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Ashridge Estate news





We are very fortunate to have vast swathes of chalk downland on our doorsteps. Such habitat is pretty much confined to southern and eastern England (as far north as the Vale of Pickering) and central Texas. The word ‘chalk’ is, in fact, unnecessary here, as ‘downland’ or ‘downs’ (from the Celtic word for ‘hills’), is defined as ‘an area of open chalk hills’.


The Chilterns cover 322 square miles and were designated an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ (AONB) in 1965. They stretch the 46 miles from Goring-on-Thames to Hitchin and are up to 11 miles wide. They have a steep ‘scarp slope’ on their north-west side and a gradual ‘dip slope’ on their south-east side. The highest point (876 ft) is Haddington Hill, near Wendover. Our very own Ivinghoe Beacon is more prominent, but 60 ft shorter. It is the starting point of the Icknield Way and the Ridgeway long distance trail.


Two thirds of the AONB comprises enclosed fields and a fifth is woodland. Only 4% is open land (commons, heaths and downs), and this open land is very special, hosting a richness of rare wildlife. This richness depends very much on grazing by livestock and wild animals. For me it is the butterflies and their foodplants which make it extra special, the eponymous Chalkhill Blue perhaps being the jewel in the crown, but there’s an awful lot under our noses (or feet, perhaps) that is truly fascinating and precious.


There’s a reason for me saying all this. On Saturday and Sunday, June 9th and 10th, the good folk of Ashridge are organising a ‘Walk the Chalk’ event. It will be based at the Ivinghoe Beacon car park (on Beacon Road, grid reference SP963159) from 10.30am until 4.00pm and take the form of a nature trail, with experts on hand to answer questions. Trail leaflets will cost £2. Bring the family, walk the chalk, and talk. It’s not Chalkhill Blue season, but there will be no shortage of natural delights.

Rikki Harrington

How to get in touch…

Gaddesden Society President
Trevor Fernandes 01442 843498

Gaddesden Society Honorary Secretary
Mandy Haynes 01442 842496

Gaddesden Society Treasurer
Phil Heaphy 01442 842283

Diary Editorial Team

Phil and Rachael Heaphy 01442 842 283

Emma Thon

Genny Snowdon 01442 843834

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