Event led by Martin T, planned in 2014
Attendance: 14 men
Distance: 9.7 miles
Time: start 11.11am, end 4.26pm, 1st lunch 20 minutes, 2nd lunch 45 minutes
Terrain: Pavement, woodland track, grass, farm track, crop field
Elevation: start 110m, high 201m, low 107m
Weather: 18-22°C, overcast with sunny spells, very little wind
Number of sewage works on the walk: 0
Number of golf courses on the walk: 1
This was a circular route of 9.7 miles from Berkhamsted, NE into the Ashridge Estate, around it including Northchurch Common and Berkhamsted Common, then past the Ashridge College, SE to Nettleden, S to Frithsden, and SW to Berkhamsted.
After leaving Berkhamsted, the majority of the first half of the walk was in parts of the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate. This was essentially around 3.5 miles of trees, fields, views, flowers and woodland rides, and it included Northchurch Common, Berkhamsted Common and part of the Hertfordshire Way trail.
At around the halfway point of the route, we came to Ashridge College, which is set in a Grade I listed early 19th century Gothic revival country house, although it incorporates remains of a 13th century monastery which became a royal residence in 1539. We ate a small lunch here and took a group shot.
We then ventured into the Golden Valley, which was originally part of the grounds of Ashridge and was designed by Capability Brown in the 1760s. The Golden Valley featured in a Harry Potter film, but nobody identified which film.
We moved into a series of organic crop fields. We think they were organic, because of the extraordinarily wide range of wild flowers and insect life that surrounded us In the first field, oilseed rape grew alongside field pansies, scarlet pimpernel, pineapple mayweed, speedwells, redshanks, poppies (of various colours), white and red campions, and many more. Butterflies flitted between all flowers, and many flowers hosted loads of flies and micro-beetles. The second field, wheat accompanied many other types of grass, and the occasional cow bean plant (presumably last year’s crop). This is what farming should be like!
We then blundered into a vineyard. Well, why not? The Frithsden Vineyard held a summer fête on the day, offering us with wines, real burgers, teas and cakes We discovered the cakes were very nice, and that the vineyard’s rosé wine complemented the burgers very well indeed.
Finally, we returned to the Ashridge estate where we were able to trample across a golf course, and walked through meadows with views into Berkhamsted. At the end, six of us decided to visit Berkhamsted Castle, a ruined Norman motte and bailey castle built in 1066.
Pictures by Peter O'Connor. Words by Peter O'Connor and Martin Thornhill.