- Start: The Red Lion pub
- End: The Red Lion pub
- Country: England
- County: Hertfordshire
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub: The Red Lion pub
- Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 193
- Difficulty: Medium
Head over to Great Offley to enjoy this Three Springs walk, recommended by the Countryside Management Service
WITH its sunken lanes, ancient hedges and irregularly shaped fields, the countryside around Offley is in many ways typical of much of the Chilterns. The sheep grazed meadows south of the Red Lion were once commonplace but are now unusual in this largely arable area.
While most of the route is through open farmland, there is much to be seen and enjoyed in the surviving hedgerows and small woodlands or ‘springs’. Just past the second kissing gate is a huge ash, distinguished by its pale grey, ridged bark and multiple stems growing from a trunk bent onto its side.
The tree’s shape suggests that it was once a landmark or boundary tree, possibly laid as part of a hedge.
Following the byway to Glebe Farm, a strip of woodland and remnant hedge marks the historic boundary between Lilley and Offley parishes. You may see pheasant among the coppiced hazel and mature beech trees, a clue perhaps as to why this woodland cover has been allowed to survive.
Elsewhere hedges have fared less well; some grubbed out to make way for farm machinery. Even here, we can still enjoy what remains – the lone holly bushes and pollarded hornbeam on Luton White Hill, and the broken line of oaks in the fields north of the A505.
Above Lilley Hoo Farm, the woodland makes a welcome change from open countryside. These trees are relatively young, having grown up on formerly grazed common land. Other wooded areas have been there much longer, as their names suggest.
Mazebeard Spring, Newfield Spring and Mead Springs were probably small areas of coppiced woodland, the word spring referring to the regrowth of shoots from trees cut close to the ground. This traditional method of woodland management ensured a regular supply of material for fencing stakes and rural crafts.
The Red Lion pub is in the oldest part of the village, known as Bottom End. With Offley Place and the church close by, this area would have been the hub of the village in the days before the Offley Hill road.
For the best views, you are recommended to do the walk in a clockwise direction, so begin by turning left out of the pub and taking the footpath on the other side of the lane.
After the third kissing gate (built by CMS volunteers), walk for about 20 paces through some woodland, and veer right onto a surfaced track.
At the next field boundary you will see Lilley church across the valley in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
When you reach the road, turn left, or for a short cut right, and go past Salusbury Lane. Beyond the allotments, turn right and at the end, left, to emerge near the Church. Please use these safe crossing points under/over the A505.
After crossing the A505 turn right then left to follow the walk route up the hill and into Mazebeard Spring. Follow the path through Newfield Spring noticing Little Offley, visible at the end of an avenue of lime trees, on your left as you emerge.
Distance: Short route 1.75 miles/ 2.7km; Long route 5.25 miles/8.5km
Time: Short route 45 mins to 1 hour; Long route 2 to 3 hours.
Getting there: The nearest train station is Hitchin. From here the number 100 and 101 bus runs to and from Luton, stopping in Offley, every day except Sunday. The CMS recreational cycle ride number 16 passes the Red Lion at Offley. Contact the CMS for a leaflet or pick one up in the Red Lion. If you come by car, please park in the Red Lion car park.
Map: OS Explorer 193
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