►The beacon and the bicycle

A group of 18 members of the Longer Walks Group were expected this month’s walk to Ivinghoe Beacon, but at the last minute we had to cater for an unexpected guest. A bicycle! A broken lock meant this most treasured of personal possessions could not be left to the mercy of the Euston station bike rack and so it accompanied the rest of us on the 9.34 to Tring and then on the entire 11 miles of the walk in the Chilterns. To begin, we headed for the Ridgeway National Trail, taking the track north through the Aldbury Nowers Nature Reserve and climbing steadily all the time. Emerging from woodland into open chalk grassland, we followed the ridge over Pitstone Hill before a steep climb up the south side of Inchcombe Hole. We were now in the Ivinghoe Hills and although there was still much low cloud following early morning rain, were rewarded with views west to the Vale of Aylesbury and north to Edlesborough. Meanwhile to the east, the recently restored giant chalk figure of a lion marked the location of Whipsnade Zoo. Continuing our climb the party reached Ivinghoe Beacon, which at 233 metres above sea level is the highest point the group has reached on our walks so far.

After a photocall to mark this summit topping achievement, we took advantage of the open spaces on the beacon to eat lunch before dropping off the ridge to join the Icknield Way and heading south east.

At Hanging Combe our stamina was tested once more, as we were faced with climbing a flight of 134 steps, (try doing that while wheeling a bicycle!). At Little Gaddesden, we joined the Chiltern Way which took us into Ashridge Park and on to Berkhamstead Common. Not only was this area the scene of a mass trespass in 1866, but on the day we walked through it was being used by a film crew, preparing to shoot scenes for a new Robert Downey Jr film ‘The Voyage of Doctor Doolittle’ due out in 2019. The Chiltern Way now turned to face west, following a woodland walk to the village of Aldbury. By now the clouds had lifted and we were walking in strong sunshine, so we were forced to take a break in the beer garden of the ‘Valiant Trooper’, before tackling the final stretch of the walk across the fields to Tring Station. The bike by the way did make it back to Crouch End, although somewhat muddier than when it started!

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