The Chiltern Hills are home to many places on my ‘would like to visit’ list, including Ivinghoe Beacon and the beautiful, rolling Ivinghoe Hills. The National Trust ran a Walk The Chalk event earlier this month… the perfect opportunity to explore! The Walk The Chalk trail took us on a peaceful afternoon stroll over the chalk hills while showcasing some of the natural wonders of the rare habitat. If you decide to visit and there isn’t a guided walk or event, don’t despair – you can see the chalky, white path that previous visitors have trodden into the landscape, that simply heads up the hill and back down again.
Ivinghoe Beacon – How To Get There
One of the reasons it’s taken me so long to visit Ivinghoe Beacon is that I wasn’t really sure where to go. Yes… it’s a beacon… it should be easy to spot? Even armed with a possible postcode we went slightly wonky at the end, so my best advice is head for Ivinghoe village on the B489 and then turn onto Beacon Road, which takes you up to the National Trust car park.
Ivinghoe Beacon Walk The Chalk
The Walk The Chalk trail was easy-going and although it isn’t suitable for buggies the little legs of Mr 3 didn’t have any difficulty and we managed to walk for a couple of hours, along with a picnic stop to make the most of the panoramic views of the Aylesbury Vale. As a newcomer, it was handy to follow the Walk The Chalk trail as a guide across the hills, which stopped along the way to help us discover natural treasures. At one point we passed a grassy mound which seemed unremarkable to me, until one of the points on the trail explained that the dome was an ant hill built by the Yellow Meadow Ant!
As we ambled along I was amazed at the number of different brightly coloured butterflies and moths that we saw. The Ivinghoe Hills are a haven for wildlife and wild flowers. I’ve already decided that we have to go back in July and August when the Ivinghoe Hills are rumoured to be covered in stunning Chalk Hill Blue butterflies (the Chalk Hill Blue caterpillars only eat horseshoe vetch, which only grows in chalky soil). Then there’s also the possibility of seeing glow worms! Apparently, at sunset in June and July, you can see eerie green lights glowing in the grass… these are female glow-worms trying to attract a male. I’ll let you know if we find any!
In search of the Whipsnade Lion
We carried on in the sunshine and settled down for a picnic next to grassland dotted with the delicate purple flowers of wild thyme. Then, with everyone re-fuelled we went in search of a lion! The Whipsnade Lion has been a feature of Dunstable Downs since 1933, but in March 2018 it was restored and is now a striking, bright white iconic landmark, easy to see from the Ivinghoe Hills.
The path took a steep dip into the valley and then back up the hill, so sightings of the lion were a welcome distraction to help little legs keep going. There were also beetles to watch, more butterflies to chase and then we were back where we first began.
The Walk The Chalk was a special event so there was a display at the end of the walk with an amazing collection of moths and butterflies to observe. We also met a slow worm with tiny slow worm babies and came away with the top fact… a slow worm is not a worm, not even a snake, but a legless lizard.
Thanks to an ice cream van in the car park we were able to reward our efforts with ice creams all round!
The Ivinghoe Hills and Ivinghoe Beacon are home to a fascinating landscape and habitat and the Walk The Chalk event was the perfect introduction to the natural wonders and special features of the chalk hills. If you’re looking for a relatively gentle family walk in the countryside, with beautiful views and space to breathe, then go and take a look for yourself. You might see me in the grassland looking for glow worms and Chalk Hill Blues!
Top Tips for a visit to Ivinghoe Beacon
- Ivinghoe Beacon isn’t the highest point in the Chiltern Hills but it is exposed, so check the weather forecast and dress for the weather, or stay at home if the forecast is bad.
- Wear sturdy shoes or wellies, depending on the time of year. The ground is rugged and buggies are not recommended.
- The National Trust car park at Ivinghoe Beacon is free. There is a tea and refreshments van and an ice cream van on busy weekends, so take cash if you want to reward yourself at the end of a walk.
- A 10 minute drive from the Ivinghoe Beacon car park is the National Trust Ashridge Estate which has toilet facilities, a café and further points of interest.
- Find out more on the National Trust website.
All information is correct on the date of publication: June 2018