Ashridge and Little Gaddesden, Chilterns

Visit some of the quieter parts of the Ashridge Estate on the way to Hudnall Common and Little Gaddesden.

Technical sheet No. 29220198

A Aldbury walk posted on 08/12/22 by Chiltern Society. Last update : 15/03/23
Calculated time Calculated time: 3h40[?]
Distance Distance : 11.90 km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 81 m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 79 m
Highest point Highest point : 226 m
Lowest point Lowest point : 155 m
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Chiltern Hills
Location Location : Aldbury
Starting point Starting point : N 51.807821° / W 0.593284°
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The Golden Valley in Autumn


Start: National Trust Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre car park. Nearest postcode: (HP4 1LT). Grid ref: SP 971 130

(D/A) The walk starts at the Ashridge visitor centre. With your back to the centre (sign over door reads 'Visitor Centre and Shop') head right towards the car park. Take the path that runs along the right hand edge of the car park and turn right where marked 'Public Bridleway'. Continue into the woods along the edge of the meadow behind the visitor centre, following the purple signs marked Foresters Walk .

(1) As you near the opposite corner of the meadow look out for a waymark post that indicates a bridleway off to the left and a little back on yourself. Take this, still on the Foresters Walk, and in 200m you come to a 5-way junction. Take the second right, continuing to follow the Foresters Walk (A). Note that the footpath runs along a broad mud track in which you will often see vehicle tracks (as well as footprints).

(2) When you come to a crossroads of paths after passing the meadow on the left, take the bridleway to the left. The path here has a well made up centre.

Continue straight across the B4506 and into the woods on the other side (signposted Berkhamsted Common). Walk along an avenue of mature beeches at first through woods and then with a field on the left hand side (ignore any more Foresters Walk signs). Once again you can often see deer in the open fields here.

(3) Follow the bridleway as it curves right uphill away from the edge of the wood.

You soon meet a road near some houses (Woodyard Cottages). Turn right on the road following it as it curves left and starts to climb gently. Keep on the road as it curves back right and levels off.

(4) As the road approaches the outbuildings of Coldharbour farm, you will see a crossing bridleway. There are several different paths here. Ours is the broad path heading directly left off the road. There are parallel paths in the woods on either side which may be less muddy than the main path, but try to keep the main path in sight.

After 150m you come to a bridleway fork. Take the left fork - you may just be able to see the grass of the open common ahead of you. The post here has many signs - take the Icknield Way Trail.

When you reach the open common walk along the left hand edge (B). At the far side (eastern edge) of the common keep straight ahead through a narrow strip of woodland to reach a road.

(5) Cross the road and take the public footpath signposted Little Gaddesden up the road on the opposite side (Frithsden Rise). Do not be tempted off the road by the footpath to the right. Keep straight ahead between the houses and a beech hedge. This becomes a broad path between hedges then fences.

Pass through a kissing gate in to a field above the south end of the Golden Valley (C). Keep heading in the same direction across the field - the line of the path should be faintly visible. As you walk over a rise you will see a fence ahead of you. Aim for the gate.

After passing through the gate the path bends a little to the right then curves back left over a rise. From the rise you should be able to see a waymark post ahead of you at the edge of the wooded slope. Head for this.

(6) Turn sharp-right up the wide stony track ascending into the trees. Follow it as it bends sharply left, continuing to ascend to a road. Cross and turn left on the pavement.

(7) You soon come to a bridleway to the right signposted to Hudnall Corner (it passes between Shepherd Cottage and Vine Cottage). For a short stretch the route passes between houses and farm buildings so look out for the signs. Leave the buildings through a farm gate on a broad track between hedges.

The bridleway is easy to follow as it bends first left and then right around fields. Finally the bridleway passes through a patch of woodland before bringing you out on the edge of Hudnall Common

(8) Cross over the road on to the common and turn left, following the left hand edge of the grassy area with a belt of trees between you and the road. Stay on the grass keeping the trees on your left and as the path starts to descend there will be trees ahead of you.

Enter the trees at the corner and continue straight ahead (north) on an unmarked indistinct path through the trees. This drops then climbs to cross a minor road and brings you to a second section of grassy common.

Continue in the same direction across the meadow and, as you near the brow of the slope, you will should see the yellow of a waymark post at the edge of the trees. Head for this post.

If the grass in the meadow is too high, you can follow the path left around the edge of the common, turning half right a couple of times at the edge of the trees. The post at Waypoint 9 is about 80m after the second turn.

(9) At the waymark post turn half left into the woods. Turn right on a minor road for a short distance and at the gate to Meadow's Farm take the footpath ahead of you. This soon brings you out at the edge of a field. You should be able to see the church of Little Gaddesden in the distance ahead of you.

Where you meet a fork in the path after passing through a gate, keep straight ahead on the left of a hedge. Now follow the obvious path to the church (D).

