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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.

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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Sunday Walk - The Cathedral of the Chilterns, Hitchin Lavender Farm and the World’s First – and Britain’s Best – Garden City

Arlesey to Letchworth Garden City
Length: 24.5 km (15.2 mi) [for a shorter walk: see the pdf]
Ascent/Descent: approx. 192/147m; Net Walking Time: 5 ¼ hrs
Toughness:  5 out of 10

Take the 09.22 Peterborough train from Kings Cross (Finsbury Park 09.28), arrives Arlesey at 09.58.
Return trains are on xx.30 (49 mins journey time) and xx.53 (37 mins journey time).
Buy a return to Letchworth Garden City. This should also be valid for the Hitchin - Arlesey stretch.

This long but not too challenging walk in the Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire borders leads straight from the platform into the wildlife-rich riverside meadows of the Hiz River, a meandering high quality chalk stream, followed for a few km. It then leads west along field boundaries and through RAF Henlow Camp to the linear hilltop village of Meppershall, past its manor house and a motte-and-double bailey. The following stretch offers far views south to the Chilterns and north to the Greensand Ridge, before heading to the imposing hilltop church in Shillington, dubbed the ‘Cathedral of the Chilterns’ by John Betjeman.After lunch green lanes lead to the pretty village of Pirton, with more impressive remains of a motte-and-double bailey and traces of an abandoned medieval village.
The Icknield Way then leads you past one of the very few British lavender farms and its excellent barn café (a visit and a pick-your-own require a small detour) to the World’s first and Britain’s best Garden City: Letchworth.
Lunch: The Crown in Shillington (11.3 km/7.0 mi, under new ownership as of last year and with mixed online reports, admittedly) or The Musgrave Arms (12.9 km/8.0 mi, food to 17.45). There are also The Motte & Bailey (food to 18.00) and The Fox in Pirton (about 16 km/10 mi).
Tea: the café at Hitchin Lavender (open to 17.00, and - apart from ice cream and cakes – also selling all things lavender) as well as a vast range of pubs and cafés en route to and in Letchworth, starting with the Pirton pubs mentioned as late lunch options (for more details see page 2 of the pdf).

For walk directions, route map, height profile, some photos, and gpx/kml files click here.
This posting is in a slot swapped with Chris L


PeteB said...

n=12 on this walk including one newbie traing for a walking/camping holiday with friends in Roumania and one octogenarian near newbie who did the full 15.2m walk. This is a lovely dreamy walk with big skies, big fields and easy paths and tracks through meadows and acrooss fields of golden wheat. Lots of small brown and larger white butterflies around and we spotted a red admiral displaying on our path.
Although a long walk on a hot and humid day the paths are so easy and flat you can keep up a reasonable pace without much stress and on the afternoon's long 3km straight Ickenfield Way/Hambridge Way you section(or at least me) achieve an almost zen-like trance state.
2 of us had a picnic lunch at the hilltop Cathedral of the North in Shillington with excellent views whilst others walked on for a couple of kms to the Musgrave Arms which provided an excellent lunch including the largest sea bass I've ever seen!
By careful pacing we easily reached the lavender fields and its barn cafe for tea and cakes. Four of us went for a welcome final drink in Letchworth's craft bar before catching a very crowded train home. (Why can't rail companies put on a couple more carriages on summer weekends; would it undermine their profit margins?)
Weather w=warm-sunny-some-cloud.

Karen said...

The Hitchen area's tea room game is very strong, what with The Garden Gate at Oughton Head (SWC 234 - Hitchin Circular) and the tea rooms at the Hitchin Lavender Farm on this walk. A wide selection of cakes and all looked very tempting. Most impressive though was the efficient system that kept the queue moving at the cash registers (where they were also processing purchases from the shop) and got your order to your table in about 5 minutes despite the fact that the tea room was very busy. They were doing a good job of clearing tables, too. The kind of experience that makes you wonder that if they are getting it so right, why can't other businesses?

Peteb said...

Thanks Karen, totally agree about the service at the barn cafe. Exceptional and all the young staff so focussed and organised.