Pegsdon Hills

SWC Walk 234 Hitchin Circular

27-Jun-15 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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View from Hitchin Hill to Charlton

SWC Walk 234 Hitchin Circular

27-Jun-15 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Two walkers on the alternative descent-route

SWC Walk 234 Hitchin Circular

27-Jun-15 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Hitchin Waterfall (the millstream overflow)

SWC Walk 234 Hitchin Circular

27-Jun-15 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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St. Mary's, Hitchin in dusk

SWC Walk 234 Hitchin Circular

27-Jun-15 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Sweeping fields of cereal and poppies

along the Chiltern Way

27-Jun-15 • magyardave2002 on Flickr

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This way

Chiltern way

27-Jun-15 • magyardave2002 on Flickr

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Hitchin Circular walk

History

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.

Updated: Mon, 19-Oct-20

Date # Post
Sat, 11-Jul-20 14

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 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.

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
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.
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.
12 off the train, 1 off an earlier one, 1 car driver, 14 walkers in 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.
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.
Thomas
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.
Wed, 04-Sep-19 8

Wednesday Walk Hitchin Circular

Hitchin Circular T=swc.234

Length: 14.3 miles (23km) 6 out of 10 - option at the end to do 2.5km for the full walk

"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.

From Knocking Hoe the ancient Icknield Way leads to the pretty village of Pirton, with its impressive remains of a motte-and-double bailey castle and traces of an abandoned medieval village."

Trains: Get the 1001 Thameslink Cambridge train from St Pancras (London Bridge 0946, Blackfriars 0951 - this train is from Brighton, so there are multiple joining points) arriving Hitchin 1038. Frequent return trains.

Lunch: .The Live and Let Live in Pegsdon (13.7 km/8.5 mi, food 1200-1500), so a late lunch.


8 on a sunny with a nice breeze day. We lost one regular who stopped to get water. 5 took the lunchtime shortcut with 2 pressing on to the Pegsdun Hills, stopping in the pub after a picnic. 4 other walkers ordered just before us, & their food arrived just as we were finishing our pints, so not too bad. We all took the shorcut ending into town, stopping at the Molly Malone at different times. The Nightingale is now flats.
3 of the 5 short cutters took a further unofficial shortcut but still ended up totalling a healthy 11.8 miles.
Sat, 02-Feb-19 7

Saturday Walk - Hertfordshire Downlands (the easterly 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 09.35 Ely train from King’s Cross (Finsbury Park [Piccadilly and Victoria Lines] 09.42, Stevenage 10.03), arrives Hitchin 10.08.
Return trains: xx.11, xx.41, xx.55.
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 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.
Lunch: The Live and Let Live in Pegsdon (13.7 km/8.5 mi, food all day);
or The Motte & Bailey in Pirton on the short walk (14.4 km/8.9 mi, food to 15.00).
Tea: plenty of options, see the pdf.
For walk directions, map, photos, height profile and gpx/kml files click here. T=swc.234
After seeing growing amounts of snow cover on the train journey, 7 eagerly emerged on the platform in Hitchin under bright mostly sunny skies. As a Hitchin virgin, I was somewhat apprehensive about tackling this long walk in early February but it was a winter delight with good snow cover, particularly on the hills....Two opted for the short version, leaving 5 on the long haul who had a rather leisurely (but educational) lunch or drinks at the quirky pub just below the escarpment with fine views back to the snow capped hills. Once finished with lunch, we headed back up the hill with some nice afternoon views. The afternoon route is varied, including a nice section along a very clear chalk stream. Back in Hitchin at dusk, we did a circuit of the charming old town and church before enjoying some bevies in an old style pub with a wide selection of real ales and ultimately catching the 18:11... So, all in all, a really good winter outing....
Sun, 29-Jul-18

