Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Ivinghoe Beacon

A good forecast after all the rain we’ve had recently got me looking at the maps to plan a walk. The idea of walking over the Ivinghoe Beacon quickly seeded itself and a route was envisaged amongst a cornucopia of paths. All that was then needed was to go down there with my walking boots...

Starting at the car park at SP955149 (National Trust and free) Ivinghoe Beacon can be seen by crossing the road. However, that was to be the end of todays walk...I had decided to start by heading southwest along the Ridgeway.

View to the Ivinghoe Beacon from by the car park.

The Ridgeway runs between Overton Hill (Wiltshire) and the Ivinghoe Beacon (Buckinghamshire). Thought to be Britain's oldest road it dates back about 5000 years. Walking a route that has been trodden for so long feels quite humbling as you stand there with a view that stretches out for miles over the plains. These hills may not be the highest in the country, but, they punch above their weight in terms of vista to be admired. Very easy to linger round here…

Panoramic view

Tree on the first little hill

However, I was here to walk, so walk I did. Follow the Ridgeway over Pitstone Hill and down to Westland Farm. Enjoy the views all the way, whether they be the views off the escarpment, through gaps in the trees or even just the dappled light on the woody path. Once here it is on to the Herfordshire way, follow the path round past Church Farm into Aldbury.

The view back from Pitstone Hill
View from the woods


Aldbury Church

If you ever want to go and see a quintessential English country village then this is the place to go. I know it is a cliche to say “chocolate box image” but it is. Swap the modern cars for a few Morris Minors and this could be a scene from the 1950’s...


From here though you have to climb as you head up the hill towards the Bridgewater monument. A word of caution here - as you climb the hill  you come to a V-junction in the path. The OS map makes it look as if the monument is on the lower path...it isn’t, it is on the higher one! Head for the NT symbol. Signs like this one don’t help either. Yes, I know I need to keep going but...

Which way???

The Monument itself was built on the Ashridge Estate in 1832 in memory of Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater (1736–1803), "the father of inland navigation". So called as he was the commissioner of the Bridgewater Canal, arguably the first true canal in Britain and the modern world. It is 108 feet (33 m) tall, with 170 steps inside. You can climb to the top and look out towards Ashridge House. I didn’t do this today as it was absolutely heaving with people here as it is part of the National Trust and it was a gloriously good day. More disappointingly though the cafe was packed as well - no tea and cake for me! Still, probably better for the waist line!!

Bridgewater Monument

One final note - the Monument was built away from Ashridge House as his mother wanted "not to see or be reminded of my infernal son". Family eh...

From here though it is time to enter the woods as you follow the tracks past Sallow Copse. This was the point where I was really glad I had put proper walking boots on. I’d been debating trail shoes earlier on but choose boots given all the rain recently. At first the paths had been very dry, occasional muddy patch in the shade of the trees but nothing that couldn’t be side stepped. Here though it was proper mud with my feet sinking deeply enough into the brown stuff that I’d have had wet feet in shoes. I have to say as well that these woodland tracks weren’t always brilliantly marked and there was a definite detour into the car park at SP981143 with the marked footpaths on the map not always visible on the ground.

Entering the woods

From here on though the going improved again. Follow the path around the reservoir and in front of Ringshall Coppice. Here was a an interesting broken bough (maybe even a whole tree) and some very nice fields in which to linger for lunch. Whilst here came across the cutest Westie in the world. Being walked by his owner, with whom I had exchanged a few pleasantries about the weather, he just sat there and wouldn’t go past. Thinking he might be scared of the big strange man I took a few steps back off the path and crouched down, but, he still just stood there refusing to go despite the owner calling and encouraging him. Eventually we realized he was scared of my rucksack! As soon as I moved it he raced past to his owner. Awwww!

Broken boughs

Grass and Sky

Anyway I digress. Continue along this path past Ward’s Hurst Farm and then through The Coombe as you pick up the Icknield Way Trail. This runs from the Ivinghoe Beacon (Buckinghamshire) to Knettishall Heath (Suffolk) and is another of Britain's most ancient Trackways. Along with the Ridgeway it forms part of the Greater Ridgeway. A 583 kilometre long distance footpath crossing England from Lyme Regis (Dorset) to Hunstanton (Norfolk). This is made up of four long distance footpaths - the Wessex Ridgeway, The Ridgeway National Trail, the Icknield Way and the Peddars Way National Trail.

Sheep on the Farm

However, rather than follow it directly to Ivinghoe Beacon I decided to take a little detour. As you come out of The Coombe turn right and follow the footpath along the fields and up to Gallows Hill. This give you some lovely views up to Beacon Hill and towards the White Lion.  Created in 1933 it is on the slope beneath Whipsnade Wildlife Park which it effectively advertises.

Whipsnade White Lion

Path back down the hill

Fields, Hills and Sky

From here just follow the ridge (and enjoy the cooling breeze) as you walk up to Ivinghoe Beacon itself. Only 233m (757 feet) above sea level it nevertheless provides a sumptuous vista and is rightly popular with all the people and families who were there enjoying the view. 

View from Ivinghoe Beacon

Another view from Ivinghoe Beacon
From here the end is also in sight as we step back onto the Ridgeway and follow it over Steps Hill and around Incombe Hole to the car park.

Look down into Incombe Hole

Look back at the path around Incombe Hole

All in all a great walk on a great day. I shall have to go back again some other day...


  1. Cheers Al, they're great photos mate.

  2. Very, very lovely views of gentle rolling farmland. I really like your pictures of grass, you make it all look quite glorious. Awesome!

    1. Thanks Dittzzy! It really was beautiful and I was trying to do it justice...

  3. Great blog and pics thanks . I plan to go tomorrow :)