Getting outside with Dadima

Sunday 25 September was the Ordnance Survey’s ‘Get outside day’, so it was the best time to join another of Geeta Ludhra’s Dadima walks.

We met at the National Trust visitor centre at Ashridge, close to the Bridgewater monument, in the Hertfordshire Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The walk’s theme was landscape, rock, and health. Our leader was Clare Warren, Professor of Metamorphic Geology at the Open University, accompanied by colleagues Dr Yoseph Araya, plant ecologist, and Dr Marcus Badger, lecturer in earth sciences.

The first part of our route followed the National Trust’s Duncombe Terrace Walk through the woods.

Through the woods.

When we emerged with a view westwards we paused. I told the group about the great battle of Berkhamsted. In 1866, when the owner of Berkhamsted Common, Lord Brownlow, erected fencing to keep people out, the Open Spaces Society (as the Commons Preservation Society) organised a trainload of navvies. They travelled to Tring Station at night, and marched in the dark to Berkhamsted Common, and felled the fencing. I tell the story here.

We continued to Clipper Down, where as we looked across to the hills at Waddesdon, Yoseph talked to us about chalk grassland, and plant species with medicinal and healing properties, such as the Chiltern gentian, self heal, stinging nettle, and St John’s Wort.

Soon we came to Ivinghoe Beacon with views all around.

Here Clare discussed the geology of the Chilterns, and how, until about the 1850s, chalk was used to bulk out flour. This practice was later resumed to prevent rickets. Even today there is ground-up chalk in flour and cornflakes.

Clare tells us about chalk.

On the top of the hill we shared delicious drink and food: marsala chai and barfi.

Sharing food on the beacon.

The Whipsnade lion, which is cut out of chalk, was visible on the hill opposite. I thought it was looking a bit drab, but when I checked I found it had been renovated only four years ago. I related how the Open Spaces Society had fought to prevent the footpaths from being extinguished when Whipsnade was created as a zoological park in the late 1920s.

The Whipsnade lion.

We stopped for a group photo near the trig point,

and then turned down the hill and took a long, direct path across a large field.

We climbed steps through the woods and came out by Ward’s Hurst Farm.

The steps.

While we regained our breath, Marcus talked about geology, landscape, and himself. His work took him out to sea, and when he returned he needed to spend time in nature, either in the mountains or in landscapes like the Chilterns. He felt at home in the chalk. This was because he was brought up in a chalk landscape, near Hunstanton in Norfolk, and had visited the East Sussex coast as a child. When you are in a landscape you love, he said, think about the geology, and you can find similar places. Chalk landscapes have a similar feel, and for him this was home.


He held up a geological map of Britain to demonstrate his point. It shows the thread of chalk extending from Dorset to the Wash, and reappearing again in East Yorkshire. This map demonstrates why we have so many different landscapes in such a small space, because of the complex geology. The UK is thus full of variety.

The Bedrock Geology Map: British Geological Society.

We wound our way back through the woods to the monument, with a greater knowledge of landscapes and their underlying geology, and of the flora of chalk grassland. It was immensely enjoyable, especially with such warm and friendly companions.

The view from Clipper Down.

About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in AONB, campaigns, Chilterns, Dadima's walks, History, Open Spaces Society, Public paths, walking, walks and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Getting outside with Dadima

  1. Jess hall says:

    I really enjoyed reading about Dadima’s walk.
    Thank you for sharing the event and some of the talks

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