Sunday Walk: Hitchin Circular

25.7 km (16.0 mi), 14.5 or 13 miles
Toughness, 7, 6 or 5 out of 10
The full strenuous 16 mile walk, leading to the Pegsdon Hills, Knocking Hoe, and a lunch stop with stunning views, will appeal to our tough cookies but it can be trimmed to an easier walk with the aid of Shortcuts I and II. The afternoon takes you to the pretty village of Pirton, with its remnant motte-and-bailey and abandoned medieval village, then through the fen woodland of Oughtonhead Common to Hitchin’s old town and, if up for it, a great pub.
Trains
Get the Peterborough train from Kings Cross at 10:11 (Finsbury Park 10:17), arriving Hitchin at 10:42.
Return to Kings Cross at xx:58 and xx:30. There's also a slower train at xx:34. Get a return to Hitchin.
Lunch: For the full walk, The Live and Let Live, Pegsdon, (01582 881 739 ) 8.5 miles into the walk.
The pub recommended for those taking shortcut 1 is the The Motte & Bailey in Pirton after 9 miles. (If that’s a pub too far, there are earlier ones in Great Offley, The Red Lion and The Green Man after 4.2 and 5.6 miles).
Tea:
Oughtonhead Farm Garden Gate Tea Room (07969 621 223), a charming facility 3.8 km (2.4 mi) from the end of the main walk. In summer they generally seem to be open till 16.00.
There's no shortage of places in Hitchin (see notes) and no visit to Hitchin is complete without a visit to The Half Moon , 57 Queen Street, Camra’s Hertfordshire pub of the year several times over.
Walk Directions here
T=swc.234
Sat, 24-Jun-17 13

Saturday Walk - Beds and Herts Downlands: Hitchin Circular or to Harlington (Pegsdon and Barton Hills) [SWC 234] & [SWC 229]

SWC 234 – Hitchin Circular, or just to Pegsdon, and then combined with SWC 229 (Leagrave to Harlington)
[from Pegsdon follow the Bunyan Trail for an obvious link to Hexton, and on to Harlington, see route map linked below]
Length: 25.6 km (16.0 mi) [with shortcuts: 20.7 km (13.0 mi)] or 28.9 km (17.9 mi) to Harlington
Ascent/descent: 414 m or 476m to Harlington
Toughness: 7/10, or 8/10 to Harlington
9.22 Peterborough train from Kings Cross (9.28 Finsbury Park), arriving Hitchin at 9.52.
Return trains: from Hitchin - four per hour until very late, the fast ones are departing on xx.00 and xx.30;
from Harlington (to St. Pancras and all other Thameslink stations) – also four per hour on xx.08, xx.25, xx.41 and xx.55.
Note: you will need two separate singles for the Harlington Ending (both Off-Peak tickets cost £12.70 each at full price).
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 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.
Hexton to Harlington: the amazing Barton Hills, possibly the most scenic Downs north of the Thames (close to London) with their hillside springs, then rolling fields to Harlington.
Lunch: The Live and Let Live Country Inn in Pegsdon (13.7 km/8.5 mi, food to ) or The Motte & Bailey (food all day) or The Fox (food to 15.00), both in Pirton (17.0 km/10.6 mi into the main walk, 14.4 km if taking Shortcut I). If finishing in Harlington, there is also The Raven of Hexton (15.9 km/9.9 mi, food all day).
Tea: Oughtonhead Farm Garden Gate Tea Room, one of the finest tea stops on any walk (3.8 km/2.4 mi from the end, open to 16.00 usually, call ahead if running late), and plenty of options in Hitchin (see pdf). If finishing in Harlington, there is also The Olde Watermill (5.4 km from the end) and two pubs in Harlington.
For walk directions, a route map, photos or gpx/kml files: click here.t=swc.234
For the Harlington Ending you’ll find all necessary stuff here.
I should be there let's hope the sun is still shining!
13 overcast clearing to sunny and hot

The weather turned out much better than forecast (resulting in sun burn for some) and 13 enjoyed a fine day out in the countryside near Hitchin. This a particularly lovely walk just 30 minutes from Kings Cross and with a sub £9 return ticket if you have a railcard.

About 9 picknicked up on Pegsdon Hills (a particularly fine picnic spot) looking down a steep slope over the Bedforshire plain. The rest took lunch at The Live and Let Live. After lunch, the walk writer explored the link to another walk finishing in Harlington, but everyone else continued on the circular walk back to Hitchin. Anyone who had done the walk before couldn't resist the route back as it meant a chance to stop at Oughtonhead Farm Garden Gate Tea Room. A delightful place to stop for tea: homemade lovely cakes, tea served in vintage china, with seating outside in a lovely garden.

