This Christmas, step into a winter wonderland and discover the Golden Valley, a hidden gem at Ashridge Estate, designed by none other than the famous 'Capability' Brown. This 4.3-mile route ranks among his finest works and promises a delightful journey through the stunning landscape of Ashridge Park, all while immersing you in the spirit of the season…

Setting the scene:

As December unfolds here in Hertfordshire, Ashridge Estate undergoes a captivating transformation, enveloped in the refreshing embrace of crisp winter air and adorned with enduring evergreen foliage. This month’s historic walk invites you to explore the Golden Valley, offering breathtaking views of the estate's iconic features, including Ashridge House and its enchanting deer park. What finer way to bid farewell to 2023 than by following the frost-kissed paths through Hertfordshire’s countryside, all thanks to this remarkable trail by the National Trust?

The route:

● Begin your journey with the grand Bridgewater Monument as your backdrop. Walk down Monument Drive, which was originally part of Prince's Riding, leading you towards the B4506. If you're opting for the shorter route, you can start at Gaddesden Green car park. The path will guide you into the heart of the Golden Valley.

● With caution, cross the busy B4506 road and proceed around the left side of the wooden fence, once part of the deer park's perimeter. Here, you'll officially enter the deer park and follow Prince's Riding to the sign for Ashridge House. As you walk, take a moment to admire the ancient sweet chestnut trees.

● Turn right onto the surfaced path around the golf course green. At its end, follow the rough track into the copse ahead, adorned with the majestic ancient trees. Continue along the boundary between the great lawn and the wilder grass until you reach the tree line ahead.

● Leave the path leading into the woods and, keeping to the left, follow the tree line downhill.

● Carefully cross the road and bear right into the enchanting Golden Valley. If you're taking the shorter route, this is where it begins from the Gaddesden Green car park.

● Here, take a sharp right, almost turning back on yourself, and ascend along the path. When you reach the road, turn left and continue along the road to the front of Ashridge House.

● Continue along the road in front of the house until you encounter a right-hand fork with a barrier in place to stop vehicles. Follow the purple 'Bridgewater Monument and Visitor Centre' sign. If you're on the shorter route, turn right at the barrier and follow the treeline around the Great Lawn, rejoining the main route to return to the Golden Valley and Gaddesden Green car park.

● For those on the longer route, proceed straight ahead, up the track.

● As this path touches the corner of a field, you'll find one of the best spots to observe deer on the estate. Make sure to have your camera ready! Keep walking straight ahead.

● You've now reached Thunderdell Lodge, the black and white chequered gatekeeper's house by the side of the main road. Notice the gates that were historically closed to keep the deer in. Cross the road carefully, then turn right, following the path along the road's edge until you reach the bottom of Monument Drive. Follow the drive back towards the Bridgewater Monument.

● Finish your memorable walk at the Ashridge visitor centre, where you can warm up, enjoy refreshments at Monument Café, and reflect on the beauty of the Capability Brown walk.

Great British Life: Ashridge Estate Credit - Simon TurnbullAshridge Estate Credit - Simon Turnbull

Make a day of it:

To make the most of your day in the Ashridge area, why not pay a visit to the nearby village of Little Gaddesden? This charming spot encapsulates the quintessential charm of an English village during the festive season. Explore its historic church, warm up with a hot cup of tea (or a festive hot chocolate… with all the trimmings), and delight in the dazzling Christmas lights and decorations that adorn the village, creating a truly enchanting atmosphere.

Perfectly-placed pub:

For a delightful post-walk meal and a touch of local character, consider heading to The Greyhound in Aldbury. This charming village pub offers a warm and inviting atmosphere along with a diverse menu featuring classic pub dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. It's the perfect place to relax and refuel while basking in the scenic beauty of the Ashridge area.

greyhoundaldbury.co.uk/

Steps, stats and stiles:

With a length of 4.3 miles, this route should take approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete at a comfortable pace.

The well-trodden footpaths, tracks, and grassland on this walk may be muddy, especially during the winter months. Ramblers should make sure to wear appropriate footwear and dress warmly.

Dogs kept under close control are welcome on this route, but walkers should be mindful of wildlife and other visitors at all times. For more details about facilities and considerations for dog owners, check the relevant section on the National Trust’s website.

Route followed:

For this month’s walk we followed the ‘In the footsteps of Capability Brown’ route on the National Trust’s website:

nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/essex-bedfordshire-hertfordshire/ashridge-estate/in-the-footsteps-of-capability-brown.