5 of the best autumn walks in the Chilterns – with a FREE downloadable walk

5 of the best autumn walks in the Chilterns – with a FREE downloadable walk

Looking for the best autumn walks in the Chilterns? Look no further. Here we’ve rounded up a selection of our favourite routes in the area - walks chosen specifically to make the most of beautiful colours, ramble-friendly temperatures and quiet paths...

All of these walks originally appeared in our Chilterns Year Round Walks book. The first walk you come to below, around Ashridge Estate, appears exactly as it does in the book, complete with map, pictures and step-by-step directions. 

📥 You can even click here to download a PDF version, which you can print or take with you on your phone. 

Below that are a number of further recommendations for places to get out for a walk in the Chilterns this autumn.   

The Ashridge Estate (6.8 miles)

A stunning walk following the edge of the Ashridge Estate’s beechwoods, with far-reaching views across the rolling Chiltern landscape, including Incombe Hole and the Ivinghoe Hills.

You could also extend the walk by a mile for a ‘there and back’ trip to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon. The Ashridge Estate is managed by the National Trust and this walk starts by the towering granite Bridgewater Monument, where there is ample parking, a gift shop, café and toilets, making it a very useful starting point.

If you have some energy left at the end of the walk, on weekends from April to October you can climb the Monument’s 172 steps, to be rewarded with a view stretching as far as Waddesdon Manor and Wendover Woods. The area is very popular with local dog walkers, so if you have your four-legged friend with you they will have plenty of company. The Icknield Way leads you back towards fields grazed by sheep, so around point 6 they’ll need to be on a lead.

This landscape has been farmed for centuries, with grazing animals creating the perfect conditions for wild flowers and butterflies. Look out for the black wooden Pitstone Windmill, balanced on its white base as you walk. It is a very rare early form of a post mill, dating back to the early 17th century. The leaves in Ashridge blaze with colour in autumn, although it would be worth paying a visit in spring too, to see the woodland floor carpeted with bluebells. 

  • How to get there & parking: The National Trust Visitor Centre, and its free car park, is off the B4506 between Berkamsted and Dagnall
  • Sat nav: HP4 1LT
  • Refreshments: Brownlow Café, next to the Visitor Centre, has a large outside seating area with some cover from the elements

The Walk

1. Standing in front of the monument, turn right and follow the wide path signed ‘Duncombe Terrace’. Follow this main path straight on through Pitstone Common, crossing a wooden footbridge. The path starts to go uphill for a stretch, passing a sign on the right marking the end of the mobility route. Go through a gate next to Clipperdown Cottage.

2. Turn left and follow the track, admiring the view on the left towards Pitstone Hill. Stay on this main path and soon you will spot Pitstone Windmill across the fields. Cross a cattle grid with a gate next to it, then almost immediately after this, take the left turn down a path, marked with a National Trust horseshoe.

3. The path ends with a spectacular view ahead of you over Incombe Hole. Go through the gate on your left then turn immediately right to follow the Ridgeway, with the ground sloping away to your left. This narrow path leads you through an area of scrub from which you emerge to see the chalk path snaking up to Ivinghoe Beacon ahead of you. Look out for kestrels here, hanging in the air as they hunt for insects and small mammals in the chalk grasslands. Walk down to the road and cross with care as you are on a bend. 

4. There is a signpost in front of you, pointing the way up to the top of the beacon, where you would be rewarded with a stunning view. To continue with this walk, turn right to follow the Icknield Way towards Dagnall. Walk down to a wooden gate, then across a field with a fence on your right. Now continue on the Icknield Way across a series of fields. The white lion you can see on the
hillside to your left was cut into the chalk of the Dunstable Downs in the 1930s,
to advertise Whipsnade Zoo. It was camouflaged with netting and turf during the Second World War and is now home to a colony of cavies and wallabies.

