Kensworth to Ivinghoe

Yesterday (Monday 22nd December 2008) I did a 17.5 mile circular walk from Kensworth to Ivinghoe and back. I had twice before walked this route, but in the opposite direction (it’s on my web site, see I thought it would make a change to do it in the clockwise direction.

I left home juat after 9.20am. Just before I turned left off the Whipsnade road, I saw a Buzzard fly across the road in front of me.  I crossed the fields to Dovehouse Lane, where I turned right and then took the path along the edge of Holywell, continuing on to reach the road from Holywell to Studham. I took another field path almost opposite, turning right at a path junction to reach Studham church. I crossed a small pasture, and carried on through a wood. As I followed a field path on the far side, I saw another Buzzard.

The path then took me across Whipsnade Golf Course, and then steeply downhill to reach the village of Dagnall. After a short road walk, I took the path along the long drive to Hog Hall. This starts out flat, but after quarter of a mile or so starts going uphill at a fairly gentle angle. From Hog Hall, the path continued steadily uphill, soon running along the edge of a large pasture with a narrow bank planted with beech trees on my right. It was quite a long, but not very steep, bit of uphill, which brought me to Ward’s Hurst farm (a familiar feature, as 5 or 6 paths meet here). It was grey, gloomy and overcast almost all the time, but rays of sunshine occasionally pierced the clouds and lit up a small bit of countryside – one such did now, the valley behind me now appearing quite bright amidst the surrounding murk.

I followed the farm drive and crossed the Ringshall to Ivinghoe Beacon road to enter the woods of Ashridge. The path curved through the trees, to soon reach the main track between the Monument and Ivinghoe Beacon. I turned right, soon passing the kennels at Clipper Down, where I saw a few Fallow Deer across a field on my left, including a large buck with impressive antlers. At a path junction I forked left, heading gently downhill. I soon emerged from the trees onto an area of chalk grassland, continuing gently downhill at an angle to the slope. I crossed over the Ridgeway path, with Pitstone Hill over to my left and Steps Hill and Incombe Hole to my right. My path continued gently downhill through another large area of grassland.

I stopped at 11.30am, sitting on the concrete block by a stile where I’d eaten lunch the two times I did this walk the other way around. My left foot was starting to feel sore in a couple of places, and so I applied some ‘Happi-wool’ which is supposed to help prevent blisters forming (so far it does seem to do a reasonable job). I carried on, the path heading steadily downhill alongside a hedge on my right. Further right I could see Ivinghoe Beacon, and ahead of me I could see Ivinghoe and much of the Vale of Aylesbury.

I walked through Ivinghoe, and started on the long bridleway going northeast towards Edlesborough. A jogger with his pet Labrador was running up and down the bridleway, and passed me three times in all. I crossed over a road on the edge of Ivinghoe Aston – the bridleway was now a wide track of grey gravel. I could soon see Edlesborough church ahead of me, and I stopped to photograph some wildflowers that were still in bloom – Charlock and Common Field Speedwell. Somehow the bridleway from Ivinghoe to Edlesborough seemed to pass much quicker than when I’d walked it in the other direction, and I reached the church sooner than I’d expected.

I continued on through the sizable village of Edlesborough, getting a better view of a moated site here than I did when walking the route in the opposite direction. I stopped to eat lunch about 12.45pm on a bench beside a playing field. It was then only a short walk to the next village of Eaton Bray, which I passed through quickly, and then only had to cross three or four fields to reach Totternhoe – there was a short crossing of part of a ploughed field where the path had not been re-instated. Again, a benefit of doing the walk in this direction was the good view of the motte of the old castle on Totternhoe Knolls.

I was feeling quite tired now and it was a bit of a struggle up the slanting path that rose to the top of the ridge that ends at Totternhoe Knolls. I turned right, heading away from the castle site, and continued past the car park, up a steepish slope with the old quarry workings down to my left. I was now on a network of green lanes, wide tracks with hedgerows either side. At a track junction I turned left – there was a flock of Yellowhammers here, and I was rather surprised to see some Reed Buntings too. I quickly turned right at a track crossroads, and the followed the green lane for about a mile into Dunstable.

It was a long steady slog up the green slope that took me to Five Knolls on the end of Dunstable Downs. I took it very slowly, as I was quite tired after five or so hours of walking on largely muddy paths. I followed the path along the top of the Downs, a paraglider flying very close by. It was still grey and gloomy so the views were nowhere near their best today. I stopped at a bench  by the old car park, for some water and coffee and another Alpen bar – unusual for me to sit for a break in the afternoon.

I crossed the road and  made my way to the path round Kensworth Quarry. I was tempted to shorten the walk by joining Isle Of Wight Lane and following it down to my home (thus saving a descent and re-ascent) but stuck to my original route. I passed a lady walking her black Labrador as I started to go down into the valley on my left. Further on, I left the quarry path and took a path along the valley, which passed through a couple of meadows, then turned right to ascend the hillside I’d only recently descended. The path ended by the small industrial estate in Common Road, Kensworth, and then it was a quarter mile stroll downhill to my home. I got home about 3.30pm.

This was a very tiring but enjoyable walk, despite the grey and gloomy conditions. I’m glad that I tried the route in the opposite direction for a change, but having done so I do think it’s slightly better in the anti-clockwise direction I’ve done it in before. This is mainly because I much preferred the long steady ascent from Ivinghoe towards Ashridge (as there are good views of Ivinghoe Beacon, Steps Hill and Pitstone Hill most of the way) rather than the long ascent from Dagnall past Hog Hall to Ward’s Hurst farm.

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