Friday, 12 September 2014

Ivinghoe Beacon and Aldbury

Looking south from Ivinghoe Beacon

I met up with my friend Chris for this lovely circular walk. The first part repeats the Ivinghoe Beacon to Wigginton section of the Ridgeway which I did last year: I have tried to avoid taking the same pictures again. The view above shows the Ridgeway stretching out before us.

We walked ahead, crossed a road and continued along Steps Hill to pass Instone Hole on the right.

This winding combe is a very attractive feature and this time I noticed (but only because Chris pointed it out) that there is a windmill in the middle of the large field in the background.

We headed then across open ground to cross a lane which is also the route of the Icknield Way. This is the view back to Ivinghoe Beacon.

We climbed Pitstone Hill and skirted Aldbury Nowers, a series of slopes which are now a nature reserve. Like last year, it was too late to see much in the way of butterflies.

After this we left the Ridgeway and headed east into Aldbury, first passing the church of St John the Baptist. The chancel dates back to the 13th century.

The centre of the village features the old Manor House overlooking the duck pond and stocks. We had an excellent lunch at the Greyhound pub.

We left Aldbury following a track which climbed quite steeply up to Pitstone Common and the Bridgewater Monument.

This monument to Francis Egerton, the third Duke of Bridgewater, a pioneer of the development of canals, was designed by Sir Jeffry Wyattville and erected in 1832.

The monument is within the Ashridge estate and the next stage of the walk involved following a winding track through the woods along the perimeter of the estate. Although we were quite high (200 metres or so) we could see little for the trees. Eventually we worked out that these were mostly ash trees and that we were we on a ridge - ah! Ashridge!

At length we emerged into open country and admired the open panorama to the right (slightly north of east). We were very struck by the animal carved out of the chalk of Dunstable Downs. It was the White Lion.

It is associated with the nearby Whipsnade Zoo and dates only from 1933. Only a couple of weeks ago I was looking at the much older white horse near Osmington in Dorset, created in honour of George III.

I asked myself why I didn't notice the White Lion on last year's Ridgeway walk. The picture above shows it very clearly at the end of Gallows Hill, which heads off east from Ivinghoe Beacon. I dug out last year's picture from about the same spot for comparison.

I zoomed in further today, but the Lion was definitely there last year, albeit rather less distinct. It looks as though he has been refurbished during the year.

Conditions: warm and quite sunny.

Distance: 7 miles or so.

From: Chilterns and Thames Valley (Pathfinder Guides), although we started in a different place and did the walk in the reverse direction.

Map: Explorer 181 (Chiltern Hills North).

Rating: four and a half stars.

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