Barn Owl Walks in North Hertfordshire
PUBLISHED: 16:41 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:56 20 February 2013
Get closer to wildlife on a series of walks in the north of the county
THE Barn Owl has declined in Britain and the Holwell, Ickleford and Pirton Barn Owl Project aims to conserve the small number of these beautiful birds that are coming back to this part of Hertfordshire.
A series of routes have been devised by the Barn Owl Project Steering Group, which consists of local volunteers and is supported by the Countryside Management Service.
The routes are similar in length and, as they are fairly short, you may choose to enjoy more than one at a time or go at a more leisurely pace and enjoy the sights and sounds on offer.
There are two Pirton routes, Wood Lane or Hambridge Way. Both may have formed a strategic Roman loop off the Icknield Way, an ancient trade route. For centuries, Hambridge Way was the route to West Mill in Ickleford and to Hitchin market. Along Wood Lane, look out for plants like Cowslip, Harebell, Quaking Oat Grass and Black Knapweed thriving in the chalky soils.
Wood Lane Route
1. From the Motte and Bailey pub head left, then bear right to the end of Great Green and cross onto Wood Lane. 2.As this track climbs the hill, where the beech trees start in the hedgerow, turn left up the bank and along the field edge path. Go straight up through the grassy meadow keeping the wood on your right. 3.At the top of the hill turn sharp left and follow the path back down across the meadow. Pass the 17th century Highdown House on your right. 4.Through the gate in the corner turn left along the path. 5.At the next field turn right down to the road and then cross into Walnut Tree Road. After 20 metres, take the gate on your left into the Bury. 6.Cross towards the church. In the corner by the old castle mound take the gate and path down to the road. 7.Turn left to Great Green.
Hambridge Way Route
1.From the Motte and Bailey pub turn right into Crab Tree Lane, turn right along the path next to the church and onto The Bury. 2.Bear right, then head up amongst the mounds, then left to the gate. Leave via the bridge. 3.Across the road, turn left along the pavement. 4.Turn right onto the path between the houses and left up the side of the playing field. From the gate in the corner follow the path straight ahead. 5.At the end, go left onto Mill Way. 6.Turn left onto Hambridge Way back into the village. 7.Cross onto High Street. Opposite the Fox public house, turn left into Crab Tree Lane to Great Green.
Ickleford gets its name from being sited where the Icknield Way crosses the River Hiz. The name Pestol Farm comes from a pit that was dug to bury victims of the plague. Ickleford Common was formed following the 1776 Act of Enclosure. It is rich in wildlife, with wild flowers such as cowslips and marsh valerian. Look out for water voles and kingfishers along
1. Start opposite the Plume of Feathers public house on Chambers Lane. Follow the footpath signposted 'Raymond Cottages' out into the field and straight on. 2.At the end the path crosses to the left side of the hedge. Beyond that turn right down Snailswell Lane, bearing the right at the 'Y' junction. 3.At the main road turn left up the bridleway. 4.Shortly after the pond turn right, then left through the gate into the lower part of Ickleford Common. Ahead, cross the bridge into the upper common and go along the river to the end of the common. 5.By the bench at the end of the common bear left. Follow the hedge on your right and go through the gate in the corner. Follow the path along the field edge. 6.Turn left onto the broad, grassy public footpath, at the end take the bridleway round to the left. 7.When you reach the horse paddock on the right, turn right, take the bridleway onto the road and turn right into Snailswell Lane. 8.Turn left at the end and retrace your route straight back to the village.
Holwell is more than 1,000 years old, having been granted a charter by the Saxon King Edgar in 968. Although it looks older, the present church, dedicated to St Peter, was actually built in 1878. It houses two bells taken from its predecessor. Note the thick hedges providing food and nest sites for birds such as song thrushes and long-tailed tits. Look for crab apple, dog-rose and bramble - in blossom in spring and fruiting in autumn.
1.Start near the church on Holwell road. Go up to the end of Gurneys Lane. 2.Take the footpath straight ahead along the field edge. Cross into the next field and follow the track straight up and over the hill. 3.At the bottom, with Holwellbury Farm off to the right, turn left and follow the path near the overhead wires. 4.Join the grassy lane between the ditch and thick hedges. Old maps show this was once the site of Fakeswell, a small hamlet that, as the name suggests, developed around a natural spring. 5.The lane leads you onto another field edge with trees on your right, at the next corner continue left. 6.Follow the path until it turns right and soon left. Across the ditch, take the cross-field path to your right back up to the church.