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Aldbury's Transport Arteries

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 230ft (70m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Bridleways, field paths, canal tow path, woods, 1 stile

Landscape Chalk hills, golf course, fields and a canal

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 181 Chiltern Hills North

Start/finish SP 965124

Dog friendliness Beware of horses near Park Hill Farm, and, later, airborne golf balls

Parking Around green in centre of Aldbury or in public car park up Stocks Lane at north end of village

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the village green, visit St John the Baptist Church. Leave via the lychgate. Turn right to a kissing gate, signposted 'Pitstone Hill', and turn right on to the Hertfordshire Way. Past some farm buildings and across a track, the path climbs gently between a hedge and a fence. At the crest turn left on to a bridleway, with a golf course on your right. Descend to join the Ridgeway National Trail, which reaches the road via the drive to Westland Farm.

2 Follow the road, cross the Northfield Road junction and then the railway in its cutting. Passing Tring Station and the former Royal Hotel and cottages, on the right of the bridge descend steps to the Grand Union Canal tow path.

3 This canal bridge is Number 135. Follow the tow path beside the canal in its cutting as far as the next bridge, the un-numbered Marshcroft Bridge, where you climb up to the lane.

4 Turn right on to the lane to Marsh Croft Farm. Go across the railway and through a gate on to a concrete road. Pass Park Hill Farm, then some horse paddocks. At the road turn left and pass the gates to Northfield Stud and a copse. Turn right beyond, to a footpath sign set back from the road, 'Pitstone and Pitstone Hill'. Go through the gate on to the path skirting some old chalk pits. Go across a footpath junction to climb steeply alongside woodland, with downland on the left, to reach Pitstone Hill.

5 Turn right through a kissing gate into the woods of Aldbury Nowers. Here the path follows a section of Grim's Ditch along the ridge until, descending, you veer left down some steps. At a footpath junction, where the Ridgeway turns right, go left. At a guidepost go straight on, initially in the woods, ignoring a path to the right.

6 Go through a kissing gate and across a track. The path, now on a golf course, curves downhill through young trees, then turns left at the hedge. At a sign go right and keep on the metalled track, with a hedge right. At the next hedge go through a kissing gate, the path now between high hedges.

7 Turn left on to a bridleway to the road Turn right to follow Stocks Lane back to Aldbury village.

Aldbury is one of Hertfordshire's most attractive and best-known villages. It nestles in the lee of a steep, wooded chalk escarpment, the stone column of the Bridgewater Monument crowning the ridge to its north east. To the north west the wooded Aldbury Nowers terminate the chalk escarpment from Ivinghoe before dropping nearly 300ft (91m) into the valley of the River Bulbourne. Part of the Chiltern Hills, these ridges frame a dry valley that runs northwards - the southern end gives Aldbury its superb setting. The triangular village green is complete with a pond and old stocks. Huddled around it are fine cottages and houses, including the timber-framed and partly medieval Old Manor House, a photographer's favourite. Stocks Lane runs north from the green. Here you'll see some 17th-century, timber-framed houses, and others of brick, mostly 18th- and 19th-century farm labourers' cottages.

In the 19th century Lord Brownlow of Ashridge, the Lord of the Manor, improved the estate and built cottages in the village, identified by his initial 'B' and the date on a plaque. His developments included the communal bakery (near the church), which has a distinctive chimney. The parish church contains some well-preserved monuments. In the field to its north are what may be the earthworks of a long-demolished manor house.

Heading westwards, our route crosses the railway line that cuts through the Chilterns via the Berkhamsted Gap. This was built as the London-to-Birmingham railway from Euston. The line runs in a cutting that is over 2 miles (3.2km) long and up to 57ft (17m) deep - a major feat of engineering. The line opened as far as Tring Station in October 1837, then to Birmingham the following year. A railway hamlet grew up here, the railway labourers' cottages being numbered in sequence from Euston, so these were Nos 274 to 284 (subsequently renumbered Nos 7 to 17). Beside the railway station the company built a hotel and posting house. The Royal Hotel of 1838 has a grand front block, being three storeys of stucco with a portico. To its rear was a long range of stables, coach-houses and staff accommodation. All this has since been converted to flats and apartments (although still marked 'Hotel' on the map).

Later in the walk, but 40 years back in time, is the canal. As the railway was to do later, it utilised the Bulbourne Valley. The canal was built by the Grand Junction Canal Company, formed in 1793. (Renaming to the Grand Union Canal occurred in 1929.) The company's canal significantly shortened the route to London from Birmingham by avoiding the winding Oxford Canal and the River Thames. The canal reached Kings Langley in September 1797. As the Chilterns proved difficult to pass, it needed a major cutting - some 30ft (10m) deep - to reduce the number of locks required. It was finally opened in May 1800 and our route follows a good, deep section of the Tring Cutting.

Where to eat and drink

There are refreshments around the green in Aldbury. The Greyhound Inn has been a pub since 1760. Opposite are the Town Farm Tea Rooms. Another pub, the Valiant Trooper, is south of the green, down Trooper Road.

What to look for

At Point e you turn right to join Grim's Ditch. Look to your left for a view of this great linear boundary ditch, dating from the Iron Age, and embankment. It continues north across the downland of Pitstone Hill. Grim (or Odin) was an Anglo-Saxon god - these mysterious works are clearly his handiwork!

While you're there

Pitstone Windmill stands isolated in a huge corn field near Ivinghoe village, about 2½ miles (4km) north west of Aldbury. It was fully restored in the 1960s and is open to the public on some summer Sundays.

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