The walk is simply lovely, maybe especially so at this time of the year. Fields of crops in various shades of green, some beginning to turn golden, gentle hills, footpaths through fields clearly marked, dramatic views from up on the Pegsdon Hills, a pleasant nature reserve on the outskirts of the town and a fine tea stop. Hitchin itself offers plenty of watering holes and 3 of us enjoyed a drink or two at the CAMRA endorsed Half Moon pub. Back to London on the 18:30 train.
Sun, 03-Jul-16 16

Sunday Walk 2: Hitchin Circular

Hitchin Circular SWC walk 234
25.7, 21.3, 18.8 km (16, 14.5 or 13 miles)
Toughness, 7, 6 or 5/10
The full morning route leads to the Pegsdon Hills and Knocking Hoe, and a lunch stop with stunning views. Afterwards the ancient Icknield Way leads to the pretty village of Pirton, with its remains of a motte-and- bailey and abandoned medieval village. Then through the fen woodland of Oughtonhead Common, and finally Hitchin’s old town, which still echos its medieval past.
The 16 mile walk is strenuous and sounds like one for the hardnuts but there’s still plenty to interest the rest of us. It's possible to miss out a few hills and whittle the length down to 14.5 or 13 miles thanks to two shortcuts. Last year, Mr Tiger himself managed the 14.5 mile version, no bother.
Trains
Get the 9:52 Cambridge train from Kings Cross (Finsbury Park 9:58) arriving Hitchin at 10:22.
Return at xx:58, xx:30 or on the slower xx:34. Get a return to Hitchin.
Lunch:
For the full walk, The Live and Let Live, Pegsdon, (01582 881 739), is recommended. It is 13.7 km (8.5 miles) into the walk.
The pub recommended for those taking shortcut 1 is the the Motte & Bailey (01462 712 730) in Pirton after 9 miles.
If these seem too far, there are earlier pubs in Great Offley, The Red Lion and The Green Man after 4.2 and 5.6 miles.
Tea
The Garden Gate Tea Room at Oughtonhead Farm (07969 621 223) is recommended, usually open till 16.00 in summer. A charming facility 3.8 km (2.4 miles) from the end of the main walk.
No shortage of places in Hitchin – see notes - The Half Moon, 57 Queen Street (01462 452 448), twice voted CAMRA’s Herts Pub of the Year, is specially recommended.
Walk Directions here
A shortcut around lunch reduces the length of the walk by 2.4 km. Another near the end reduces the length by 2.5 km. Taking either of these reduces the effort to 6/10, taking both makes it a 5/10.
T=swc.234
Keen to do this walk, anyone else?
going
we will be joining at finsbury park. looking forward to it.
16 on this walk with 1 making an early start and doing the "Letchworth variation". The weather warm with sunny periods and a light breeze.
This superb stile free outing in the rolling, verdant Hertfordshire countryside provided all with a splendid day out. Just before lunch you have some spectacular hill top views which provides ideal picnic opportunities before descending to the lunch time pub the Live and let Live. The pub was not very full but some still had to wait awhile for food, The picnickers, keen to get to the fabled Garden Gate Tea Room, set off early and by maintaining a steady pace reached the tea rooms in good time and were not disappointed. Tea in proper china cups (little fingers appropriately cocked)and cakes to die for were enjoyed by about 10 of us some pub lunchers arrived with a few minutes to spare. Definitely a highlight and not to be missed. Although quite a long walk the easy trails, lanes and tracks means you can keep up a good pace without feeling unduly stressed. Some of us did a small circuit of Hitchen not covered in the gpx file before catching fast train back to London. A superb day out with most opting for the full walk. The 9.22 train may be a better bet and gives you more time to reach the tea room.
Worth adding that this walk was dry underfoot, despite plenty of heavy rain in the last month. I put this down to the many fields of crops, drinking the ground dry. This was a good time of year to do this walk. The many fields might be dull in colder months and you'd miss the butterflies and wild orchids on Pegsdon Hill.
Sat, 27-Jun-15 13

Saturday Second Walk – The North Easterly End of The Chilterns

A hilly walk in the Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire borders, half an hour from Central London, for less than a tenner (with a Railcard)

SWC Walk 234 – Hitchin Circular

Length: 25.7 km (16.0 mi) [with shortcuts: 20.8 km (13.0 mi)]
Ascent/descent: 394 m
Toughness: 7 out of 10

9.22 Peterborough train from Kings Cross (9.28 Finsbury Park), arriving Hitchin at 9.55

Return trains are four per hour until very late, the fast ones are departing on XX.00 and XX.30

First regular posting of this new walk, which was walk-checked to general acclaim last autumn.

