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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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Saturday, 11 July 2020

Saturday Walk - The Northeasterly End of the Chilterns: Hitchin Circular

Length: 25.6 km (15.9 mi), Ascent/Descent: 348 m
[with shortcuts down to 20.8 km/12.9 mi, also has one bus dropout]
Net Walking Time: ca. 6 hours, Toughness: 7 out of 10

Take the (Brighton to Cambridge) Thameslink train (East Croydon 09.01, London Bridge 09.16, Blackfriars 09.22, City Thameslink 09.24, Farringdon 09.26, St. Pancras  09.31, Finsbury Park [Victoria Line] 09.42), arriving Hitchin 10.08.  Return trains: xx.04, xx.11, xx.26, xx.34, xx.41, xx.56.

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 Local Nature Reserve 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 cafĂ© 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. 

Covid-compatibility: you start along semi-narrow passages to get to the other end of Hitchin, there may be some pedestrian traffic there; else it is wide open countryside, almost entirely on car wide paths or tracks with little traffic. 

Lunch: The Live and Let Live in Pegsdon (13.7 km/8.5 mi, food all day, fully refurbished acc. to the website);
or The Motte & Bailey  in Pirton on the short walk (14.4 km/8.9 mi, food to 15.00), this also makes for a good tea stop on the full walk.
Tea: plenty of options, see the pdf.

For  walk directions, map, photos, height profile and gpx/kml files click here. T=swc.234


Anonymous said...

Thanks for scheduling what looks like a great walk in unfamiliar territory for many of us. Live and Let Live pub still closed, so picnic time.

Thomas G said...

Yes and no: I just called them. The Lady on the phone said they will be open, and be selling drinks and there will be a BBQ outside...(?) So, at least liquid refreshments should be available.
But picnic on the hillside with views of the pub is at least as good as the real thing.

Thomas G said...

12 off the train, 1 off an earlier one, 1 car driver, n=14 walkers in w=overcast-clearing-to-mostly-sunny-and-warm weather. Groups of 5 and 2 and 5 set off with the walk-checker plus 1 other staying behind, but the second group of 5 seemed to have problems following the route from early on and various members of it were then found later joining other subgroups (a yellow-card offence).
Lots of swaying cereal fields, loads of wildflowers, especially in the Pegsdon Hills with the attendant butterflies, bees, wasps and bumblebees. Picnic was had on the slopes of the Pegsdon Hills, overlooking the Bedfordshire Plain (and the lunch pub), with the various groups spreading out along the two described descent routes. While the pub seemed shut from its main entrance, the group descending along the alternate route could see that there was some activity at the back, so we enquired about drinks, and were rewarded with freshly pulled pints. In fact they were just setting up and a BBQ was indeed fired up as we left (jerk chicken seemd to be on the menu).
On to Hitchin along Icknield Way, fields and through the lovely Oughtonhead Nature Reserve. The Farm Gate Cafe is still Covid-shut, but Hitchin town centre was heaving, with lots of cafes, ice cream parlours and pubs being open.
16.41 train for the first group.

Karen said...

The ‘fast’ group picknicked at the recommended picnic spot on Pegsdon Hills, taking over the bench from a family who were just moving on as we arrived. A couple others caught up and dined an appropriate socially-distanced distance away. We set off hoping for refreshments at the Live and Let Live, but there were no obvious signs of the imminent opening the others discovered. We did have a lovely break at the Motte and Bailey in the next village. Very picturesque, well run spot. Upon arrival in Hitchin, we deemed town too busy and made our way to the station. Stopped for a drink en route, but discovered after we had set down in the beer garden that ordering was through an app only. No one had the patience for that, so we called it a day and made the 16:41.

Great day. Beautiful blue skies and fields of gold. A field of poppies at one point. Perfect temperature. Only thing lacking was that the wonderful tea stop on the edge of the nature reserve was closed - hopefully they will be back in business soon.

Donal Flinn said...

Thank you for organising todays walk, much appreciated. The SWC are a great group of people and I am very proud to be part of it.