Walk 2910 - Hill walking from Hexton
The northern end of the Chilterns almost seem to be a geological afterthought as they straddle the Bedfordshire Hertfordshire border in isolation from the rest of a range of hills that stretch as far as Oxfordshire to the Southwest. It is a great place to walk though, with stunning views through mile after mile of beautiful countryside, in an area that is steeped in history, especially on the hilltops with their commanding views.
In what is possibly the nicest part of the Chilterns and probably the least visited, this walk visits three separate groups of hills, none of which are more than 640ft high, using well marked paths such as the Icknield Way and the John Bunyan Trail. The start and finish is near the welcoming Raven Public House (grid ref TL106306) in the village of Hexton.
With the pub on your left, head north along the road for 50 meters and turn left at the signpost marked "Higham Goblon & Recreation Ground". The road soon veers to the right and a few metres later take the waymarked footpath northwest across the field on your left (Grid ref TL105 308). This is part of the John Bunyan Trail and after crossing the field and the small footbridge over a stream, the path veers left to head in a westerly direction towards the outskirts of Barton-le-Clay, with some good views of the Barton Hills to be seen to your left. Cross another footbridge over a stream to come out at the road in Barton-le-Clay and then turn left to reach the main road, crossing to the lane on the far side.
Go past the church and soon turn left onto the bridleway, with the prominent Barton Hills now in front of you. At the gate to the entrance of the Nature Reserve, leave the bridle path as it sweeps around this section and instead take the left of the two paths up through the reserve to reach the top of the hills. This is fairly steep walking up the grassy slopes, but wooden steps help to take care of the hardest sections. Gaining height fairly rapidly now, do not wait until you get to the top for the best views though. Keep looking behind from about half way up.
Follow the obvious line near the crest to reach the deep dry valley in front of you. You may wish to pause here for a while and if so then there is a handily situated wooden bench close by. This valley is an extremely unusual sight to be seen in this part of Britain and the effort to get here makes seeing it all the more worthwhile. Go left from here to leave the reserve at grid ref TL091296 and rejoin the bridleway, turning right. Continue in a southerly direction to reach the road near Barton Hill Farm.
Turn right at the road for approximately 300 metres. Cross the road to pick up the path on the other side to reach the edge of the golf course. Turn right onto the Icknield Way (grid ref. TL096274) and then left 300 metres later to follow the path up the slope, initially through the golf course, to reach the summit of Galley Hill (186m). Then follow the line of the ridge south to the summit and trig pillar of Warden Hill (195m). From here there are some surprisingly good views over Luton in front of you and to your right in the distance, Northamptonshire.
Moving on from the summit, there are various options, including the simplest which is to retrace your steps back to alongside the golf course. However a nicer, albeit longer route, is to continue south off the hill and then turn sharply to the left and follow the fence line northeast. The path eventually sweeps to the right as you come off the hill. Ignore the first fork on your left and take the second a couple of hundred metres before reaching Whitehill Wood (grid ref TL100258). Head north/northeast to turn right and rejoin the Icknield Way some 2 km later at grid ref. TL101 277.
Maintain direction to reach and then continue along the road, going straight on at the bend to soon make your way up the gentle gradient of Telegraph Hill (184m). Leave the Icknield Way and enter the Pegsdon Hills Nature Reserve (at the gateway with an information board nearby) taking a choice of paths (easiest and most direct to the right) that will lead to the trig pillar and summit of Deacon Hill, (172m). This is the last of the hills visited and the views over the Bedfordshire plains and into Hertfordshire are arguably the best to seen on the walk.
Come off the hill going to the left to reach the path alongside the road (Hitchin Road) in front of you. Leave the Reserve and cross the road at the junction to the side of Pegsdon (grid ref. TL119301). Please note the tempting direct route along the drive between Pegsdon and Hexton Manor is not a right of way and should not be used. Follow the lane north as far as the entrance to Green End and Bury Farms (grid ref. TL119306). Turn left down the lane and pass between the farms. Continue along the lane ignoring the bridleway on the right at grid ref. TL115310. Reaching a t-junction (grid ref. TL108311), turn left. This will lead you back to reach the Raven pub and the end of the walk.
Transport There is plenty of unrestricted roadside parking near The Raven pub. Coming by train the nearest rail stations are Hitchin and Luton. Hexton is served - somewhat irregularly - by the 77 bus between Toddington and Hitchin, and the 78/79 bus between Henlow Camp and Luton. If this is your method of transport, you might find it easier to go to Barton-le-Clay (Bedfordshire) and start the walk from there. For bus times, call 01234 228337 or 0870 608 2608