England can be beautiful – despite the weather. We have travelled across the country and marvelled at what it has to offer. But sometimes we don’t want to go very far to enjoy something special. That’s what took us to Ashridge, a National Trust property, which is gorgeous for walking and, at this time of year especially, worth a visit simply to see the bluebells.
Located in the Chiltern Hills (around an hour from London), the Ashridge Estate covers around 5,000 acres, and has wonderful woodlands, with many beech and oak trees, as well as chalk downlands. Because of its variety of landscapes, it supports diverse wildlife – from butterflies in the summer, deer in the autumn and beautiful bluebells each spring.
It’s the bluebells which particularly attract visitors as they are simply gorgeous, laid out like carpets on the ground. The best place to see them is at Dockey’s Wood, about a five minute drive from the visitors centre at Ashridge, although you can also walk there from the main part of the estate. Be warned that it can get very, very busy near the wood. We visited in the late afternoon when it was a bit quieter, and that was a wide idea. The car park opposite the entrance to the wood is small, so be aware of that. At the busiest times of year (Easter and May bank holiday) numbers are sometimes limited and a small charge applied – this didn’t affect us as we didn’t visit then.
Bluebells may not sound that special, but trust me, these are. They are just spectacular – a glory of nature. Did you know that almost half of the world’s bluebells are found in the UK? Well, Ashridge is a great place to see them for yourself!
It’s easy to find Ashridge and there is a lot of parking on offer, which is very handy when you’re with the family. We parked in the carpark and spent over an hour just walking around. My son had his scooter, which was both positive and negative. It meant he was happy to whizz around (the positive), but not so happy when some of the paths were bumpy and uphill!
Ashridge is lovely to visit because there are so many paths – wide ones where you will find most of the walkers (and a number of cyclists) and little ones off the beaten track which we mainly explored. It also has a large Monument (the only thing you have to pay for when you visit – unless you want food in the onsite cafe).
The Monument (which costs £2.50 for adults and £1.50 for children) is called the Bridgewater Monument and you can’t really miss it when you drive (or walk in). It’s made of granite and was built in memory of the third Duke of Bridgewater – who built canals during the Industrial Revolution and once lived in Ashridge House – in 1832.
The Monument is open at weekends only from April to October and has 172 steps. These are steep and wind-y so be careful as you go up (and down). It gets very busy, so you need to look out for people going the other way from you!
We enjoyed our trip up, and especially the views from the top. We were given a map of icons we might be able to see, from Wembley to the Shard. We think we might have spotted one or two, but we weren’t entirely sure.
There is also a little “playground” made of trees near the monument, which Robert enjoyed trying out (it’s not for very little children) as it involves clambering over trees!
There are so many footpaths (over 80 miles in fact, of footpaths and bridle paths) within the estate that you won’t get bored. And if you drop into the visitor centre, they will be happy to recommend a walk for you. There are a number of recommended trails on the website as well as guided walks (although we didn’t try any of these out). and there are also many special trees within the area, including one with graffiti on from World War II (local American soldiers carved the States they came from into the bark).
All in all, we really enjoyed our day out here. But it was the bluebells that made it. They made it unforgettable.
The Ashridge Estate is at Moneybury Hill, Ringshall, Near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 1LT