I’m not one for driving in the snow, so my son and I hadn’t wondered far from home on his snow day and last Saturday. We were both in need of some fresh air and as Daddy P was around with his 4 wheel drive, we knew we could safely explore come Sunday. As it was, the thaw had started so the roads were really clear, and in some places there was barely a sign that we’d had any snow at all. We’d donned our waterproofs and decided we’d spend some time exploring the Ashridge Estate for the first time.
The estate sprawls across Hertfordshire into Buckinghamshire, close to the Bedfordshire border and it’s somewhere I’ve had on my to do list for ages. It’s run by the National Trust, with free parking dotted around the property. We decided that as this was our first visit, we’d head for the main car parks close to the visitor centre so we could get our bearings. One future visits I can see we could park and check the relevant car park map for ideas of paths to follow.
We got my son’s National Trust passport stamped, picked up a leaflet with an overview of the paths available and headed off.
It was rather sludgy underfoot and a rather dull day, but we weren’t going to let that stop us exploring. You can’t miss the Bridgewater Monument as you approach the visitor centre. It wasn’t open to the general public when we visited, so we will be back again to see inside another day.
We started off down the Duncombe Terrace Family Walk. It’s a linear surfaced walk which I’ve since discovers finishes about a mile short of Ivinghoe Beacon. The leaflet indicates that it takes an hour to reach the end of the walk and I can see my son and I walking it and on to the Beacon on another visit. Even on a dull day there was beauty to be seen in the trees all around us.
We decided that we wouldn’t walk the entire route as we spent time exploring the Ashridge Estate for the first time and headed off onto one of the little footpaths to explore a little more.
This footpath was taking us down into the valley and was a little slippery underfoot but we had fun as we made our way along the path.
My son found time for a bit of music practice along the way with some trunk drumming.
We weren’t entirely sure where we were going (note to self: download more comprehensive maps for future visits) so again we didn’t wander too far once we’d reach the valley. My OH isn’t as good as walking as my son and I so I’m always a bit wary of walking too far into unknown territory when he’s with us.
More and more I’m seeing my son’s confidence grow and an independent spirit start to surface. Gone are the days where he’d hold me hand constantly, especially if we were visiting somewhere new. now he’s often to be found walking ahead.
Leading the way, pretty much always with a stick or log in hand, but not often just by my side.
The tree trunk fascination definitely came to a head as he was exploring the Ashridge Estate for the first time. He was often to be found sprawled over a fallen trunk, playing music or just getting up close and personal. It’s a good job his red coat washes so well!
Once back on the main Duncombe Terrace walk we decided that whilst we wouldn’t do the complete walk, we’d do a little exploring whilst we were there.
We followed the path and crossed the bridge, wondered what lay ahead.
It wasn’t long before my son discovered the Moneybury Hill Barrow with its 4000 year old ancient Bronze Age burial site.
My son’s learned about barrows before when we’ve been out walking with his godmother down in Wiltshire. He was soon off to have a closer look.
Another large felled tree trunk provided more entertainment on the top of the barrow. Mummy I’m going to move this.
You have to admire his determination, but eventually even he realised that the trunk was quite happy where it was. Time for some stick music instead.
Our next find along this particular walk was a replica of an old Victorian shooting lodge.
It would have been a rather magical scene to have seen it all covered in snow a few days earlier.
It reminded me of a few fairy tales and again my son was eager to get up close and investigate further.
We walked a little further and then decided to turn round as our stomachs were telling us it was lunch time.
There’s a really rather good cafe attached to the visitor centre with outdoors seating, partially covered. It’s clearly popular, and we expected to have a bit of a wait for our sausage, bacon and egg baps. But the service was really quick and the food tasted excellent. I was too engrossed to take a photo! We will be back for more of the same in future!
I’d spotted the Meadleys Meadow Family Walk on the map, it’s a 20 minute circular walk and would take us back towards the car park and Clinkmere Pond.
It’s an easy walk which goes around the edge of the meadow and it was a good way to walk off our lunch. My son had decided that we were now trains (don’t ask) and that he was in charge of changing there points (AKA long stick). He imagination never ceases to amuse me.
We found the most wonderful old oak tree, 400 years old would you believe, what sights it must have seen.
There were little dens all over the place and I knew my son wouldn’t be able to resist them for long.
We arrived at Clinkmere Pond to find that is was frozen pretty much solid but we tried to imagine it in a few months time with all sorts of insect life hovering around and the pond itself full of life.
Again, a return visit is a must we all agreed.
Exploring the Ashridge Estate for the first time gave us a taste of what the area has to offer, and I’ve since printed off a number of trails for us to discover together in the future. We definitely want to get to Ivinghoe Beacon this year too.
As we headed home we made a quick stop at Pitstone Windmill, and I’ll share that with you in a future post.