It covers the hilly area west of Hitchin, on the Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire borders, features two notable climbs over the most north easterly Chilterns ridges, and is centred around the steep chalk downlands of Pegsdon Hills and Knocking Hoe Nature Reserves. Most scenic is the descent through Pegsdon Hills to lunch at The Live and Let Live Country Inn in Pegsdon (13.7 km/8.5 mi into the walk), from whose garden you have stunning views back to the surrounding hills. Before and after that the route follows mostly grassy lanes or the ancient Icknield Way, when it doesn't meander through a few woods.

The Motte & Bailey Village Inn in the pretty village of Pirton is an option for a mid-afternoon break, before another stretch along the Icknield Way leads to the outskirts of Hitchin. On the way Oughtonhead Common Nature Reserve – a mature alder and willow fen woodland – is passed through, where the route follows the Oughton chalk river to its wellhead. From there it is only a few minutes to one of the cutest and quirkiest tea stops: Oughtonhead Farm Garden Gate Tea Room, 3.8 km from the end of the walk.

After a short ascent to Hitchin's fringes the finish leads down through its old town, which has kept its medieval market town feel and features many fine Tudor andGeorgian buildings, as well as more pleasant tea and dining options (one of the reasons why Hitchin was voted the 9th best town in the UK in which to live in a 2013 poll in The Times). From there just one more short and sharp ascent through a small park lies between you and the station.

For walk directions click here.
For a map click here.
For a gpx or a kml file click here.
To leave feedback after the walk click here.
Intend going.
Intend going. (Quo vadis?)
Two girls have every intention of coming along. One promises to keep up, follow the instructions, leave the flowers alone and be good.
I fully intend going and having looked closely at the spider's web of walk directions, the OS map and the GPX downloaded route have some observations:
1. From the station keep EAST, then 2. keep SOUTH until choices of routes at a. Luton Road and later at b. 4 way bridleway junction.
After lunch at Pegsdon (ETA 1pm?) follow line of least resistance back to Hitchin in need of tea and a lie down in a quiet room.
I may do the shorter version (still 13 miles) leaving an hour later.
I'm just wondering if anyone interested in doing this walk on Sunday as I can't make it Saturday.
13 largely sunny Nice walk for summer with sweeping views. Dry underfoot. One took the early shortcut, missing the hills, but finding a few orchids. At least one took the later shortcut. The garden gate tea stop was a good 'un with big pots of tea and homemade cake and as an added bonus, we got presented with the days leftover cake. It was a hot day and on arrival in Hitchin a massive hydration exercise was undertaken in the Half Moon (Camra Herts pub of the year). Later, some who were still suffering hydration problems had to move on the Bricklayers. Others, made of sterner stuff, headed for home.
Glorious day with great views over the hills and into valleys. Very lucky with the weather which was sunny but with a slight breeze. iIt was one continues celebration of Paul's birthday who must now at least feel two years older. Amazingly, and totally in defiance of normal SWC outings, the group stayed together even after an unprecedented hold up at the lunchtime pub which kept losing orders behind the bar. The service at the tearoom however made more than up for it, see Ian's comment, which not only stayed open for late, slowish after lunch walkers like myself, but had still plenty of cakes to give away. The whole day was a complete treat.
I really liked this walk. The countryside was very lovely; I must have counted at least 50 shades of green over the course of the day.

I was one of the unfortunate souls whose lunch order got lost somewhere between the bar and the kitchen, but journalistic objectivity compels me to report that the lunches that arrived on time looked really, really good and everyone else was happy. (To add insult to injury, when my food eventually arrived, it turned out that I'd ordered poorly.)

The walk was long, but not tough. The most exerting part of the day was when the pace really picked up so that we could reach the tea stop in time. But the rush was worth it. The nicest tea stop I've had the pleasure of visiting on a Saturday Walk. Nice people, great cake, gorgeous setting.
Sat, 25-Oct-14 10 Hitchin Circular