Arlesey to Letchworth Garden City walk

The Hiz chalk stream, the Greensand Ridge, the ‘Cathedral of the Chilterns’, a motte-and-bailey and an abandoned medieval village, the Icknield Way past a lavender farm to a Garden City.


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Post # Weather
Sun, 10-Jun-18 Sunday walk - Beautiful Bedfordshire
Sun, 09-Jul-17 Sunday Walk - The Cathedral of the Chilterns, Hitchin Lavender Farm and the World’s First – and Britain’s Best – Garden City 12 warm sunny some cloud
Sun, 10-Jul-16 Sunday Second Walk: meadows & green lanes in Herts & Beds 13 sunny with some showers
Sat, 13-Sep-14 Arlesey to Letchworth Garden City 10
Sun, 10-Jun-18
Sunday walk - Beautiful Bedfordshire
Arlesey to Letchworth Garden City
Length: 24.5km (15.2 miles). Toughness: 5 out of 10

10:09 Peterborough train from Kings Cross (Finsbury Park 10:16), arriving Arlesey at 10:48.

Return trains from Letchworth Garden City to Kings Cross are at xx:29 (journey 52 mins) and xx:53 (journey time 41 mins). Buy an off-peak day return to Letchworth Garden City. You may need an additional single from Hitchin to Arlesey if the guard is strict.

A longish, but mainly flat and not too challenging, walk through meadows, fields, pretty villages and green lanes on the Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire borders. A couple of optional short cuts reduce the length by a mile or two, but there are no really short options. The walk notes give details of a number of features of interest

The recommended lunch pub is The Crown (01462 711667) in Shillington, 7 miles into the walk. Alternative pubs are also possible (see walk directions).

You will need to download the walk directions.

Sun, 09-Jul-17
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
  • 10-Jul-17

    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 warm sunny some cloud .

  • Karen

    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?

  • 10-Jul-17

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

Sun, 10-Jul-16
Sunday Second Walk: meadows & green lanes in Herts & Beds
Extra Walk 233: Arlesey to Letchworth Garden City

Length: 24.5km (15.2 miles) Toughness: 5/10

10:22 Peterborough train from Kings Cross (Finsbury Park 10:28) arriving Arlesey at 10:57. Buy a Super Off-Peak Day Return to Letchworth Garden City (as recommended in the walk notes) or to Arlesey (further from London). The fare to both is the same, and both stations are one stop beyond Hitchin, but on different lines, so you might have to buy a single ticket for the short journey from or to Hitchin.

Return trains from Letchworth Garden City to Kings Cross are at xx:29 (journey time 50 minutes) and at xx:53 (journey time 37 minutes).

A longish but not too challenging walk on the Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire borders, through riverside meadows, fields, hilltop villages and green lanes, with views of the Chilterns. A couple of optional shortcuts around lunchtime reduce the length of the walk by 3.0 or 1.4km respectively. This is only the second outing, and the first on a Sunday, for this walk, which had its baptism in 2014. Please provide your comments on the walk, and particularly on the lunch pubs, on the walk's Feedback Page

Several possible lunch pubs are suggested in the walk directions, but the most conveniently placed seem to be The Crown (01462 711667), 7 miles from the start, or The Musgrave Arms (01462 711286), 8 miles from the start, both located in the village of Shillington, which is bypassed by one of the shortcuts. The walk directions list plenty of places for tea in Letchworth.

You will need to download the Walk Directions, which include excellent informative notes about the features passed en route.
  • Anonymous

    What's the max short cut? From what I can see, it is only 3 km, just over 1 mile, is there way to make this walk 10 miles ish?

  • 07-Jul-16

    This walk has been posted specifically to please those walkers who enjoy doing longer walks during the summer. The 3km shortcut reduces the length by almost two miles. The walk directions do not offer any greater shortcuts, though you might be able to devise your own if you take an OS map.

    If 13 miles is still too long for you, you could consider doing the other walk today which is only 6.8 miles with options to extend it to 10 or 11 miles.

  • 07-Jul-16

    ...a bit of a late start, I'd say, if you want to get to the Lavender Farm and Cafe in time (closes at 17.00)...

  • 08-Jul-16

    The latish start has been deliberately chosen to suit the many walkers who like a bit of a lie-in on Sundays. It contrasts with the early start for today's other walk. Even if you miss the lavender farm, there are plenty of other delights en route, and there's no danger of running out of daylight before you finish.

  • Fi

    Am going to do the walk but get the earlier train

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting the late start Chris! appreciated

  • 09-Jul-16

    Fi, When is the earlier start. I would love to join you.

  • Anonymous

    I will aim for 9:22 train - Brian

  • 14-Jul-16

    13 sunny with some showers We ate at The Crown, which was almost empty at 1.40pm when we arrived. We did the full walk, but in retrospect, given the late start, it would have been better to take the shortcut after visiting the church. Most people went to the Lavender Farm arriving just before 17:00, but they'd sold out of most things.

  • Fi

    Saw a Fox walking on the path in front of me and followed it for about 50 metres till it noticed me and ran into the field. Also saw a red squirrel sitting in the middle of the path too. It ran of when it noticed me.