Backup Only

This Week's Walks - Archive

Please see the Saturday Walker's Club This Week's Walks page.

This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

Blog Archive

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Saturday Walk - Beds and Herts Downlands: Hitchin Circular or to Harlington (Pegsdon and Barton Hills) [SWC 234] & [SWC 229]

SWC 234 – Hitchin Circular, or just to Pegsdon, and then combined with SWC 229 (Leagrave to Harlington) 
[from Pegsdon follow the Bunyan Trail for an obvious link to Hexton, and on to Harlington, see route map linked below]

Length: 25.6 km (16.0 mi) [with shortcuts: 20.7 km (13.0 mi)] or 28.9 km (17.9 mi) to Harlington
Ascent/descent: 414 m or 476m to Harlington                 
Toughness: 7/10, or 8/10 to Harlington

9.22 Peterborough train from Kings Cross (9.28 Finsbury Park), arriving Hitchin at 9.52.
Return trains: from Hitchin - four per hour until very late, the fast ones are departing on xx.00 and xx.30;
from Harlington (to St. Pancras and all other Thameslink stations) – also four per hour on xx.08, xx.25, xx.41 and xx.55.
Note: you will need two separate singles for the Harlington Ending (both Off-Peak tickets cost £12.70 each at full price).

This Hertfordshire walk covers the hilly area west of Hitchin. The morning route leads along farm tracks, field boundaries, shaded grassy lanes and through a few woods across the most north easterly ridge of The Chilterns, in Great Offley, to the steep chalk downlands of Pegsdon Hills and Knocking Hoe, dissected by quiet flat bottomed valleys, which form the scenery around the lunch stop in Pegsdon, where the terraced pub garden provides stunning views overlooking the hills.
From Knocking Hoe the ancient Icknield Way leads to the pretty village of Pirton, with its impressive remains of a motte-and-double bailey and traces of an abandoned medieval village.
On the outskirts of Hitchin, Oughtonhead Common is a mature alder and willow fen woodland, whose diversity of habitats is surprisingly large. From there the route follows the high quality chalk river Oughton all the way to its wellhead. The final stretch leads past a very charming farm gate café to Hitchin’s old town, which has kept its medieval market town feel and has many fine Tudor and Georgian buildings. Pass St. Mary’s Church, the largest parish church in Hertfordshire and evidence of how Hitchin prospered from the wool trade, and brave a final steep ascent through a park to then re-trace part of the morning route back to the train station at the easterly end of town.
This is a stile-free walk.
Hexton to Harlington: the amazing Barton Hills, possibly the most scenic Downs north of the Thames (close to London) with their hillside springs, then rolling fields to Harlington.

Lunch: The Live and Let Live Country Inn in Pegsdon (13.7 km/8.5 mi, food to ) or The Motte & Bailey (food all day) or The Fox (food to 15.00), both in Pirton (17.0 km/10.6 mi into the main walk, 14.4 km if taking Shortcut I). If finishing in Harlington, there is also The Raven of Hexton (15.9 km/9.9 mi, food all day).
Tea: Oughtonhead Farm Garden Gate Tea Room, one of the finest tea stops on any walk (3.8 km/2.4 mi from the end, open to 16.00 usually, call ahead if running late), and plenty of options in Hitchin (see pdf). If finishing in Harlington, there is also The Olde Watermill (5.4 km from the end) and two pubs in Harlington.
For walk directions, a route map, photos or gpx/kml files: click here.t=swc.234
For the Harlington Ending you’ll find all necessary stuff here.

2 comments:

Kelda said...

I should be there - let's hope the sun is still shining!

Karen said...

n=13 w=overcast_clearing_to_sunny_and_hot

The weather turned out much better than forecast (resulting in sun burn for some) and 13 enjoyed a fine day out in the countryside near Hitchin. This a particularly lovely walk just 30 minutes from Kings Cross and with a sub £9 return ticket if you have a railcard.

About 9 picknicked up on Pegsdon Hills (a particularly fine picnic spot) looking down a steep slope over the Bedforshire plain. The rest took lunch at The Live and Let Live. After lunch, the walk writer explored the link to another walk finishing in Harlington, but everyone else continued on the circular walk back to Hitchin. Anyone who had done the walk before couldn't resist the route back as it meant a chance to stop at Oughtonhead Farm Garden Gate Tea Room. A delightful place to stop for tea: homemade lovely cakes, tea served in vintage china, with seating outside in a lovely garden.

The walk is simply lovely, maybe especially so at this time of the year. Fields of crops in various shades of green, some beginning to turn golden, gentle hills, footpaths through fields clearly marked, dramatic views from up on the Pegsdon Hills, a pleasant nature reserve on the outskirts of the town and a fine tea stop. Hitchin itself offers plenty of watering holes and 3 of us enjoyed a drink or two at the CAMRA-endorsed Half Moon pub. Back to London on the 18:30 train.