Across the valley to st Lawrence and Dashwood Mausoleum

Wye Valley Views

It takes a visitor to show the locals where to go!

On a windy spring morning, I joined friends and colleagues on a walk from Hughenden Manor, near High Wycombe in the Chilterns. Our walk leader Delphine, was to show us the Visorando app in action.

A spring surprise
Hughenden Valley

The Right Ingredients

This is a walk peppered with fabulous sightseeing opportunities: a Chilterns Manor House, bluebells in beech woodlands, a medieval village, a coffee shop, a pub (naturally), secluded valleys where the kites shoot the breeze and skylarks sing.

An unexpected view along the wye valley route
Dominating the landscape

We came across this beautiful view unexpectedly, making me stop as we emerged from the woodland behind Hughenden Manor. A total surprise!

Three miles west of High Wycombe, tucked away in the Wye valley, is a unique 18th century Italian-inspired Chilterns landscape, built to impress and entertain. Across the valley, St Lawrence and the Dashwood mausoleum straddle the hilltop, still dominating the landscape after 250 years. Based on the design of the Constantine Arch in Rome, this unroofed structure is unlike anything else in the country. Built using excavated flints from deep inside the hill, still in the Dashwood family ownership, this show-off memorial to Sir Francis and his friends is in remarkable condition. Beside which is clustered a tiny village of the most lovely cottages creeping up the hill.

routes through west Wycombe
Chocolate-box cottages

Coffee was calling so we heading into my favourite Chilterns village, West Wycombe. This tiny village, that hugs the hillside looks just like a film set; steep lanes, wobbly windows festooned with impressive cobwebs, doorways for tiny residents and unexpected passageways. All authentic, medieval properties, re-purposed for 21st century life.

Wye Valley Cottages
National Trust cottages

When your walking companions have such a wealth of local knowledge, they add layers of richness to the journey: identifying plants and animals, film locations and stories of those who have passed this way before. All of the above best discussed over coffee and cake, before we headed back up the valley.

A coffee break
A coffee courtyard

Uphill all the way

On the return leg, we spotted a few early bluebells, poking out above the new growth, two red kites shooting the breeze, oblivious to our chatter as we walked uphill back to Hughenden. Working in tourism, I know it is usually visitors who discover the local gems because they look harder, trying to find the essence of a place. And in this, Delphine succeeded. She had captured the beauty of the undulating, rolling Chilterns landscape, historic streetscapes, wildlife, local food and drink and stories, all woven together in what makes the Chilterns so special. So yes, it often does take a visitor to guide the locals through their own landscape stories. Thank you!

This graffiti was a surprise

Further Information

This is not a blow-by-blow account of how to navigate your way. Go exploring yourself and walk this lovely, but hilly six mile route on Visorando, that also includes; Sunday strolls to strenuous hikes, long-distance trails and urban walks.

Did you know that West Wycombe was saved by the Wall Street crash of 1929?

The fire was from a portable BBQ, discarded with accompanying beer bottles under a tree just behind the mausoleum. I am sure Sir Francis Dashwood would have approved of the party, but not the litter. Read Hellfire on a Hill

National Trust Hughenden Manor was once the home of Victorian statesman Benjamin Disraeli. An understated place, and worth a visit.

Take your Chilterns memories home with a mug, picture or tea-towel from our Chilterns Gifts range. Available online to UK mainland only.

Bluebells in ashridge
Chilterns Bluebells
Tree Routes

Tree Routes

If a tree falls in Ashridge Forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Shaking myself out of the winter slumber, I headed into Ashridge during the recent unseasonably warm weather. The forest was full with noisy life shaking off a winter slumber. The ambient light is washed out with remnants of a winter hue, with just a hint of green and clumps of spring flowers.

Avenue of trees
Foresters Walk follows an estate boundary

The forest is one of my favourite places to spend time enjoying the woodland throughout the year. I have followed so many animal trails and footpaths, visiting regularly and finding something new each time.  Located on the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire borders, the Ashridge Estate is a seamless mixture of beechwoods, chalk downland, meadows, isolated buildings and small farms. It is a huge privilege to have access to this special place.

The mud was not too horrendous, so picking my way around fallen trees and storm debris not too slippery! Leo naturally heads for all the puddles.

along a route in Ashridge
A once busy barn is now quiet

Lumps and Bumps

This walk was all about the magnificent trees: big, small, young, ancient, bent, decaying, lightening-stuck or toppled. Before the foliage takes centre stage, I could image in a world turned upside down with their branches like their roots now pointing to the sky. Now it’s all about textures, lumps, bumps, moss and carvings, the various trees stand out including; cherry, beech, oak, chestnut, holly, conifers, hornbeams and ash trees. There will be others, but I don’t know their names.

The rat-a-tat of a woodpecker, squirrels making a racket as they race down tree trunks, along the floor, over the fallen trees and back up another tree.  The landscape is exposed, open, with old boundaries and ditches visible. The birds busy themselves with protecting territories and preparing for the next generation to claim the forest.  

The greening of the forest starts from the ground up; splashes of coltsfoot and winter aconite yellow, dog violet purple contrasts with the faded snowdrops and the emerging nettles. Bluebell shoots are widespread, the promise of colour in late spring before the leaf cover shuts out the light. 

If a tree falls in Ashridge Forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

A corgi and a felled tree
Tree down

I’m surprised I didn’t hear the crashing trees as I only live a few miles away! Many of the old, majestic trees survived storm Eunice on February 18th, whilst some lie smashed on the ground, blocking paths, or narrowly missing trees, fences, gates and other obstacles.

Tree routes in Ashridge
Missing its neighbour, this tree exploded as it hit the ground

Tidying up is underway, but a tidy forest is not a healthy forest; nutrients from decaying trees are absorbed back into the woodland ecosystem, animals will find new homes and children will create more dens and castles.

Trees in ashridge
A tree repurposed

This brown woodland will soon be transformed into shades of fresh green and bluebell blue.

Bluebells in ashridge
Ashridge Bluebells

Further Information

I have written extensively about the beautiful Ashridge Estate, you can read more here: do trees fall uphill? Winter shadows or pause awhile in the forest.

Spring in the Chiltern hills is the season when we shake off the gloom of winter and look forward to renewal. It’s the skylarks, snowdrops and then bluebells that increases the heart rate and knowledge that spring is not far off.

Take bluebells home with you when you buy from our range of Chilterns Gifts and Souvenirs.

Chilterns Gifts
Beautiful bluebells