An enjoyable run through the Chilterns countryside
From the start, follow circular ‘Ridgeway Link’ waymarkers along the upgraded path of the Icknield Way, wonderfully runnable in the dry, and wonderfully muddy the rest of the year. It passes Whipsnade Zoo and Whipsnade Tree Cathedral which, with Ashridge Estate, offer great opportunities for exploring.
The final climb up Ivinghoe Beacon is rewarded with spectacular views across the Vale of Aylesbury; a wonderful place to watch the sun set. Car parks at both ends of the trail, and buses from Ivinghoe and Whipsnade.
Ickield Way Distance: 7.5 miles (12km)
Start: Chilterns Gateway Centre, Dunstable Downs, LU6 2GY Finish: Ivinghoe Beacon, LU6 2EG Terrain: Paths, trail
Ascent: 194 metres
Navigation: Easy (waymarked)
Good for: Families
Route info: wildrunning.net/45
From the picturesque Vale of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, rise the magnificent Chiltern Hills. The well-marked trails that wind through this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty make for some great running. The Chilterns form part of a system of chalk downs which run throughout eastern and southern England, formed between 65 and 95 million years ago.
One of the most heavily wooded parts of England, the area is also home to stunning open heath and commons, and picturesque gardens and parkland, making for a great variety of high quality runs. There are some challenging ascents, and enjoyably fast descents but nothing too steep. An enjoyable run takes you up to the wooded summit of Haddington Hill, the Chilterns’ highest point.
Being so accessible from London, the Chilterns make a great escape from the city. They may be small in relation to many of the more famous ranges, however, they are perfectly sculpted and provide wonderful running across sweeping valleys, with regular climbs and descents between. Ivinghoe Beacon itself is a picture perfect summit and well worth a visit. From the trig point at the top of the Beacon, head down into Ashridge Estate and explore the many winding paths through gentle countryside bordered by ancient trees.
The loop around the estate’s boundary is some 17 miles in length, but it is an incredibly enjoyable route for a longer run. The Icknield Way, starting on Ivinghoe Beacon, is said to be Britain’s oldest road. Its chalky 110 miles wind their way, as Edward Thomas described in 1913, like a “white snake on a green hillside” from the Chilterns to Knettishall Heath in Norfolk.
The Beacon is also the starting point for the Ridgeway Challenge, an 85-mile race organised by the Trail Running Association in August each year. Including some 2743 metres of ascent, the race passes through the Chilterns, the North Wessex Downs and Barbury and Liddington hill forts, before finishing at the World Heritage Site of Avebury in Wiltshire.
Our pick of the area links these two famous trails for some enjoyable running.