Berkhamsted & Northchurch commons are the largest in the Chilterns at some 427 hectares. Northchurch common is one of the five commons found on the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate.
Berkhamsted & Northchurch commons were registered together and form a large arc of common that stretches from Northchurch over towards Frithsden and down to Potten End. The commons are criss-crossed by paths and tracks, many of which are rights of way. Parts of Berkhamsted common are used by the Berkhamsted Golf Club. Northchurch common is the most open of the commons on the Ashridge Estate with and the large area of pasture alongside the B4506 a notable feature.
The size and open nature of Berkhamsted Common makes it a great place for all sorts of activities from kite flying and picnics to walking and horseriding or mountain biking on the network of bridleways.
Groups of fallow deer can often be seen in the glades and other open areas. The diversity of trees, shrubs and grassland lends itself well to a wide range of bird species from the wren to the occasional red kite drifting overhead. As with other Ashridge commons, the bluebells are spectacular in the spring and are supplemented by many other woodland flowers such as wood anemone and yellow archangel. The common is also home to acidic and heathland grass species – look in clearings in the bracken for the latter.
The huge pollarded trees in Frithsden Beeches at the east end of the common are remnants of the medieval Chilterns landscape. There are many old pits, banks and other earthworks including First World War troop training trenches which are evidence of hundreds of years of human activity. The large grassy area at the Northchurch end of the common was ploughed for crop production during the Second World War and is now managed as a grassland site for wildlife.
Berkhamsted was the setting for one of the most notable commons events in the country. In 1865, Lord Brownlow bought up the rights of many of the common’s tenants and erected iron fencing to enclose a large part of the common. However one commoner, Augustus Smith had kept his rights and brought in 120 men from London who pulled down three miles of the fence overnight. When the matter went to court, Smith prevailed once again.
Berkhamsted Golf Course is on the southern part of Berkhamsted Common.
Opportunities for people with limited mobility on Northchurch Common are good on the open areas in the drier months. In addition, the National Trust Ashridge Estate has two promoted routes for easy access and self drive mobility scooters are available from the National Trust. Contact the estate office or call in at the visitor centre (open daily from March to December) for further information.
Facilities & accessibility
Free parking is available at Monument Drive and Ivinghoe Beacon (donations welcome). The Ashridge Estate also has a visitor centre with a café, gift shop and toilets. There is also a free parking area by the War Memorial on Berkhamsted Common.