5. Go through a wooden gate into the dark pine trees of The Coombs, then come to a short series of wooden steps that take you up to higher ground. Go through a swing gate, then cross the field to  another gate, with Wards Hurst Farm on your right.

6. Now you leave the Icknield Way behind, and head straight on, following a public footpath to the left of a large shed. Walk across a series of fields, following the footpath signs. There are often sheep in these fields. Go through a wooden swing gate signed ‘Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail’, then walk along a fenced path with Ringshall Coppice on your left. Go through another gate then walk by the side of a large field towards a house. Go through the gate and follow a wire fence round an underground reservoir, then down the concrete drive to the road.

7. Cross the road to follow the public footpath through the woods, passing a car park on your right. Continue ahead as the path veers to the left. When you come to a cross track, turn right for about 100m, then at a junction of paths with a post on your left, turn left to follow the public footpath along a wide glade. When you can see a road ahead, turn right at the post and follow the public footpath, now heading south-west. When you come to another crosstrack, turn right and follow the purple sign for a short distance to arrive back at the monument.

4 more autumn walks in the Chilterns 

Aldbury & the Grand Union Canal (9 miles)

The ideal walk for an autumnal day in the countryside, starting from the picture-perfect village of Aldbury, complete with a duck pond, two characterful pubs and well-preserved stocks and whipping post.

Aldbury is a lovely village to spend some time in and it's easy to see why it is a popular location for film and television.

This route leads you along a rolling Chiltern escarpment to the Grand Union Canal. Then follows the towpath with the autumn colours reflected in the water, before passing two farms and heading up Pitstone Hill to the Ridgeway, leading you across Aldbury Nowers Nature Reserve. In autumn, the changing colour of the leaves fills the woods with seasonal colour, while squirrels and jays bury acorns for food through the cold winter. This is also a good option for dog walkers, as woodland and towpaths will keep you well away from roads and livestock. It crosses some farmland where signs request that dogs are on a lead.

Nettlebed (3 miles)

Ignore the name. This walk is instead filled with classic Chiltern beechwoods and magnificent tree tunnel paths. The statuesque beech thrive on the chalk soil of the Chilterns and Nettlebed is lucky enough to be surrounded by woods.

This walk starts in the village, with its impressive Georgian houses, friendly pub and historic brick kiln, then heads off to explore the surrounding woodland. Look out for pits and hollows in the woods. These are the remains of sawpits, as it was more practical to saw large trunks into planks while still in the wood, before transporting them. There are also some quarry pits, which were dug to find clay and flint for house building. This woodland walk is an excellent choice for dog
walkers, and the autumn colours are truly spectacular.

Burnham Beeches (3 miles) 

This well-managed National Nature Reserve is home to 220 hectares of ancient beech and oak pollards, with the resulting range of flora and fauna that such a landscape supports. It’s an important conservation area, with the reserve taking care to look after its dead as well as living wood. Deadwood is an important natural habitat, providing food and shelter for rare wildlife.

Burnham Beeches is also a popular spot with dog walkers, although be aware of the restrictions where your hound can be on or off lead (maps by the car park show this information). Lots of information boards make this walk easy to navigate, and there is no shortage of friendly dog walkers who are keen to point you in the right direction. Look out for the gnarled, 800-year-old Druid’s Oak near the start of the route, as well as an Iron Age hillfort and medieval moated farmstead, which are all passed on this perfect autumnal stroll.

Henley on Thames (8 miles) 

This walk starts in historic Henley-on-Thames, with its Georgian town houses and 18th-century stone bridge. It then follows a section of the Oxfordshire Way, offering glorious views almost from the start.

A quiet country lane takes you into the hamlet of Fawley, before you head off through impressive beechwoods, ablaze with colour in autumn. The final stretch follows the banks of the Thames as you return to Henley. The whole route is very easy to navigate, and there are plenty of tempting pubs and cafés for a well-earned treat at the end.

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  • Rory Batho
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