Ridgeway and Icknield Way, Tring

The Ridgeway E to W part 2: Tring to Wendover, returning through Wendover Woods and the Icknield Way. 12 miles round trip, although the full walk into Wendover and back makes a 15 miles (24 kilometres) round trip. January, sunny and cold. With partner and silly dog.

We arrive by car, not my usual mode of transport, but there were two of us (three if you count Shovell) and no railcard, so car it is. It feels good to be back on the Ridgeway in the winter frost and I have my magical thermos with me (it keeps things hot with witchcraft). I have my poles, I have my dumb dog, I have my camera. I have not enough hands. And the two I have are covered with marshmallowlike mittens so basically useless. I put the poles away and give the dog back and we set off.

It’s perfect walking weather again. Even the January mud bath has turned to solid ground. It’s a pleasant crunch to walk on.

The freezing temperatures have written runes in the frozen puddles and footprints, but I don’t know what they are trying to tell me. Ice is an amazing thing to gaze into, bubbling and fracturing into fragile and beautiful patterns. Shovell cannot understand why he can’t get to the water under the surface as it blobs under his feet as he walks across it.

We climb the hill, crossing Akeman Street Roman road, the more modern A41 and a road with the excellent name The Twist, we come across another unexpected trig point (sadly not on Peakbagger) covered with a lovely frosty rime. From here I can see all the way back to Ivinghoe Beacon, and the hill we walked in part one of the Ridgeway here. It’s hugely satisfying to imagine waving at myself.

We’re in Tring Park on the edge of the Chiltern ridge, specifically King Charles Ride, designed for the recreational driving of carriages. We’re recreationally driving the dog away from rolling in frost and every now and then there’s an impressive view (there’s one at the top of this page).

It’s a park, however, and it shows with clean lines, smart benches and managed wooden play areas. It’s good to leave it, cross the slippery roads of Hastoe where the villagers are having a meeting in the village hall, and enter Pavis Wood, a breathe deep and relax nature reserve with all its lovely ditches, ice puddles and frozen mud. There are several tracks through Pavis but we stick to the high ground.

At the end of the woodland we see a rare and remarkable climber. As I watch him slowly scale the communications mast, one giant carabiner after another, I end up chatting with his mate on the ground who tells me it’s 45 metres up to the white aerial at the top which has been hit by lightening a few times and isn’t up to snuff. He goes up with a bag he can lower the faulty equipment down in and they send up the bits he needs to fix up the new one. I feel ill watching him. He’ll be up there for a while.

For a while we dance between pastureland and woods and some very deep and ancient holloways, worn down by the passage of footsteps between the trees. The Ridgeway National Trail passes through Hale Wood and Barn Wood before descending into Wendover where you can take the train home. But we have the car at the start so we track back at Hale Wood and pick up the Icknield Way and head for lovely Wendover Woods. It’s a steep, steep hill which takes us back up on chalk paths but I’m in my stride and don’t feel it too much. In the moistened chalky mud I think I can see tiny deer hoofprints which I try to point out but my companion is too far behind. I stop to wait and see if I can see the man and the mast but I can’t locate them even though they must be less than a mile away, they have disappeared.

I have everything crossed the café in the heart of the woods will be open on a freezing January afternoon, and it is. Even Shovell behaves himself.

After two excellent pasties we go off-roading into a small deciduous wood which feels wild. Some of the trees are coppiced and gnarly and there’s acid green moss growing in spikes everywhere. It’s an amazing place. The footpath on the map is barely discernable among the trees, but this woodland is a real magical find. I’m momentarily full of happiness. There’s a quality about this wood which makes me think of fairy tales and Entings (these trees are not old or venerable enough to be Ents). Ent is the Old English word for giant, and Tolkein was a professor of Anglo-Saxon. He created his own languages as a teenager, but he didn’t need to invent Ents, they’ve always been there.

To consolidate the wood’s particularity, as we leave it, in the far corner is a family of tiny muntjac deer. They are so small and still that at first I think they might be wood carvings but eventually they tire of us staring and spring off back into the undergrowth. I have found my tiny hooves.

It’s a lovely walk back as we vary between the Ridgeway and the Ickneld Way, the sign for which is an old axe. The afternoon light is gorgeous and the route out of Hastoe is marked by some lovely old oak trees.

It’s been a fair walk but the unexpected pleasures of this journey back have made it easy work. As we pass the church at Wiggington, running out of time, I can’t resist a quick look for medieval graffiti. It’s open, but instead of graffiti I find art, a beautiful piece of etched stained glass made by Thomas Denny. It depicts Private James Osbourne who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his incredible bravery rescuing a fellow private during the Boer War. The scene is blood red and visceral, but the light shines through like garnets held up to the sun. It is truly beautiful, and a truly fitting end to my walk.

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Walk info

My full circular walk (if you want to ensure you’ve walked all of the Ridgeway between Tring and Wendover) is on Ordnance Survey here. If you prefer you can shorten the walk as we did and at Hale Wood track round to head north to The Hale. From there you can climb the hill into Wendover Woods and head for the café (near Go Ape). You can begin and end at Tring station, or end at Wendover, or if you don’t mind joining the Ridgeway a little further on you could park in the village of Wigginton and end up at the Greyhound Inn.

12 responses to “Ridgeway and Icknield Way, Tring”

  1. I love reading your posts, I feel as though I am there on the journey with you! I am a ham radio licensee and recognise what the antennas are for on the tower. I would love to walk there! ❤️🇬🇧

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to be a ham operator, how brilliant.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You can! There are plenty of ham ops in the UK, they are on Instagram every day. Find a local club, they can help you find a place to get study materials and where to test. 👍🏻

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I really should. There’s bound to be one in London

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A clear, cold, icy walk for sure. That blood red stained glass almost has a warming effect at the walk’s end. Of course, that’s easy for me to say since I wasn’t outside the whole time prior. The communications climber has my respect as that wouldn’t be me. Ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John Bainbridge Avatar
    John Bainbridge

    I’ve had some happy times on these ancient paths – grand blog and lovely pictures too.


  4. A pastie on a freezing winter day sounds nice! The stained glass window is indeed beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the kind of stodgy you need at this time of year 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for sharing this idea and wonderful photos. Anita

    Liked by 1 person

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