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Ivinghoe Beacon is the meeting point of two of Britain’s oldest trade routes, the Ridgeway and the Icknield Way

Restored to full working order, the windmill at Pitsone dates back to at least 1627

Right: a map of the eight-mile circular route through the estate. The walk starts and finishes in the village of Aldbury, situated two miles from Tring station

Fallow deer roam in herds preferring the protection of wooded areas to open grass

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit”

Woodland in the region is now thriving with fungi such as this fly agaric

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Befitting its status as an ancient warning beacon, the summit is a superb viewpoint, offering a panorama of English weald stretching away past Aylesbury in a vast patchwork of farmland. Heading south, the path descends Incombe Hole, an archetype of the coombes (or hollows) by which the Ridgeway path is defined. A short detour brings the walker to the fine village of Ivinghoe and to Pitstone Windmill, sitting on a shallow hilltop above the village, its nut-brown, weather-boarded tower contrasting perfectly with the whitewashed stone

of its pedestal. A basic post mill, with a tower that turns on a central post to allow its sails to catch the wind, Pitsone is thought to be among the oldest windmills in Britain. The date 1627 inscribed on its beams implies that it is at least 380 years old. In recent years it has been restored to working order of a traditional wood-and-stone milling process, and although the sails can be turned they are left idle because starting them up causes vibrations that could damage the rest of this treasured historic building. Rejoining the Ridgeway, the path

Photography: Alamy Illustration: Steven Hall

Robert Louis Stevenson, Forest Notes

descends over broad scarps and crosses ancient woodland, passing through the nature reserve of Aldbury Nowers. This was one of the original areas granted protection by the banker and conservation pioneer Charles Rothschild as he formed a list of Britain’s most precious wildlife sites – a list which over time has become The Wildlife Trust. At this time of year the butterflies may be gone, but the reserve still throngs with mosses and mushrooms of all descriptions, from the magpie ink cap to the fly agaric. Finally, the path dips back down to Aldbury, returning you to its serene pond, Tudor frontages and inviting pubs. Rarely can you walk so far and for so long through uninterrupted broadleaf woodland, watching the season turn before you. A walk through the Ashridge Estate sets you on a trail of gold that takes your senses on a captivating journey into autumn. • Words: Nick Hallissey

CONTACTS For more information on the Ashridge Estate, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ ashridge-estate/

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LandScape Sep/Oct 2013  
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