- Start: The Lilley Arms pub
- End: The Lilley Arms pub
- Country: England
- County: Hertfordshire
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub: The Lilley Arms pub
- Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 193
- Difficulty: Medium
This month we head to Lilley for a walk through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)...
JUST five miles outside of Hitchin is the picturesque village of Lilley where you can enjoy an idyllic countryside walk.
It is a steep walk up the Baulk, but well worth the effort. From this wide grassy track, there are views up and down the valley and to the village below. Notice as you climb that the soil becomes thinner and the chalk and flints more visible.
Chalk has influenced many aspects of rural life around Lilley, and explains the distinctive rounded shape of the hills.
In a field behind Church Farm is an old pit from where chalk was dug up and burned to produce lime. This was used for mortar, and for spreading on fields as a fertiliser.
Lilley Hoo was once a sheep grazed common, but in 1944 much of it was ploughed up due to wartime food shortages. The only area of downland that remains is on Telegraph Hill, where you may still see cowslip and common spotted orchid.
Other chalk-loving plants can be found away from the nature reserve; look out for Devils-bit scabious and for Travellers joy. This wild clematis adorns hedgerows throughout the Chilterns, and is also known as Old-mans beard due to its fluffy winter seed-heads.
On top of Lilley Hoo, a thin cap of clay is present, and where arable crops are now farmed, heather and gorse used to grow. During the 17th and 18th centuries, there was a popular race course on top of Lilley Hoo. George IV is said to have attended meetings there along with nobility from far and wide.
The hills around Lilley are part of the chalk ridge that runs across Southern England, linked by Britains oldest road, the Icknield Way. First used in neolithic times by flint traders, the 195 km (120 mile) Icknield Way Path can still be enjoyed by walkers today.
1. Start at The Lilley Arms. Turn right out of the pub and then left into East Street. After 200 metres take the bridleway (the Baulk) on the right.
2. Our route turns off left and downhill through the trees of Kingshill Plantation.
3. The kissing gates along this section of the walk were put in by Herts Countryside Management Service (CMS) volunteers. Herts CMS works with communities in Hertfordshire to help them care for and enjoy the environment.
4. Turn right here for a detour (of 1.3km) to Telegraph Hill, where there are fine views across Bedfordshire, and the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust manage a chalk grassland reserve.
5. Take care on this 0.5km/550 yards stretch along the road which the Icknield Way path also follows. You can walk on the verge in places.
6. To the west is Galley Hill where Early Bronze Age graves (circa 2500 to 1500 BC) have been excavated.
7. In the summer months the byway along Wardswood Lane can be used as a short cut, but parts may be muddy in winter.
Start and finish: The Lilley Arms pub
Distance: Long route 5 miles (8km), Short route 2 miles (3.2km)
Time: Long route 2 to 2.5 hours, Short route 45 mins to 1 hour
Map: OS Explorer 193
Time for a pint?
The Lilley Arms is a 300-year-old former coaching inn that serves food at lunchtimes and all evenings except Sunday. There is a large garden with animals for children to enjoy. Walkers, cyclists and riders are welcome. The pub also offers B&B accommodation. www.lilley-arms.co.uk 01462 768371
Find out more
The Countryside Management Service (CMS) works with landowners and communities to develop projects that enhance landscape and biodiversity, as well as encouraging people to understand and enjoy the countryside across Hertfordshire.
For more information contact the CMS on 01462 459395 or email firstname.lastname@example.org