Pegsdon Hills and Hoo Bit Nature Reserve sit above the village of Hexton in the Chiltern Hills AONB. The wildflower meadows that grow on these chalk hillsides are popular with brown argus, green hairstreak, dingy and grizzled butterflies. Wait until after dusk and you may even see glow-worms.
To the west are the steep, well-grazed slopes of Barton Hills National Nature Reserve.
In spring and summer, visitors can explore the downland and beech woodland, where dark green fritillary, marbled white and chalkhill blue butterflies dance among grazing Dartmoor ponies. The reserve is also Bedfordshire’s main site for the rare pasqueflower, which blooms between April and early June.
Deacon Hill, Pegsdon and Barton Hills walk
7.1 miles | 4 hours | moderate
1. Path to Pegsdon
In Hexton, face The Raven pub and turn right along Mill Road. After the ‘No Through Road’ sign, bear right to reach a T-junction in the paths. Turn right, soon emerging on a road, then go right again. At Hitchin Road, continue ahead on a footpath uphill into the Pegsdon Hills reserve. Ignore a stile then go through kissing gates. If you have time, explore the reserve before carrying on uphill to reach an ancient tree-lined walking route known as the Icknield Way.
This widespread member of the hairstreak family rests with its wings closed, displaying vibrant green underwings fringed with a faint white streak. It is diminutive in size (33mm) and found in small colonies.
2. Icknield Way
Turn right along the Icknield Way, which is said to be the oldest road in Britain, predating the Romans. Pass a long line of magnificent beech trees to reach a road at a bend, then continue straight ahead on the verge. Where the road bends to the left, leave the tarmac and continue along the
3. Barton Hills
Where paths cross on the edge of a wood, turn right on to a track, keeping the hedge on your right. Look out for singing skylarks and soaring red kites overhead. The path soon reaches a road. Turn left and take the next footpath on your right to reach the top of the Barton Hills National Nature Reserve.
4. Castle ruins
Enter the reserve through a kissing gate and turn right through another kissing gate.Walk along the top of the reserve for excellent views. Spend some time butterfly spotting before exiting where the fence bends to the left.
Follow the track to the left before shortly bearing right towards Ravensburgh Castle, an Iron Age hill fort. At a fork in the path, bear right down to the road. Turn right, taking care on the bend, then, at a junction, turn left to arrive back into Hexton.