Chilterns Ramble: in the footsteps of the Ashridge Drovers.

The weather looked promising on Sunday, if a tad on the chilly side, and with the Chilterns no more than thirty minutes or so away by train, Sarah and I made our pack-up, filled our water bottles and the thermos, and were on our way. Euston station was very well organised with more than usual staff ensuring that people kept, as far as possible, out of one another’s way. Everyone in the concourse was wearing a mask, as they were on the 12 carriage train, and we were able to sit with no one facing us or even particularly close. The surprise came when alighting at Tring station, when the platform was suddenly awash with ramblers, sixty of them at least, two organised groups and the remainder in dribs and drabs like us. And a further surprise, the majority oƒ them seemed to be aged 30 or younger. Not the kind of rambling groups we’re used to walking with.

Most of the other walkers seemed to be heading towards Ivinghoe Beacon – a fine circular walk marking one end of the Ridgeway [Britain’s oldest ‘road’, beginning some 87 miles away in Wiltshire], but a few miles longer than the Ashridge Drovers Walk, which would have us following in the footsteps of farmers and cattlemen of former times, who used the paths to drive their cattle between the villages of Pitstone, Ivinghoe and Aldbury. [Think an Ealing Comedy version of Howard Hawks’ Red River.]

Not far from the beginning of the walk, a long and steep climb (and I do mean steep) takes you up to the Bridgewater Monument [dedicated to the third Duke of Bridgewater, known as ‘the father of inland navigation’] and thence into attractive ancient woodland which, after progressing a mile or so northwards, curves eastwards and joins the Ridgeway, bringing you back over Pitstone Hill (steep, but not nearly as steep as before) and eventually down towards Tring Station. An easy and enjoyable six miles in all. And, if we hadn’t missed the Euston train by minutes, a perfect end to the day – as it was, we had a deserted platform on which to sit, suitably distanced, and eat our sandwiches. [Since you ask, Co-op’s Finest Mature Somerset Cheddar with banana and hot mango chutney, followed by chunky peanut butter and raspberry jam with yet more banana. Do we know how to treat ourselves or what?]