Ampthill Park has a bit of everything; tremendous views from the Greensand Ridge, a fascinating heritage from Henry VIII to Capability Brown, and a diverse collection of flora and fauna.
The Park is most notable for being the site of Ampthill Castle where Henry VIII stayed and Katherine of Aragon spent a year whilst her marriage to Henry was annulled. Despite its name this was actually a palace/manor house and not a traditional castle. Katherine’s Cross marks the site now and can be seen on the ridge if you follow the main path from the west car park. The Ampthill Camp Memorial Cross is also on the ridge.
The landscape then would have been wood pasture but what you see now is largely down to Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown who strategically planted trees in clumps to create special vistas from the ridge. Grazing only ceased at the park 10 years ago and it is again being introduced into certain areas to aid scrub management.
A section of the Greensand Ridge Walk runs through the park on its way from Leighton Buzzard to Clophill. The ridge itself is of great geological significance. Resistant to erosion it stands high above the surrounding landscape. Where the sandstone meets the Oxford Clay in the vale to the north, water seeps out creating distinctive wet flushes. These and the scrub areas are the most interesting for flora and fauna. There are many informal paths running through this area and is most easily reached from the west car park, instead of going up onto the ridge drop down and round it.
The park is a County Wildlife Site noted for being the largest expanse of acid grassland in the county. Also around the site are many veteran trees from Brown’s original plantings and before, in particular Sweet Chestnuts and English Oaks that are quite magnificent and provide a great wildlife habitat. There is a Sweet Chestnut of particular note off the path north from Russett’s Lodge Laurel Wood and Russett’s Plantation give a nice change of scenery from the rest of the park.
Download Ampthill Great Park leaflet 883kb
Download Ampthil Great Park- The Woolnough Trail leaflet 1.5MB
They can also be obtained from the AmpthillTown Council, park keepers, and the AmpthillPark Ranger (The Greensand Trust)