west from Edlesborough to Ivinghoe, parallel to the escarpment of the Chiltern Hills which lies about a mile to the east. I thought this could make an interesting section of a walk, and finally about two weeks ago I got round to working out a circular route from Kensworth that included that bridleway.
It was quite cool and very grey as I left home about 9.35am, turning right along the extension of Common Road, Kensworth, and taking the footpath on the right just beyond the small industrial estate. This soon joined a farm track running down into a valley. At the bottom of the slope, I turned left and crossed two meadows to a kissing-gate. Thus far I’d reveresed the end of my previous walk, but now I turned left, following a path through a wood and then beside a hedgerow, curving round to the right as it climbed back up the hillside I’d just come down. I continued on the path, as it passed close to Kensworth Quarry on my right, and then took the short path to Dunstable Downs.
I turned right, and walked along the top of the Downs – just before reaching the Five Knolls burial chambers, I glimpsed a weasel running across the path ahead of me. As I started to descend the slope into Dunstable, it started to drizzle and I stopped to put my camera away and to put my raincover on my rucksack. It wasn’t wet enough for me to put my waterproofs on, though. I followed Green Lane from Dunstable towards Totternhoe, going straight on where I usually turn right to Sewell, then turning left at the next track crossroads. I soon turned right into another hedge-lined track, which rose over a small hill. Over the hedge on my right was a steep drop, the sheer face of an old chalk quarry. The track descended the other side of the hill, passed a staggered junction by the car park for the nature reserves at Totternhoe, and continued on towards Totternhoe Knolls. But before reaching the old castle site, I forked left on a path that led downhill, to reach the road through Totternhoe opposite a pub.
I turned left, then took a footpath on the right. This ran between garden fences and then crossed a small narrow paddock occupied by a single large horse. I crossed a footbridge over a stream, and went half-left along the hedge of a cattle pasture for a few yards. Over a stile, the path continued along the left edge of a corn field and then went across another field to reach the end of a lane that led into Eaton Bray. I crossed the main road through the village and carried on in roughly the same direction, again along the left edge of alarge cornfield. I crossed a larger stream and turned left, between the stream and a tall fence. I then went half-right across an area of rough grass, turning right along the hedge on the far side and continuing on a path between hedges. On reaching a lane, I turned left, and followed it to reach a road in Edlesborough. I turned right, and followed the road for about half a mile to a junction by the redundant village church.
I crossed over and took the bridleway opposite – this was the one that I’d seen on the map that had sparked my interest. Sadly, it was a little disappointing – I’d imagined that it would be a nice chalky track but in fact it was hard-surfaced with broken asphalt or tarmac, a wide grey line stretching into the distance with sheep pastures or corn fields either side. Still, it was nice to look up at the steep slope of the Chilterns to my left, with Ivinghoe Beacon a prominent feature ahead of me. To me right, the Vale of Aylesbury stretched away, not entirely flat but with little more than a few gentle undulations.
I trudged on along the grey track – it descended very gently then went up equally gently over a very long distance. After a mile and a half I crossed a road on the edge of Ivinghoe Aston (to my right) – the fingerpost here reminded me that I was also crossing the line of the Two Ridges Link, which I walked almost three years ago. The bridleway continued along a tarmac farm drive, but soon forked left onto a narrow path between hedges. There was evidence that this had been surfaced too , but some time ago as enough mud had encroached onto the path to make it a softer surface to walk on than the broken tarmac. The hedges either side really prevented me from getting any views here, except when I passed gateways into fields. I did pass through a small section of beech trees, which was a nice change, and further on I could tell there was a golf course on my right.
The bridleway finally emerged at the end of a street in Ivinghoe. At the other end of the street I turned left, and went left again when I reached the main road through the village – it was some time since I’d been here, and I’d forgotten how attractive a village Ivinghoe is. I followed the road out of the village. Just beyond a road junction (part of my driving route to Tring, Wendover and most of the Chilterns), I turned left onto a footpath. This initially ran between hedges or fences, then continued along the edge of a corn field, with a pasture beyond the hedge on my left. The path was very gradually going uphill, and continued to do so as the corn field was replaced by a meadow of long grass. The hedge finally ended, and the path continued its gradual ascent across the meadow.
There were great views here, with Ivinghoe Beacon, Steps Hill and the deep cleft of Incombe Hole to my left, and Pitstone Hill ahead and to my right. These were probably the most impressive views I’ve had of these hills, as I was seeing their full height – even the small hillock between the car park and Pitstone Hill seemed a sizeable hill from this direction! Normally I see the hills as I follow the Ridgeway path between them, but this always stays relatively high – rising slowly from the Vale of Aylesbury, I was now seeing the full height and steepness of the hills.
