Event led by Martin T, designed by Peter O in 2018.
Attendance: 11 men.
Distance: 10.2 miles (16.4 km).
Time: start 11:17, end 16:11, lunch 36 minutes.
Terrain: footpath, farm track, bridleway, field, field edge, freshly ploughed field, pavement on mud and chalk.
Elevation: start 158m, high 163m, low 110m.
Weather: overcast, 21°C, slight breeze, a few spots of rain.
Number of sewage works: ½.
Number of churches: 3.
Number of golf courses: 0.
Number of enforced diversions: 1.
This was a circular walk of 10.2 miles (16.4 km) from Great Offley, SE to Preston, SW to Kings Walden, S to Breachwood Green, then N to Great Offley.
By fluke of planning, this walk turned out to be the first of two consecutive walks in the same area. This walk ventured south of an escarpement of the Chiltern Hills, marked by the A505, and featured rolling countryside, small valleys and short durations of modest gradient. Next month’s walk is to the north of the A505, features greater gradients and bigger views over longer plains.
The walk started at the highest point of the walk, meaning that much of the walk was downhill, with a few uphill gradients, leaving the greatest and longest uphill gradient towards the end of the walk. The last notable gradient was from 110m to 163m over 1.15km. That got some blood pressures going.
The walk offered three great views of the Lilley Valley, all of which took place after lunch.
The first view was on a downhill approach to the Lilley Bottom Road, through a field of sheep with medium-long views in both directions of the valley. A similar view would have been available from the other side of the valley, but we were rather more preoccupied by fighting our way through some substantial overgrowth at the time.
The second view was on another downhill to the Lilley Bottom Road, from Breachwood Green with longer views in both directions. This part of the route ended at the floor of the valley, as we walked on the Lilley Bottom Road NW. The views from the road NW included vast single fields of a (nearly) single gradient rising uncompromisingly. Much of the path down the hill rests on chalk, a reminder that this area is very much part of the Chilterns.
The third view was half-way up the other side of the valley appoaching Great Offley.
The walk included an enforced diversion. Enforced diversions are incredibly rare in Herts GOC’s history: from memory, this is probably a first in the decade. At Breachwood Green, the final test of the walk one weekend earlier found a flat grass field, but today’s scheduled walk found a freshly ploughed field! This was proper ploughing, a wholesale turnover of the topsoil, exposing thick clay and deep air pockets underneath the clay. Perhaps the first five walkers of a group could have crossed this safely (albeit with significant caution), but walkers number six and later would be at risk of broken ankles (after the first five walkers would have weakened the clay such that a collapse into an air pocket was more likely than not), so the group deviated from the footpath to use the field edge and minimise our exposure to the ploughed clay.
The 3 churches were:
- Church of St Mary Magdalene (Church of England), grade 1 listed, a ramshakle pile of assorted architectures demonstrating exactly how a committee trying to design a horse ends up creating a camel;
- Church of St Martin (Church of England), grade 2 listed, a modern (early 1900s) and modest small church – almost a large chapel – designed in the distinctive functional style of the Arts and Crafts movement;
- Church of St Mary, grade 1 listed, a church with a history as early as 11th century and more modern contributions from William Morris (disambiguation).
The ½ sewage works was a sewage pumping station in the final field of the walk at Great Offley. The facility was fully fenced off, with clear signs stating its name and type of facility. Clearly, without the filtration tanks, the noise and the stench, this cannot count as a full sewage works, but its self-identity as a contributor is sufficiently an honourable mention to count as a half-point.
The optional pub stop at the end of the walk was at the Red Lion pub, Great Offley. 7 members attended the pub.
The event was planned in line with GOC’s covid-secure policy. This walk required no particular mitigations.
Words by Martin Thornhill. Pictures by Peter O’Connor.