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29th August – Pirton & Lilley, Hertfordshire

Event led by Khris R
Attendance: 5 men
Distance: 10.74 miles (17.3 km)
Time: start 11:08, end 15:21, lunch 20 minutes
Terrain: gravel track, grass, field, field edge, bridleway and access roads.
Elevation: start 75m, high 182m, low 70m
Weather: partly sunny with low clouds, 15°C, wind 21.1, NNE wind, felt like 14°C with a light shower.
Number of sewage works: 0
Number of churches: 1
Number of golf courses: 0

This was a circular walk of 10.74 miles (17.3 km) from Pirton to Lilley and returning via Pegsdon Hills Nature Reserve. Predominantly in Hertfordshire with a short walk through Bedfordshire.

Pirton is a small village which is becoming extremely popular with commuters due to it's vicinity between two large towns with links to London. It is best known for it's 'motte & bailey' in which the church is located. The earthwork castle, known as Toot Hill, in the centre of the village, south of the parish church is believed to have been built in the mid-twelfth century. This was during the civil war known as 'The Anarchy' between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. The church has been re-built in around 1877. The motte and bailey is less well known for the doodlebug that made a dent in the landscape in WWII and damaged the church. Hence, no stain glass windows. Pirton is famous for approximately 50 grade listed buildings.

Wellbury is part of Lilley parish with an extremely interesting building. Originally, Wellbury House had been a private school for Catholic boys. Then the property was purchased by Torath Chesed Yeshiva Trust. However,  after an inspection in 2002 it was closed down due to numerous fire and safety findings. The Yeshiva were informed not re-open until vital building and safety improvement work was completed. The property has remained boarded up and there appears to be no intention to return the grand property back to it's former glory. It was the scene of a military style lockdown with helicopters hovering above due to a break in by a lone motorbike thief about ten years ago. On passing, it was noted the door was open and two men in black appeared in their traditional garments. One of them walked towards us in silence and stopped at the steps to the music school and glared at us. 

Little Offley is a hamlet. Honestly speaking it is a well kept farm with a well manicured garden with a statue of a chicken. The main farmhouse appears to be a marriage of different building types.

Lilley is a 'horse centric' village with a tremendous amount of connections to Royalty. The truth is the land is rented out by the Crown to the farmer's. Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII, was a co-heiress of the village; King Henry VIII is rumoured to have raced horses here at Lilley Hoo (the flat plateau above village) and George IV as Prince Regent a friend of fashionista Beau Brummel was known to wager on the races. Other note worthy resident is John Sowerby Esquire who was a wealthy merchant of Hatton Garden whose family crest "The silver lion" can still be seen on many Lilley cottages dating back to 1788. There is only one remaining coaching inn dating back to 1705 in this historical village on the door steps of Luton.

They hidden jewel of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is Pegsdon Hills Nature Reserve with it's steep chalk hills , which offer some of the best views in the county. The hills are alive with the red sheep; four horned sheep and other breeds who share the hills with some cattle, kites and the occasional visit from muntjac's. There are two named hills, Telegraph hill which is the highest point shrouded in trees was an important beacon in the Napoleonic war's to communicate with the East coast and Deacon Hill which has some fantastic views and was claimed to be a training ground for recent wars.

This walk revealed some breath-taking beech trees branching out across the woodlands; fields of sunflower's; abundance of berries and trees laden with quince. The red kites did not disappoint and presented themselves with their shrill and grace.

 

 

 

 

 

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