Studham and Dunstable Downs, Chilterns

There’s a lot of lovely, rolling countryside in and around Studham Common, and dramatic views from Dunstable Downs. This walk visits a tree cathedral and a 16th-century church, and offers the possibility of spotting exotic animals at Whipsnade Zoo.

Technical sheet No. 29288088

A Studham walk posted on 13/12/22 by Chiltern Society. Last update : 16/03/23
Calculated time Calculated time: 3h40[?]
Distance Distance : 11.97 km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 90 m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 89 m
Highest point Highest point : 246 m
Lowest point Lowest point : 169 m
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Chiltern Hills
Location Location : Studham
Starting point Starting point : N 51.831317° / W 0.516895°
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View of Ivinghoe Beacon


Start: Studham War Memorial, on the corner of Church Road and Clement End Road, Studham (A) LU6 2QG. Grid ref: TL 022 158.

(D/A) From the memorial turn left up Church Road and take the path on the right just after the Methodist church. Walk along the edge of the first field for 350m to a path junction.

(1) Turn right along the edge of the same field and the next, and go through a gate onto a road (Dunstable Road). Cross, turn left along the pavement and take the path on the right just after No.132. Walk up through the wood, stay in the same direction between the fields and follow the path along the edge of a housing estate. Continue alongside the next field and pass more houses on the left to drop down to a path junction.

(2) Bear left onto the path that runs parallel to the road on the right, and follow it for 400m before turning left up into an estate. Turn right along the pavement, take the path on the right immediately after No.11 Bramblewood, and follow it along the field edge to reach a busy road (Dunstable Road).

(3) Cross the road, turn left along it for 50m and turn right through a kissing gate into the field. Walk along the left-hand edge of the first field and stay in the same direction to go through the gate into the grounds of the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Whipsnade (B). Walk past the church and leave the grounds at the front gate onto Whipsnade Green.

(4) Bear half right over the grass towards a pair of national speed limit signs. Cross the road (B4540) in front of the signs onto a wide grass triangle. Follow the hedgerow round to the left to join a bridleway. Stay straight ahead for 1km to a path junction at the communication mast.

(5) Turn right on the main track (not the mud track by the fence). Turn right again when you meet a surfaced access road and walk to the National Trust Chiltern Gateway Centre. On the way go past Dunstable Downs (C). Before you reach the car-park and road you should be able to cut across the field direct to the Gateway Centre.

(6) Walk down from the Centre to the Windcatcher sculpture. Turn left along the top of the ridge and to the right of the hedgerow. Go through a gate, continue in the same direction to the left of the pylons for 1km and go through a gate.

(7) Bear round to the left onto a wide bridleway heading away from the ridge between hedges. Continue along the track for 600m to the footpath left just after a bungalow.

(8) Turn left past the barrier and through a gate into a field. Follow the hedgerow on the right through two more gates into the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral (D). Bear to the right of the Cathedral to the car park.

(9) Take the car park access track half-right, then turn left past houses to meet the B4540 road near Chapel Cottage. Bear right over the road to the lane opposite and walk past Maple Cottage and The Old Post Office to drop down the grassy slope to a lane (Studham Lane). Turn left along it for 600m to reach a path on the right just before the second set of barriers.

(10) Take this path, signed for The Chiltern Way, as it runs alongside the high fencing of Whipsnade Zoo (E). Where the fencing ends, continue to the path junction and go straight ahead. Keep to the left-hand edge of two fields, enter a wood and follow the path round to the left. Walk along the edge of the wood for 180m to a path junction with a small footbridge on the left.

(11) Turn right to leave The Chiltern Way, and stay on this path for 240m to reach a T-junction. Turn left, follow the path round to the right and, after 50m, turn left on a path along the edge of the wood.

