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Chilterns AONB Circular Walk: Ashridge Forest, Bluebells & Union Canal

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Chilterns AONB Circular Walk: Ashridge Forest, Bluebells & Union Canal
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In this post, I would love to share with you our experience with a Chilterns AONB Circular Walk, which, in my opinion, is one of the best day walks near North London – just about 30-45 minutes driving, depending on where you’re based. During this walk, you will be able to see the best of Berkhamsted, Ashridge Forest and Union Canal. Also, if you’re planning to walk in May, you will be able to see plenty of stunning bluebells!

Hi, if you’re new to this blog, my name is Liza. I’m a young professional with a 9-5 job and a strong passion for photography, videography and travel. Together with my husband Pepe, we’ve been exploring the UK (and the world) from London. We mainly focus on day trips and weekend trips. For our latest London and UK content, click here!

Union Canal

Choosing a circular walk near London

Since the lockdown measures have been partially lifted and we bought a car, we’ve been doing a lot of walks. Most of the trails we’ve been doing are circular routes, as these are the easiest to do without taking any public transport on the way back. To do a circular walk, we usually arrive at a specific location, park our car and then start exploring the area.

We’ve done a circular walk in Epping Forest before, and it wasn’t particularly impressive. Last year, we also walked all the way to Leith Hill from Dorking, you can read all about it in this post.

When we were choosing a circular walk near London, we didn’t want to drive over an hour, as we knew, we would be exhausted on the way back. As we’re based in North London, The Chilterns AONB seemed like a great option, and we picked a circular walk that starts and finishes in Berkhamsted.

The route: one of the best day circular walks near London

I won’t reinvent the wheel and will share the fantastic route map that we followed in this walk (please note that we only completed the Southern part of the route) with some minor adjustments, as we decided to come to the Hult Business School closer and also, added another stunning road to the route.

The start of this circular walk is in the town called Berkhamsted. The town is famous for the ruins of its castle in the city centre. There is not much left of the castle, but the park is beautiful, and many people come there with a picnic basket to have a picnic with their family.

You can find plenty of parking space in Berkhamsted on the weekends. There is a road where everybody parks for free; however, that bit was busy. So we used the official car park of the Berkhamsted train station and paid £6 for the entire day of parking. Please note that it’s more expensive and much busier on the weekdays, as Berkhamsted is a classical commuter town.

Chilterns AONB Circular Walk: Ashridge Estate, Bluebells and Union Canal

The walk officially starts near the Berkhamsted Castle and follows a beautiful path between pasture fields before entering a forest for a while.

Berkhamsted Common

In the forest, there are plenty of signs, so you won’t be lost, but if you have internet access, build a route to the Hult School, so the chances of you getting lost are minimal.

Hult Business School is absolutely stunning! We also added a small tweak to the route and decided to walk to the town nearby called Little Gaddesden. It wasn’t very impressive, so you can probably skip it and walk to the Bridgewater monument.

There is a small ice cream truck near the monument, so you can take a little break and enjoy a delicious ice cream before continuing with your walk. The next bit of the trail goes through the Ashridge Forest and unfortunately, by the time we got there, bluebell bloom almost faded. If we visited Ashridge estate just two weeks before that, around mid-May, we would have witnessed the best bluebells in bloom in entire England (at least it looked like that in the images we found).

The walk through the forest is delightful, and at the end, you join the Union Canal just a few miles before Berkhamsted, in Dudswell. That bit was one of my favourite parts of the walk apart from the fact that there were so many mosquitos near the canal that we had to jog all the way to Berkhamsted. In total, we walked around 16km or 10 miles and really enjoyed the walk.

Summary of Chilterns Circular Walk – would we recommend it?

To summarise, I must admit that we enjoyed this walk a lot, as it was a great exercise, but also we witnessed stunning views and beautiful nature, as well as some of the best bits of the Chilterns. Ashridge Estate (despite the main parts being closed due to the virus situation) was beautiful, and we even managed to see the remaining blooming bluebells!

In case you enjoy circular walks and you’d like to spend half of your walk in the forests, this walk is definitely for you! If you want to see bluebells in full bloom, definitely come early May or mid-May (there is no specific location, you’ll see a lot along the way, especially after passing the Bridgewater monument). As this Chilterns circular walk was just 30 minutes driving from North London, it was a perfect half-a-day weekend activity for us!

Some other posts you might like:

Non-touristy places to visit in London

Highgate – the hidden gem of London

Best things to do in North London

7-sisters hike: from Seaford to Eastbourne

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