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The principal buildings in the town are the Natural History Museum at Tring, the Parish Church of St. Peter and St Paul, Tring Local History Museum in the Marketplace, and the Mansion, now Tring Park School for the Performing Arts.
Natural History Museum at Tring
The Natural History Museum at Tring (formerly the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum) is one of the finest collections of stuffed mammals, birds, reptiles and insects in the UK. It includes examples of several animals now extinct, and a model of a dodo! The collection was given to the nation by Walter Rothschild on his death in 1937.
The museum houses Darwin’s Finches – the collection of these birds that Charles Darwin brought back from the Galapagos Islands on his voyage in HMS Beagle, and which informed his theories of Natural Selection. (The finches are not on show to the public but they are still much studied by naturalists today.)
The museum is on the corner of Akeman Street and Park Road, a quarter of a mile south of the crossroads in the centre of the town. It has a carpark. Open daily. (Tel: 020 7942 6171)
Tring Local History Museum
If you are visiting Tring on a Friday or Saturday, be sure to visit the excellent Tring Local History Museum run by dedicated volunteers from the local history society. There’s something for everyone, including the chance for children to dig up treasure in the special sandpit! Arrangements can be made for group/school visits on other days.
The Grand Union Canal and the Wendover Arm
Tring lies at the summit level of the Grand Union Canal. The canal passes to the north-east of the town on its way from London to Birmingham, and is accessible at several points, including Tring Station, Bulbourne and Marsworth.
Originally called the Grand Junction Canal, it was constructed in the late 18th century to provide a short cut from the Oxford Canal at Braunston to the Thames at Brentford. It required a long deep cutting through the chalk Chiltern ridge between what is now Tring Station and Bulbourne.
The canal was a busy commercial waterway until the coming of the railways. (The West Coast Mainline railway follows nearly the same course and has an even deeper cutting running parallel to the canal.) It became part of the Grand Union system of canals in 1929 and was modernised in the 1930s to take bigger boats, which never materialised.
There is now negligible commercial traffic and the canal is given over to pleasure boats, which can be hired from several local boatyards.
At Bulbourne, British Waterways used to have a maintenance yard (pictured right) where traditional wooden lock gates were made. The building is now used as a forge by a local artist blacksmith.
The Wendover Arm leaves the main line at Bulbourne Junction, and passes to the north of Tring to Wendover. There was once a wharf serving Tring, and a boatbuilding business, at New Mill. The arm’s main purpose was (and is) to provide water to the summit level from springs at Wendover. (See also Tring Reservoirs) From its original construction it was very leaky, and the section west of Tringford pumping station was closed in 1904. The Wendover Arm Trust is currently restoring it.
Further north, the Aylesbury Arm leaves the main line at Marsworth. This is a narrow canal – the locks are 7 feet wide, and it is still navigable to Aylesbury Basin. The lock joining it to the main line at Marsworth is a 2 chamber ‘staircase’ lock.
The pretty village of Marsworth is built around the canals, and is a pleasant place to stroll around and to watch the boats being worked through the many locks. There is a car park next to the canal and reservoir at Marsworth (GR SP 919140)
All these canals have accessible towpaths, including the dry section between Tringford and Wendover.
For more information contact Canal and River Trust via their website or their Milton Keynes office on 01908 302500.
College Lake Wildlife Centre
A truly memorable wildlife experience for all the family. A former chalk quarry near Tring in Buckinghamshire, this reserve has been transformed into a thriving centre for wildlife and supports more than 1,000 species. It boasts panoramic views of the surrounding farmland and Chiltern hills and has become a haven for many migrating birds.
School visits available for Foundation Stage, Key Stage I and II; please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reserve leaflet and map available on the website: http://www.bbowt.org.uk/. No dogs please, except for assistance dogs.
Opening hours: Winter: 9.30am – 4pm (last entry 3pm), Summer: 9.30am – 5pm (last entry 4pm)
College Lake Wildlife Centre is on Bulbourne Road (B488) between Bulbourne and the railway bridge, 2 miles north east of Tring (SP935140). Contact details are: College Lake Wildlife Centre, Upper Icknield Way, Bulbourne, Tring, Herts, HP23 5QG. Tel: 01442 826774, Fax: 01442 826396, e-mail: email@example.com, website: http://www.bbowt.org.uk/
In 1992 as part of the High Street Improvement Scheme this area of the town was opened up to emphasize the War Memorial and the Church. It features an unusual pavement maze in the shape of a zebra’s head; Walter Rothschild used to ride around Tring in a zebra-drawn carriage.