It was now almost 1pm and I stopped for lunch on a concrete block of some sort by a stile. The path then continued very gradually uphill through a lovely large meadow of tall grass and colourful wild flowers. There was quite a dramatic view of the deep, steep-sided Incombe Hole on my left. I then came to a familiar wooden fingerpost where I crossed the Ridgeway, running from Steps Hill on my left to Pitstone Hill to my right. I went straight on here, the path continuing along the edge of the huge meadow, then rising steadily through scrubby bushes and on into the trees of a narrow part of the Ashridge Estate (this was actually part of the Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail that I walked a week or so ago). I crossed a stile and continued a bit further uphill through the trees, to reach the main path from the Monument to Ivinghoe Beacon.
I turned right, and followed the track, soon passing a kennels on my left. A few hundred yards further, in a nice section of beech trees which sloped steeply down on my right, I turned left onto a crossing footpath. I followed it a short distance through the trees, to reach the road from Ringshall to the Beacon. I crossed over and then walked down the drive to Ward’s Hurst Farm – this is a very familiar place from several walks. I have walked five of the six paths that meetat the farm, and as I walked through the yard I was pleased to see that the one path I’ve yet to walk was clearly signposted here.
Today I carried straight on through the farm yard, joining the route of the Icknield Way. I walked through two sheep pastures, the path gradually descending – I’d forgotten how nice the view ahead to the broad Gade Valley was. Beyond the secon, very large, pasture, I followed a hedgerow a few yards to reach the drive to Hog Hall. This was tarmac, but I’d also forgotten how pleasant it was to march along the drive as it steadily descended into the valley. I heard and then saw a Buzzard over a small wood to my left, while ahead of me I could see the steep slopes of the Chiltern escarpment at Whipsnade Zoo, with Dunstable Downs further to the left. In fact I could see much of the early part of my route today.
When I eventually reached the main road, I turned right into Dagnall. As I went over the crossroads here, it started to drizzle again, but only very lightly and not for very many minutes. Curiously, the day brightened up at the same time, a nice blue patch appearing in what had generally been an overcast sky. I turned left onto a footpath beside the village school, which continued beside a right-hand hedge with some paddocks on my left – I think I saw an Alpaca in one of them. At the end of the path, I turned right onto a lane but soon went left on a footpath. This climbed steadily uphill, with a zoo paddock beyond the hedge on my left and trees and bushes on my right. I’d just stopped for some water when I reached the lane, perhaps that’s why this climb didn’t seem as steep nor as long as usual.
At the top of the slope I emerged from the trees onto Whipsnade Golf Course. I followed the waymarks, soon walking through a narrow belt of trees separating two fairways. When I came to a footpath junction, I had two or three options for getting back to Kensworth. I usually turn left, following the edge of the zoo to Whipsnade and then crossing Whipsnade Heath. For a change, I took the less familiar path straight on. I soon passed the green at the end of the fairway on my right, and went through a hedge gap to leave the golf course. The path crossed a field, and then ran along the right edge of a second field to reach a wood. A short distance into the wood, I turned left to reach another path junction on the edge of the wood. Here I went over a stile to reach n empty pasture, following the fence on my left to reach another stile by Studham church.
I now repeated part of my previous walk, following the path ahead along the right edge of two fields, then turning left and following another hedgerow to reach the road between Holywell and Studham. I took the path almost opposite, which ran along the edge of a wood and then followed a fence beside a corn field to reach the edge of Holywell. Here the path continued between garden fences on my left and a small wood on the right, which soon gave way to another corn field. I followed the very familiar path as it led on to Buckwood Lane, close to the junction with Dovehouse Lane. I turned down the latter, but after a quarter of a mile or so I took the path on the left, which crossed a couple of meadows to reach the Whipsnade road, where I turned right to return to Kensworth. It was about 3.25pm when I got home – allowing 10 minutes for lunch, I’d been walking for about 5 hours 40 minutes.
This was a great walk! I regret not taking any photos now – it was so grey and gloomy at the start of the walk I decided not to bother. But I’m sure I’ll do it again sometime on a brighter day, when I will take photos and probably write the walk up on my web site. The bridleway from Edlesborough to Ivinghoe that had aroused my interest turned out to be a little less interesting than I’d imagined, but the path from Ivinghoe was one of the most enjoyable that I have come across in my local area. It was only the middle section of the route that was new to me, from Totternhoe to Ivinghoe and on to the crossing of the Ridgeway. The rest of the route was very familiar from other walks, but this did not mar the enjoyment of a thoroughly good walk.