OS Grid Ref: 181:SP970131
A sunny evening last week was a perfect time to go to the bluebell woods in the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate. Ashridge is relatively local to us and we were just going Out there for a brief walk and to enjoy the bluebells. Titania didn’t have her GoPro eye on, but we were reminded that she did bring it with her on an earlier visit last October. So here is a short tale of two Ashridge trips.
The Ashridge Estate is a large National Trust property near Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, and if you want to get Out there with your own wheels, as we do with Titania, without too much hassle it is to be recommended. The ancient woodlands are magnificent. Deer roam amongst the trees and can frequently be spotted, while there are also many species of birds and insects to be seen. Alternatively it is simply a good place to get Out there and get some fresh air and exercise.
A central landmark of the estate, the Bridgewater monument, rises above the woodlands which surround it. Nearby there is the visitor centre and cafe. There is loads of parking near here and closest to the visitor centre are the parking spaces for disabled people. There are also public loos including a disabled loo accessed using a RADAR key. In the visitor centre you can get a leaflet showing you maps of the walks around the estate which are “...likely to be suitable for people with impaired mobility and users of wheelchairs..”. It is also possible to book and borrow self-drive mobility scooters in the afternoons, and the maps and trail markings indicate which paths are suitable for these vehicles. Of course, we were there for fresh air and exercise, and on that bright Autumn day Di, Titania and I were accompanied by a good friend and two borrowed bouncy, and really well trained cocker spaniels.
There are two trails marked as suitable for Titania on the leaflet provided. The shorter and easier one loops round the woodland to the South of the visitor centre and is a fairly flat gradient advertised as “Hard, slightly bumpy path with occasional loose stones.” We have done this walk before, it is a pleasant and short walk (about one kilometre), and easy for Titania to navigate. The route we chose to do on this October day with two working dogs to exercise was a longer trail North from the monument. This the leaflet accurately describes as a “Natural earth path, firm but bumpy.”
The path led us through the woods on a generally level gradient. In places there were muddy patches, but Titania avoided these easily, although the dogs delighted in doing the opposite! The path eventually did start to descend slightly down hill, but not before arriving at view points where we could sit and enjoy the vista of the downs spread out before us in its early autumnal glory.
We trekked further down the trail, past the signs which said no mobility vehicles beyond this point, and on until the descending gradient started to be more noticeable and the path became narrower. We had probably gone around 1.5 maybe 2 km and, but knowing we needed to retrace our steps, we stopped, admired the view with some chance-met fellow walkers, and then rewound the route back to the visitor centre and a welcome cup of tea and a bun. Overall, it was not a trying trip for Titania, and a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon dog walking and sorting the world’s problems with friends.
The Autumn sun of that day was soon overtaken by the short winter days, and now Spring is upon us and the bluebells are out in the Ashridge woods.
Last week, a beautiful day, before the weatherman’s threatened downpours of the next few days, had us heading once again for Ashridge. On this occasion we did not go to the Monument, but parked in one of the numerous parking areas to be found amongst the beech woods. The trees with their fresh green leafy canopy provide a magical light in the early evening to display to best effect, the bluebell carpet underneath them. The heady scent of the bluebells, hit us as soon as we were out of the car, and was almost overpowering as we wandered through the woodland.
Paths wind their way through the bluebells their surface a beech-mast covering from the trees, soft but manageable for Titania, like a thick pile carpet. There are tree roots to be watched for, and in some places logs have strategically been placed across the path, presumably to deter bikers motorised or otherwise, from using the path. Obviously these also proved a hindrance for Titania.
Some of these obstacles we could go round, some caused us to divert onto other paths, but on a couple of occasions the only option was up and over the log requiring Di’s extra muscle power to provide the impetus.
The display of bluebells was so fantastic that these problems felt insignificant, and it would have been possible to enjoy them without having to jump the logs, if we had been prepared to limit our walk somewhat.
The effort to take Titania Out there to Ashridge was rewarded by this year’s magnificent bluebell display which was the best for many a year. It will remain a wonderful and indelible memory.
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Richard & Di
20 May 2015