(12) Where the path inside the wood turns sharply left, turn right down a rough slope into a field. Turn left through a gate and continue to the right of a hedge following the line of the overhead cables. Stay in the same direction through a gate and over a lane to the bridleway opposite. Continue past a school and onto the wide grassy path to return to the start.(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. 169 m - Studham War Memorial
1 : km 0.44 - alt. 182 m - Path junction
2 : km 2.01 - alt. 181 m - Path junction - Road
3 : km 3 - alt. 203 m - Dunstable Road - St Mary Magdalene Church
4 : km 3.59 - alt. 213 m - Whipsnade Green
5 : km 4.84 - alt. 246 m - Communication mast - Dunstable Downs, Chilterns
6 : km 5.54 - alt. 239 m - Gateway Centre
7 : km 6.94 - alt. 223 m - Gate - Wide bridleway
8 : km 7.57 - alt. 216 m - Bungalow - Barrier - Whipsnade Tree Cathedral
9 : km 8 - alt. 219 m - Car park
10 : km 8.98 - alt. 190 m - Barriers - Sign "The Chiltern Way" - Whipsnade Zoo
11 : km 10.39 - alt. 201 m - Small footbridge
12 : km 10.86 - alt. 191 m - Wood
D/A : km 11.97 - alt. 170 m - Studham War Memorial

Useful Information

Start & finish: Studham War Memorial, on the corner of Church Road and Clement End Road, Studham LU6 2QG. Grid ref: TL 022 158.
An alternative start point is The Chilterns Gateway Centre, Dunstable Road, Whipsnade LU6 2GY. Grid ref: TL 007 195

Maps: OS Explorer 182, Chiltern Society 20 & 21

Parking: Small car park at the junction of Kensworth Road and Clement End Road LU6 2QG Grid ref: TL 023 157. If this is full, park in Church Road. Pay parking at Chiltern Gateway Centre.

Local transport: Details for bus services to Studham, Whipsnade and Dunstable Downs can be found on

Terrain: An easy, stile-free walk on good surfaces which can be muddy at times. There are a number of kissing gates. No steep climbs.

Food & drink: Studham – The Red Lion in Church Rd LU6 2QA and The Bell in Dunstable Rd LU6 2QG. In Whipsnade the walk passes close to the Old Hunters Lodge, The Cross Roads LU6 2LN. The Chilterns Gateway Centre, Dunstable Downs

This walk was created for the book "More Great Walks in the Chilterns" available from the Chiltern Society, White Hill Centre, White Hill, Chesham, Bucks, HP5 1AG Tel. 01494 771250 and from Amazon

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) Studham is an ancient village referred to In the Domesday Book as Estodham. For many years the parish straddled the border between Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and was partitioned until 1894, when it was united under Bedfordshire. According to a local story, the Government ruled that whichever council installed electricity first could lay claim to the whole village. There are two pubs: The Bell, which is the highest pub in Bedfordshire and The Red Lion, which used to have a cockfighting pit.
Studham Common has been vital to the community for generations for livestock grazing and firewood. The Common’s varied habitats support an impressively wide range of flora and fauna, including rare species such as the skylark, the hazel dormouse and several varieties of orchid. In 1997 The Friends of Studham Common were formed to help restore and replant hedgerows, reclaim lost grasslands and woodland glades, and re-open footpaths and bridleways. The Chiltern Society’s Wendover Woods Conservation Group has been coming to Studham Common for several years, helping the Friends to restore hedges and creating wildlife habitats.

(B) St Mary Magdalene Church is a simple structure, built of brick, with a 16th century tower, a nave (1719) designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, and an apse added in 1860. The pulpit and altar rail are Jacobean. The interior is light and well-maintained.

(C) Dunstable Downs is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is renowned for its abundant plants and wildlife. At 243m it’s the highest point in Bedfordshire and is a popular venue for gliding, hang gliding, paragliding and kite flying. The Downs played their part in naval history. In the early 19th century they were the site of a signalling station that allowed the Royal Navy to send messages from London to its base in Great Yarmouth. The Chilterns Gateway Centre was built some years ago and has become a very popular meeting place. The Windcatcher aerates the Centre, keeping it cool in summer.

(D) Whipsnade Tree Cathedral was planted in the early 1930s by Edmond Blyth as an act of ‘faith, hope and reconciliation’ in honour of those killed in WWI. Its design was inspired by Blyth’s visit to Liverpool Cathedral. There are grass avenues lined with deciduous and evergreen trees and shrub species, which form the chancel, nave, transepts, chapels and cloisters. The site is owned by the National Trust and administered by the Trustees of Whipsnade Tree Cathedral Fund.

(E) Whipsnade Zoo was originally known as Whipsnade Wild Animal Park. It’s open from 10am every day except Christmas Day. You can drive round part of the zoo to view the Asian animals and there’s a steam train on busy days in the summer.

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