At the corner of Akeman Street and Park Road, opposite the zoological museum, these attractive almshouses were built in 1893 to house retired workers from the Rothschild Estate. They are typical of the estate style devised by the architect, William Huckvale (1848-1936).
Pendley Manor & the Court Theatre
Pendley Manor is in Station Road between Tring and Tring Station (GR SP 945120).
Formerly the home of the Williams family, the house of the Pendley estate is now the Pendley Manor Hotel and Conference Centre (Telephone: 01442 891891). It is licensed to hold civil weddings and hosts an open-air Shakespeare Festival every August. The Court Theatre at Pendley has a varied programme of theatre and concerts throughout the year, including performances by the Tring Festival Company.
The Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
Although there are few traces left today, it is thought that a church has stood on the present site since Norman times. There is some evidence of Norman stone cutting techniques in some of the stones which make up the walls of the Chancel. The Church has been much rebuilt and restored. In the 14th century, a tower was added and the body of the building enlarged. The building we see today is mainly 15th century and there were further extensive renovations between 1861 and 1882. The walls are constructed of rough flints and Totternhoe stone. The tower has walls five feet thick and is topped by a turret in the south-east corner and a so-called “Hertfordshire spike”.
Inside the Church there are several interesting features one of which is the 14 stone corbels in the arches of the nave. They are cut into the shapes of animals and fantastic creatures. One, for example, resembles a monster with the head and body of woman, but with clawed feet and the wings of a dragon. Other features of note are glass by Kempe and the Medieval tiles which are now in the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. These tiles are decorated with pictures and are thought to have formed a frieze round the walls of the Chancel. There are now eight bells in the tower. The clock, which was installed in 1882 to replace an earlier clock, was made by Gillett and Bland and chimes every quarter hour.
The Memorial Garden
The Memorial Garden, at the east end of the High Street, provides a peaceful place of contemplation. Mature trees shade the lawns which suround a pretty pond with a fountain. Seating around the pond provides the perfect spot for a rest or even a picnic.
Rose & Crown
The original coaching inn on the High Street was demolished in 1905 and rebuilt in old English style as a hotel, set back from the road. The hotel, which was one of the first Trust Houses in the country, closed for business on Wednesday 29 February 2012. The building now provides private housing.
Tring Park belonged to Tring Mansion, now the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts. When the A41 Tring Bypass was built the original park was split in two, and the area now known as Tring Park is the part south of the bypass.
The 300 acre park is now managed by the Woodland Trust and provides wonderful open space for the walker and naturalist. The Park was planted and landscaped in the 18th century and the monuments date from this period. The obelisk in the park, locally known as Nell Gwyn’s monument, and the summer house nearby are the focus of several paths that cross the Park. They are thought to have been designed by the architect James Gibbs. The impressive avenue of lime trees was planted by the Rothschilds who bought the estate in 1872.
Access to the park is from a path just east of the zoological museum, or from Hastoe Lane (GR SP 923103) or Wigginton (GR 934108).
Tring Park School for the Performing Arts
The Tring Park School for the Performing Arts specializes in the education of those aiming for a career in the performing arts and counts many stars of stage and screen amongst its former pupils.
The Mansion and the surrounding Park were owned by a succession of wealthly families, including ancestors of George Washington. In 1872 it was bought by Lionel Rothschild for his son, Nathaniel, who made it his home and contributed greatly to the development of the town.
Tring Park is now managed by the Woodland Trust and is open to the public.
The mansion is not open to the public.
Tring is at the summit level of the Grand Union Canal. The four reservoirs at Wilstone, Tringford, Startops End and Marsworth supply water for the canal and are also a haven for wildlife. A national nature reserve since 1955, the reservoirs were redesignated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1987.
Information for walkers and ornithologists is also available from Canal & River Trust.
There are car parks at Marsworth (GR SP 919140) and near Wilstone (GR SP 904135).
Aldbury and Ashridge
The picturesque village of Aldbury lies 3 miles east of Tring, at the foot of a Chiltern ridge, and is almost surrounded by the Ashridge estate which is owned by the National Trust. The village green with its pond, stocks and whipping post is the centre of the village.
The nearby Stocks House was formerly the home of Mrs Humphry Ward the novelist and her grave lies in the churchyard. Aldbury is a good base for exploring the area around Tring.
