Festive fun to be had in Chilterns

IF you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful way to spend your free time over the festive season, look no further than the Chilterns this Christmas.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 22nd December 2011, 2:02 pm

With many finding their family finances squeezed this year, leisure activities on a budget have been a hot topic, and the Chilterns – an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – has plenty to offer.

The Chilterns stretch from Hitchin right across to Goring, in Oxfordshire, and there are lots of free or low cost activities taking place over the coming weeks, to help not just wallets but also waistlines after all that Christmas indulgence.

You can join a guided walk led by a ranger from the Chilterns Gateway Centre at Dunstable Downs on Boxing Day – there’ll be some breathtaking views and stunning Chilterns countryside to enjoy.

Or why not join the National Trust for a guided walk around the beautiful Ashridge Estate on Tuesday, December 27 and tuck into some mince pies and mulled wine afterwards. Find out more at www.chilternsaonb.org/events

While out and about, see if you can spot some of the distinctive features of the Chilterns. These include sprawling woodland, chalk streams, and, thanks to extensive work to re-establish the species, the red kite.

Described as “one of the great conservation success stories of the 20th century”, kites were imported from Spain after becoming extinct in the UK, and there are now believed to be more than 600 breeding pairs in the area.

And if December temperatures mean you’d rather take part in something indoors, you can catch stunning images of the natural world at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition currently taking place at Stockwood Discovery Centre. The exhibition runs until December 31, and the Discovery Centre is open from 10am to 4pm on Tuesday, December 27, and will be operating normal opening hours from Wednesday, December 28 (closed January 1).

As well as guided walks there are lots of promoted walking routes in the Chilterns countryside of all lengths – from short strolls to half day walks – that take in beautiful scenery and cosy country pubs.

It’s easy to search for and download one nearby – just visit www.chilternsaonb.org which is full of information on local walks and lots more.