31st May 2015: Harlington, Barton-le-Clay and Lilley in the Bedfordshire Chilterns

Just three of us did this eleven mile walk in the countryside north and east of Luton. The weather did not look good, which probably explains the numbers, but we had only ten minutes of rain — during our lunch stop, when fortunately we were anyway sheltering in a wood. One bit or other of the walk followed the Chilterns Way, the Icknield Way and the John Bunyan Trail — sometimes all three.

Our day started and end at St Pancras, and we took the train to Harlington, north of Luton. It is only about three miles along the road to Barton le Clay but we took the scenic route, initially heading south to join the Chilterns escarpment at Sundon Hills Country Park. We followed the scarp east and  round to the Clappers, a very steep wooded hill overlooking Sharpenhoe with a hill fort on. Here we had lunch.

Don and Steve after the rain, with Sharpenhoe Clappers behind

Don and Steve after the rain, with Sharpenhoe Clappers behind

 Dropping down to Sharpenhoe, we discovered the pub had not just closed but vanished, so we walked on towards Barton. This stretch was the low point of the walk, with overgrown paths, an unpleasant crossing of the A6 dual carriageway and a new housing estate — but it is only a mile or so.

Approaching the Barton Hills

Approaching the Barton Hills

The high point came immediately after Barton. Barton Hills National Nature Reserve is as striking a beauty spot as anywhere in the Chilterns further west, apparently a paradise for rare butterflies and visibly a paradise for rabbits. We were now heading south, and a steep climb took us up onto the downs.

Ascending out of the Nature Reserve

Ascending out of the Nature Reserve

 The final stretch was a gentle descent to Lilley, Steve and I detouring to Galley Hill with a view over the suburbs of Luton. From Lilley we caught the 5.20 bus into Luton, and the train home.



About Humphrey Southall

Director, Great Britain Historical GIS; Reader in Geography, University of Portsmouth
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