Things to do in Aldbury
PUBLISHED: 15:13 11 May 2015 | UPDATED: 16:09 21 March 2016
Hertfordshire's landscape is usually more bucolic than dramatic, but head to the village of Aldbury and things become adventurous. Laura Vickers reports
The village of Aldbury near Tring in south-west Hertfordshire, is perhaps the prettiest in the county, with its mix of centuries-old buildings, a church, pubs, village pond and attractive village stores, while it’s not uncommon to see a brace of pheasants hanging from a porch awning. Aldbury is also steeped in history: its church dates from the Early English period and the Valiant Trooper pub has been an alehouse for several centuries. More recently, the village has been a popular filming location: Renée Zellweger was here for the second Bridget Jones movie, and Aldbury has been a deadly setting for Midsomer Murders and, more comically, Dave Allen’s ‘funeral race’ sketch. Perhaps its greatest asset is its location at the bottom of a steep valley, surrounded by woods and countryside that make up a National Trust estate, making it very popular with ramblers, dog walkers, horse riders, runners, cyclists and generally anyone building up a healthy appetite for lunch in one of the pubs.
Aldbury is in the middle of the National Trust’s 5,000-acre Ashridge Estate (nationaltrust.org/ashridge-estate), so you can take your pick of walks surrounding the village, all with breathtaking views of some of the wilder parts of the Hertfordshire countryside.
Near the village is one end of the Ridgeway National Trail, an 87-mile walking route that leads all the way to the World Heritage Site of Avebury in Wiltshire. The Aldbury end of the trail is marked by Ivinghoe Beacon, a humpback hill with views of the surrounding chalk downlands and beech and oak woodlands, as well as the villages of the Chilterns.
Leave the middle of the village and head uphill into the woods (tracks are waymarked) and you will soon reach the Bridgewater Monument, a 33-metre Doric-style column which was built to commemorate the third Duke of Bridgewater in 1832. The monument is open to the public at weekends (11am-4.30pm), when visitors can climb all of its 172 steps and take in some spectacular views.
With the village and its surroundings such a popular spot for runners and cyclists, Aldbury is also home to Ashmei, a premium performance sportswear company with a weekday pop-up shop in the village. Tweet for more information at twitter.com/ashmei
Food and drink
The Greyhound Inn is a popular spot for ramblers, family lunches or just a pint of real ale as the sun goes down. The cheese, cured meats and seafood platters on the menu are particularly hard to resist. There are also cosy B&B rooms from £80 per night for a double. See greyhoundaldbury.co.uk
Just down the road is the Valiant Trooper (valianttrooper.co.uk), another great spot for a traditional pub lunch and a pint of one of the wide range of excellent beers on offer.
Fans of fine dining won’t have far to travel either – the nearby grand Ashridge House offers regular elegant dinner events full of gastronomic delights. Next up is a Sunday lunch barbecue on June 7. Tickets are £45 (drinks not included). See ashridgehouse.org.uk for more.
There are two golf clubs on the edge of the village and it might surprise some to discover that one of them, Stocks, was once a training base for Playboy bunnies during the 1970s, and its pool is featured on the cover of the Oasis album Be Here Now. Although a members-only operation, it holds popular open days and open mixed-pair competitions. stocksgolfclub.co.uk
Ashridge Golf Club is open to visitors year round, with casual green fees starting at £62. It also offers a package for £88 between April and October, which includes 18 holes and food. ashridgegolfclub.ltd.uk
Soak up the atmosphere
Strolling through Aldbury, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the Cotswolds instead of Hertfordshire. There’s a duck pond and, although not too charming at the time, the original stocks and whipping-post still stand on the village green next to it.
The village even boasts an enthusiastic troupe of folk dancers – the Aldbury Morris Men (aldburymorris.co.uk) – who dance traditional Cotswold Morris most Thursday nights and summer weekends. You can also see them dance – and many other village delights such as Maypole dancing, a brass band and plenty of baking – at the Aldbury May Fair (it was on May 4 this year). See facebook.com/AldburyMayFair
The warm, south-facing slopes of Aldbury Nowers Nature Reserve (hertswildlifetrust.org.uk) are home to a range of rare and beautiful flowers and the reserve is one of the finest butterfly habitats for miles around.
Ashridge forest is a popular spot for families to explore thanks to its glorious blankets of bluebells in the spring.
Outskirts and beyond
Venturing outside Aldbury, visitors will find plenty to explore in the immediate towns and villages.
Neighbouring Tring boasts the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum and there are also tours of the renowned Tring Brewery to be had.
Between Tring and Aldbury, Pendley Manor is the place to be in August when it hosts the Pendley Shakespeare Festival which offers a range of open-air performances to enjoy (pendleyshakespearefestival.co.uk).
The ever-popular Whipsnade Zoo is a 20-minute drive away, and isn’t far from yet another National Trust gem, the peaceful and atmospheric Whipsnade Tree Cathedral. See nationaltrust.org.uk/whipsnade-tree-cathedral