Ashridge Estate and Bridgewater Monument
The woodlands and chalk downland of the Ashridge Estate cover some 5000 acres and are now owned by the National Trust. Ashridge Estate is open all year and there is a 16 mile boundary walk plus many self-guided walks. The Monument was erected in 1832 in honour of the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater and his pioneering work on British canals.
You can discover more about local wildlife and history in the Estate Visitor Centre at the Monument. They organise a wide ranging programme of events and activities for all the family. There’s also a Tea Room and a National Trust Gift Shop (not open all year). Contact the Ashridge Estate Office (Tel: 01442 851227) or see www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Ashridge House was at one time the home of Elizabeth I; it is now the base of the Ashridge Management College. The house and gardens are private; however, the gardens are open to the public at weekends in the summer.
The town of Berkhamsted owed its importance in the Middle Ages to its Norman Castle. William the Conqueror gave the castle to his half brother, Robert, who constructed the unusual double moat. The castle was abandoned in 1495 and fell into ruin.
Berkhamsted is 5 miles south east of Tring. For more details, visit the Berkhamsted Castle website or the English Heritage website.
Ivinghoe and Pitstone
The villages of Ivinghoe and Pitstone are close together, 3 miles north of Tring.
Beacon Hill (768 feet) lies at the northern edge of the Chiltern Escarpment and offers outstanding views to the north and north-west. The beacon is the starting point of the Ridgeway National Trail. (GR: SP 961168)
This mill is believed to be the oldest post mill in the British Isles. Given to the National Trust in 1937, it is now restored and is open to the public on Sunday and Bank Holiday afternoons during the summer months. Please refer to the National Trust website for more details; tip: on the NT home page, type pitstone into the Search box and click Go. (GR: SP 945157)
The Ridgeway National Trail
The Ridgeway National Trail passes close to Tring from its northern starting point at Ivinghoe Beacon, 5 miles north east of Tring. The route follows the track of the oldest road in Britain and runs for 85 miles across the chalk ridge of the Chilterns and North Wessex Downs to Overton Hill in Wiltshire.
The section near Tring runs over Pitstone Hill, by Tring Station and through Tring Park along the ridge overlooking Tring. The photo shows the spectacular footbridge that carries the Ridgeway over the A41 between Tring Station and Wigginton.
Pitstone Green Museum
Mainly a Rural Life Museum, with many exhibits relating to farming, country life, trades, and professions from the area. It also contains other interesting items, including stationery engines, vintage wireless, photographic, and electrical apparatus and a WWII military aviation room – including a reconstructed section of a Lancaster bomber.
Run by the Pitstone & Ivinghoe Museum Society. Open 11am – 5pm on Bank Holiday Mondays and the 2nd Sunday in June, July, August and Sept. See the Pitstone Museum website for more details or contact the Museum Manager, Norman Groom, on 01582 605464. (GR: SP 937156)
Ford End Water Mill, Ivinghoe
Built in the early 1700s on the site of an earlier mill, it has been restored to recreate the atmosphere of a small corn mill in the 1800s. It is one of very few watermills that are still working. Stoneground wholemeal flour for sale on open days. Run by the Ford End Water Mill Society. See the Ford End Water Mill website for opening times and more details. (GR: SP 941166)
The Glis-Glis or Edible Dormouse
The glis-glis is a mammal which is not native to Great Britain. Glis-glis were introduced to Tring Park in 1902 by Walter Rothschild and have become established in the surrounding countryside. They are found only within a 25 mile radius of Tring and are well established in the beech woods of the Chilterns as far as Amersham and Chesham.
They resemble the grey squirrel but are smaller, about 15 cm – (6 inches) long, and with a long bushy tail. They have large black eyes. They hibernate in winter and sometimes choose to live in the roofspace of houses or outbuildings rather than their more usual nesting places in tree holes.
It is when they come into local houses that people become aware of them because of the damage that they cause. Householders may need to seek the help of the Environmental Health Officer in proofing their homes against them. The glis-glis is a protected species and a special licence is required to trap or kill them. More information for the householder is available from the Environmental Health Department of Dacorum Borough Council. Telephone: 01442 228488.
The Mansion which was built by Christopher Wren is now the home of this independent school.
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park is part of the Zoological Society of London, and is one of Europe’s largest conservation parks. There are over 2500 animals in its 600 acres of parkland.
Whipsnade is 10 miles north east of Tring, towards Dunstable.