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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.

Blog Archive

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Saturday Walk - The Source of The River Lea and the magnificent Barton Hills: Leagrave to Harlington

Length: 23.1 km (14.4 mi) [shorter options outlined below]
Ascent/Descent: 352/378m; Net Walking Time: 5 hours
Toughness: 5/10

Take the Thameslink service to Bedford arriving Leagrave 10.31, this departs East Croydon 09.21, London Bridge 09.35, …, St. Pancras 09.51, West Hampstead 09.59.
Return trains from Harlington are on xx.04 and xx.34. Buy a Harlington (Bedfordshire) Return.

The start to this walk in Central Bedfordshire with a long urban stretch may sound inauspicious, but most of that actually leads through meadows along the early beginnings of The Lea River. And the rewards are many and varied: far views from solitary North Chiltern hills, ancient woodlands, steep chalk escarpments, two of the largest Neolithic hill forts in the South East and an exceptionally fine and steep chalk down land: Barton Hills, as good as any other. All this is linked by ancient track ways like the Icknield Way, by the Chiltern Way and with rolling grassy fields and fine views up to the escarpments in the afternoon. The finish is in the tranquil hill top village of Harlington.

Walk options:
Two – mutually exclusive – pre-lunch shortcuts reduce the length of the walk by 5.8 km and 57m ascent/descent, and by 6.5 km and 85m ascent/descent respectively.
Shortcut I cuts out Barton Hills, arguably the best part of the walk, and leads through the NT-owned Sharpenhoe Clappers Hills and through the Sharpenhoe Hill Fort site instead (this walk is rated 3/10).
Shortcut II halves the time spent in the Barton Hills (this walk is also rated 3/10).
There are several bus services from opposite the late lunch stops in Barton-Le-Clay to Luton, terminating at Galaxy Centre, close to Luton train station, which is closer to London on the same train line.

Lunch: The Raven of Hexton in Hexton (10.1 km/6.3 mi, food all day), or – opposite – The Lavender Tea Rooms.
Tea: Plenty of options en route in Barton-le-Clay, especially The Olde Watermill in the Dickensian Village, plus two pubs in Harlington. See the pdf for details.

For summary, map, height profile, some photos, walk directions and gpx/kml files click here.


Thomas G said...

Most of the walkers had not done this one before so we added the diversion to The Source of the Lee, in the process getting more of an out-and-back than we had bargained for, as we tested a return on the other side of the young river, meaning a nice little detour through a wood and across two early Lee tributaries.
The 'urban' bit through Luton's suburbia was about to wear out the patience of one or other walker, when we reached the Warden and Galley Hill Nature Reserve and our first hill. The route along the ridges was pleasant as always with fine views, and with plenty of skylarks making themselves heard. Also further along, on the Icknield Way, through the woods and along the fields we were rarely without birdsong for the rest of the day.
Lunch at The Raven was a solid affair as always, the sandwichers joined us for a drink, the two first-timers moved on before us and we belatedly proceeded along field boundaries to Barton, up the Barton Hills and back down to the springs and along the nascent stream. Everyone seemed to love it and we then turned left into the Olde Watermill 'Dickensian Village' cornucopia of strange shops for a tea outside its cafe by the (artificial) pond. Pushing on in the later stages, we got to Harlington just in time for the 18.04 train.
Plenty of colours out there at the moment, all shades of green in the foliage, bright new green in the half-grown cereal fields swaying in the wind, still some yellow in the many rape oil seed fields (practically any sloping ground), many buttercups, swathes of cow parsley, blooming thorn bushes, dandelions and even a few (discoloured by now) bluebells. Early on we had 5-10 minutes of the finest drizzle, not enough to even bother with getting jackets out, later the clouds broke at times to let the sun through and provide for some fine cloudscapes.
9 off the train, incl. 1 first-timer missing her delayed friend, who caught up at lunch. And then in the afternoon, on the path we found a pristine, dry, printed A4 page with pages 7 and 8 of the walk directions on the one side and a bank's letter on the reverse to a certain Mike Powell, Northampton, so the Sherlock Holmes in me deducts that our recently-moved-to-Northampton SWCer was on the walk, but ahead of the group. n=11 w=overcast-later-breaking-with-some-sun

Mike said...

Well done Holmes! I got to Leagrave from the other direction a few minutes later, fully expecting to catch the group early on, but I guess you were exploring the source of the Lea! I enjoyed the Barton Hills, though I got a bit confused approaching Barton-le-Clay both times (second time probably alcohol induced) and near the finish. Only once did the sun come out properly, in the garden of the Raven.