(10) After visiting the church take the footpath that runs between the church car park and the churchyard heading west away from the road to the village. You cross several fields before coming to a road. Turn left on the road and in 200m you reach the Bridgewater Arms pub.

(11) Cross the road and walk through the pub car park taking the footpath at the far side marked Chiltern Way. The path runs between the gardens of the grand houses of Little Gaddesden. It drops down broad steps, cross a lane and continues to descend between hedges. At the end of the gardens near the valley bottom you emerge at the edge of a woodland. Turn right taking the gently climbing path at the edge of the trees.

You will soon be walking through a narrow belt of trees with a golf fairway on your left and more gardens on your right. You are now at the upper end of the Golden Valley.

When you come to the B4506 cross over and continue in the same direction on the other side through a small car park. Look out for a broad crossing path in 150m.

(12) Turn left at the crossroads. The footpath follows a broad grassy track.

Many of the trees in this part of the wood are Chestnuts - look out for the fissured bark, the long leaves with serated edges and, in autumn, the spiky cased nuts.

After 1km you come to a major path junction. Here turn half-right onto a broad bridleway. This leads you back to your starting point. Follow the signs to the visitor centre and Bridgewater Monument at several path intersections. (D/A)

We hope you have enjoyed your walk. Please remember to rate the walk and add comments. We are interested in how we could improve the instructions or the route and would like to hear about any issues with paths on the walk.

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 224 m - National Trust Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre
1 : km 0.47 - alt. 216 m - Sharp-left
2 : km 1.32 - alt. 204 m - Path Crossroads
3 : km 2.43 - alt. 183 m - Path curves right
4 : km 3.3 - alt. 187 m - Coldharbour Farm - The battle of Berkhamsted Common, Chilterns
5 : km 4.33 - alt. 156 m - Road - Golden Valley, Chilterns
6 : km 5.57 - alt. 159 m - Waymark Post
7 : km 6.09 - alt. 174 m - Sign to Hudnall Corner
8 : km 7 - alt. 179 m - Hudnall Common
9 : km 7.55 - alt. 180 m - Waypoint 9
10 : km 8.56 - alt. 191 m - Little Gaddesden Church
11 : km 9.39 - alt. 196 m - Bridgewater Arms
12 : km 10.59 - alt. 222 m - Broad crossing path
D/A : km 11.9 - alt. 226 m - National Trust Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre

Useful Information

Start & finish: National Trust Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre car park. Nearest postcode: HP4 1LT. Grid ref: SP 971 130

Parking: National Trust Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre car park and on Monument Drive.

Local transport: Buses 30 & 31 runs between Hemel Hempstead and Aldbury on Mondays to Saturdays. Bus 32 runs between Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted on Mondays to Fridays. Both services stop at the end of Monument Drive

Terrain: An easy walk that can be muddy after rain. There are a couple of short steep climbs.

Food & drink: Monument Café at the Ashridge Visitor Centre. Bridgewater Arms pub at Little Gaddesden.

Find more walks and information at Chiltern Society here.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

(A) Bluebells: This path is one of the best places in Ashridge to see bluebells.  Visit in late April/early May for the best display. The contrast between the violet blue flowers and the acid green of the new beech leaves is stunning. Look into the field to the left of the path - you may see fallow deer sharing the field with the cows.

(B) The battle of Berkhamsted Common: The tranquil woods and open common you have just been walking through were once the scene of violent confrontation. Lord Brownlow decided to fence the common with a 2m metal fence and claim it for himself. The local MP responded by leading local people and hired men from the East End of London to break the fences and protect the common for the people of Berkhamsted. This action on the 6 March 1866 became known as the 'Battle of Berkhamsted Common'. Its 150th anniversary was celebrated in 2016.

(C) Golden Valley: Capability Brown remodeled the parkland of Ashridge Estate in the 1760's. The Golden Valley is a fine example of his 'naturalistic' tree planting. Mature trees cling to the steep sides of the sinuous dry valley. This can be spectacular in autumn when the leaves turn. In 1806 Humphrey Repton landscaped the gardens around the House.
The name 'Golden Valley' is said to derive from the appearance of ripe corn planted in the valley bottom.

(D) Church of St Peter and Paul, Little Gaddesden The church stands on small rise away from the village above the Gade valley. From the rear of the churchyard it is possible to see 3 counties: Hertfordshire (in which the church sits), Bedfordshire (to east and north) and Buckinghamshire (west). It is said that the church sits alone because when the village was struck by black death twice in the 14th century, the villagers decided to move to a new site.
The main fabric of the church is 15th century but the south aisle was added in the early 19th century for the Earl of Bridgewater. There are many high quality tombs in the Bridgewater Chapel, the chancel has some lovely 19th and 20th century decoration and fittings.

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