The Chilterns

Cleopatra and bikes at sunset

I had no idea anywhere near Luton could be nice. What a pleasant surprise this weekend has been! The criteria for choosing this weekend's campsite was that it should be near to great cycleways and, since we're still out of season, open all year.

Town Farm Camping & Caravanning caught my eye because of the stunning views in the photos on its website. On further investigation I also found the Chilterns Cycleway passes right by Ivinghoe, the village above which Town Farm nestles.

Town Farm campsite
I didn't realise the Chilterns were located here. It's one of 38 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales, covering 324 square miles of countryside and boasting a 170 mile circular cycle route.

Town Farm's website promised that the chalk ground under its grass pitches would be fine for tents and motorhomes so we decided to trust that fact and booked a grass pitch for Cleopatra. We arrived a little after 6pm with about 30 minutes of daylight left. We were shown to several available pitches and chose one on a corner for an unobstructed view of the Ivinghoe Beacon. A handful of tents had already pitched up, their owners having seen the same weather forecast as we had.

Ivinghoe Beacon
The site is based around a working farm and the considerable camping field surrounds the farm buildings which are at the centre. The electric hook-ups are all in the middle, next to the farm buildings which I wouldn't say were the best pitches to enjoy the views. The site is high up, with views over the Vale of Ayslebury best seen from the outer edges. A VW T4 camper and later two vintage T2 bay-window campervans arrived, foregoing the electrical hook-up and snaffling the best views.

If this marks the start of spring and summer weather, we'll probably try camping off grid from next weekend too. It'll give us far more choice of site, particularly with some of the cheaper certified sites that take just five camping units. We'll still be able to have the heating on if we need it and can charge up our phones. Then we'll use our stick stoves to cook dinner outside.

Early morning view from the bunk
On Friday evening we enjoyed a shared bottle of beer as we cooked chilli con carne with dumplings on top. I dozed off halfway through drinking a glass of wine and so we were in bed quite early.

Saturday morning was glorious and I delighted in unzipping the windows in the top bunk area and looking at the stunning landscape. Already there was a cyclist to be seen at the top of Ivinghoe Beacon and I joked to Tony about how that would be us in ten minutes. (I was only joking about the time, not that we might get up there).

Ready for a bike ride
After breakfast and a shower we unlocked the bikes from Cleopatra's bike rack and set off. In less than two minutes we were at the foot of Ivinghoe Beacon. Walkers were setting off up to the summit but it looked a little steep and so we followed the more gradual gradient of the road. Five minutes in to the ride I had got off to push the bike to the top. Tony struggled on, arriving at the top only a few seconds before me. I was a little embarrassed as gym-fit cyclists whizzed past on racing bikes.

We saw dozens and dozens of cyclists; the area is clearly popular for this hobby and I can see why. All throughout our cycle ride we had spectacular views and passed through many quaint little villages. Obviously we weren't going to cover all 170 miles of the Chilterns Cycleway and so we looked for an opportunity to cross it and join another section heading back towards Ivinghoe. This took us through Berkhamsted, again a place I knew nothing about, but from what I did see, it looked like a lovely market town complete with canal flowing through. We only ventured as far as Waitrose to grab our free coffees and then enjoyed them in the sun next to some canal narrow-boats.

The village of Aldbury
We cycled on towards the village of Aldbury. It was now after midday and so it didn't seem unreasonable to stop when we saw a pub, and stop we did when we saw the Greyhound pub on the village green. We enjoyed two pints sitting out the front overlooking the village pond. I don't think I'll ever see a village that looks more like an English village should - it's just beautiful.

We resisted the urge to order lunch as those around us had done, but realising we couldn't possibly go until evening without eating something we gave in to our stomachs and bought sausages and bread rolls from the village store, packing them in our rucksack to continue the ride back to Ivinghoe.

Visitor wants sausages
I struggled again on the hill up to the farm and did the final portion of the journey on foot. It was still beautifully sunny and so we took Cleopatra's chairs from her tailgate and sat in the sun with a beer. Later we used a 10-metre extension lead to cook our sausages next to our chairs in the sun. We enjoyed our hot dogs while watching the two vintage campervans arrive and set up. Their dog came to say hello when he smelled our sausages cooking.

Having had three beers each we clearly had appetite for more and so we walked for about 20 minutes to the Rose and Crown where we had two more pints apiece.

We had another hour of daylight to soak up the views before we started cooking Moroccan meatballs for dinner, to be washed down with a glass or two of wine. After such an exhausting morning followed by a relaxing early evening and all the associated beverages, we were in bed just after 10am.

Town Farm is our favourite site so far and with its easy access to great cycling and so many lovely villages (read pubs) we'll be back again soon!

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