Grassy lanes and woods across the most north easterly Chilterns ridge to Pegsdon Hills and Knocking Hoe. A motte-and-double bailey and an abandoned medieval village, alder and willow woodland, Oughton (chalk river), Hitchin’s old town with Tudor and Georgian buildings
|Length||25.6 km (16.0 mi), of which 6.0 km (3.7 mi) on tarmac or concrete (3/4 of that in Hitchin). Cumulative ascent/descent: 355m.|
|OS Maps||OS Landranger Map: 166 (Luton & Hertford) OS Explorer Map: 193 (Luton & Stevenage) Hitchin station, map reference TL 194 297, is 13 km north east of Luton and 7 km north west of Stevenage, 73m above sea level and in North Hertfordshire.|
|Toughness||6 out of 10|
|Walk Notes||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 National Nature Reserve, 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.
|Walk Options||A shortcut around lunch reduces the length of the walk by 2.4 km and the ascent/descent by 56m.
A shortcut just before the end reduces the length of the walk by 2.5 km and the ascent/descent by 53m.
Taking any shortcut reduces the effort to 5/10, taking both makes it a 4/10.
An infrequent bus service gets you from Pirton (17.2 km into the main walk, and also the lunch stop if taking Shortcut I) straight to Hitchin, or to Henlow Camp, where you can connect to the more frequent service to Hitchin (Mon-Sat only).
A short connection from the lunch stop in Pegsdon to Hexton means you can pick up SWC 229 (Leagrave to Harlington) there, and include the stunning Barton Hills in this walk. Harlington is on a different train line.
|Transport||Hitchin station is on the East Coast Main Line and served by Thameslink services from London Bridge through St. Pancras (journey time 32 minutes from STP) and from King’s Cross (journey time 45 minutes Mon-Fri, from 32 minutes Sat-Sun).|
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Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk