Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire October 2019

by Emma Bumpus on October 15, 2019

Seasonal colour, wide skies and layers of sweeping hills and woodland take careertraveller to Hertfordshire where 5,000 acres of diverse countryside smacks of autumnal rambling.

Owned and managed by the National Trust awaits a green paradise of wide open space whose pathways and forest tingle with outdoor adventure. Lofty trees are our chaperone to a variety of public paths, which spanning 80 miles bring us up close and personal to everyone from dog walkers and horse- riders to cyclists and all round nature lovers. We grab a map from the visitor centre whose choice of four colour coded waymarked routes, some long and some short, even caters for buggies and wheelchairs.

Standing in the Trust’s largest woodland is the impetus needed to climb the nearby imposing Bridgewater Monument. Built in 1832, we climb the 33 metre-high column, which built of Aberdeen granite provides 172 York stone steps that elevate us high above the treetops. Greeted by breath-taking landscape views stretching the Chilterns to central London’s Canary Wharf on a sunny day we capture all nature has to offer.

Forest therapy beckons as we opt for the 8-mile Wildlife Walk that promises open chalk hills, sprawling meadows and masses of oak and beech trees whose cathedral-like leaves reach majestically for the sky. Home to an abundance of wildlife we wander beneath the leafy canopy and embrace the onset of autumn with the satisfying crunch of leaves under foot whilst on lookout for deer. No surprises this ancient woodland is home to free roaming fallow deer, whom seasonally rut during October can be spotted at dawn on National Trust early morning walks.

Guided by yellow posts dotted with wildlife information we become acquainted with ants, beetles and haloed oak trees, whose spreading branches and holes are a habitat and shelter to insects, bats and birds. We gain an insight to the conservation work of the Trust whose aim is to protect trees from pests and disease as well as safeguard wildlife as we venture out of the forest and into the renowned Chiltern grassland.

Sweeping pastures lead us into the open Chilterns Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) hills where a patchwork of meadows and downlands reveal two Iron Age Farms and ancient monuments. Incombe Hole takes us back to the ice age on steep chalky slopes, which once underwater and covered with glaciers now offers stunning views of this protected wildlife habitat for flora and fauna. A haven for butterflies, including rare species Duke of Burgundy, we look out for migrant birds including ouzels and willow warblers plus the occasional bird of prey known to frequent the Chilterns.

In sight of Ivinghoe Beacon we reach this historical landmark, which positioned on a 233 metre high hill above sea level marks the site of a former Iron Age fort. In the steps of ancient civilisations we encounter the Ridgeway National Trail, an ancient route that travels for 87 miles across countryside stretching from Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire to Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. Spectacular Home Counties landscape is a viewpoint for countryside lovers bursting with boundless green space and outdoors adventure for all the family.

As we meander our way back on this circular Wildlife Walk we enjoy the natural wonder of autumn’s vibrant tints, leaves and colour in a playground of fungi and berry winter fodder.

Ashridge is a parkland tonic for the senses and the perfect place to escape and soak up the seasons all year round, can’t wait to revisit!

Further information:

Ashridge Estate
National Trust

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