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Ivinghoe Beacon

 

 

Cattle coming south-east from Leighton Buzzard or Buckingham to Hemel Hempstead would have had to climb the Ivinghoe1 Ridge in wet weather.  The chalk down below would have stuck to the beasts’ hooves like glue when it rained and many shoes would have been lost. 

 

 

(The ridge, the northernmost part of the Chilterns, is National Trust property now and a paradise for walkers, kite-fliers, the world...I am very fond of it.)

 

 

There are two stands of pines marking the way to the top, but the one to the west at SP 957168 is for mountain goats.  Drovers would have chosen Coombe Hole (967172), where there is a deep holloway (#1,2). 

 

 

Once on top you can find a hundred ways down as you walk south: all of them great for walking but none of them very interesting historically.  We didn’t trust the official Icknield Way path down the east side of the ridge because it looked artificial.  Anyway, the views are better on the western side (#3,4). 

 

 

The feature that did stand out on the Icky Way was an old pond (#5) at SP 975151 (Ward’s Hurst Farm2).  Dewponds would have been essential on that chalky soil.  Way not so Icky after all, then?

 

We ended up at Little Gaddesden, but counted nine parallel roads & tracks going south-east in the 3-mile-wide corridor between the A4146 and Berkhamsted – all to feed the vast stomach of the capital.

 

1 The -hoe is Old English for heel.  The prominence of Ivinghoe Beacon represents the bare heel of a man lying on his stomach; the northward slope down from the beacon represents the instep, slightly concave.  Thanks to Margaret Gelling & Ann Cole’s The Landscape of Place-Names for this.

2 There are nettles to be seen around the pond's edge - sure sign of cattle-manure.

Ivinghoe Beacon image 1
Pines show the way up...
Ivinghoe Beacon image 2
Holloway
Ivinghoe Beacon image 3
On top
Ivinghoe Beacon image 4
Keeping west
Ivinghoe Beacon image 5
Pond at 975151