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11 June 2022: Fly the Flag – Gay Pride Month – Berkhamsted and Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire

Event led by Khris R.
Attendance: 12 men.
Distance: 9.35 miles (15.0 km).
Time: start 11:11, end 15:57, lunch 41 minutes.
Speed: moving arithmetic average 2.3 mph (3.69 kph).
Terrain: pavement, road, woodland track, field & field edge on footpaths and bridleways.
Elevation: low 105m, high 223m, start 106m
Weather: clear skies.
Number of sewage works: 0.
Number of churches: 0.
Number of golf courses: 2.
Number of ice cream scoops eaten: 7.

 

This event was a circular walk of 9.35 miles (15.0 km) from Berkhamsted railway station, NNW to the Ashridge Estate (the National Trust’s visitor centre), E to Ashridge House, then S to the start point via the Golden Valley.

The first phase of the route started in the floor of the valley in which the Grand Union Canal – and the railway – run through Berkhamsted. The town squeezes itself in where it can, resulting in small and cosy buildings. The route took the towpath of the Canal up to Norcot Hill, the entry point in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Chilterns are known to be hills, and the gradient of this part of the walk was the steepest and longest of the walk.

The second phase of the route was the extensively wooded area of the Ashridge Estate, immaculately managed by the National Trust.

Lunch took place in Meadley’s Meadow, adjacent to the visitor centre of the Ashridge Estate. Dangerously, there were two ice cream vans lurking in the estate, waiting to pounce on unwitting visitors. We succumbed.

The third phase of the walk left the woodland and reverted to the open air, towards Ashridge House and the Golden Valley. The House is now a business management school, having previously been a monastery, a royal residence, a private house, a training centre for the Conservative Party (!!) and a hospital during the second world war. Today, the House flew the rainbow flag. The Golden Valley is one particular part of the wider Ashridge Estate that got the landscaping attention of Lancelot “Capability” Brown. The land was originally flat farmland, before being absorbed into a royal garden estate. Brown dug this artificial valley between 1759 to 1768. The design concept was to produce an illusion of length with undulating bends of the valley sides. The result is a micro-climate that tends towards dry(ish) warmth and a series of slopes that encourages trees to grow fast and broad.

The third phase continued southbound towards Berkhamsted, through Frithsden Beeches, past Berkhamsted Hill. Frithsden Beeches is a woodland long managed by pollarding, the process of harvesting branches from a tree above 1m from the ground. The pollarding itself is no longer practised, but on-going management of the woodland conserves the spectacle and habitats therein. In the midst of the Beeches are various man-dug trenches, used as training for the first world war. From this point onwards, at the top of one side of the river valley, we could see Berkhamsted, cramming itself into the valley sides as best it awkwardly could.

Golf courses:

  • Ashridge Golf Club, Little Gaddesden;
  • Berkhamsted Golf Club (“Golf as nature intended”, i.e. no man-made bunkers and only natural hazards) (course not visible from the route alongside Frithsden Beeches).

6 walkers attended the optional pub stop at the end of the walk. The pub was the Rising Sun, Berkhamsted. Today, with the weather being so good, the place was absolutely packed, indoors and outdoors. The beer was kept in good condition. The pub is a drinking-only pub. This walk was in collaboration with Ask for Clive campaign; the pub holds itself out as LGBTQI+ and supports Ask for Clive.

The event was planned in line with GOC’s covid-secure policy. This walk required no particular mitigations.

In the “more pics” link below, please feel free to contribute your own pictures.

 

Words by Martin Thornhill. Pictures by Peter O’Connor.

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