Although close to an unseen Luton, this is a fine location for walkers to fill their lungs with winter air. Including a stretch of the John Bunyan Trail, you too can be a pilgrim and climb the “Delectable Mountains” of Pilgrim’s Progress, (Deacon Hill and the Pegsdon Hills). It was written in the 1660s by the Dissenter and hedge preacher John Bunyan while in Bedford jail.
After parking in Hexton’s main street walk north past The Village Hall and The Raven pub. Continue ahead out of the village, briefly on the John Bunyan Trail. Keep on the tarmac lane as it bears right. Beyond Mill House it becomes a metalled path and at the path junction, bear right with views of Deacon Hill. It becomes a lane between the former farm buildings of Green End and Bury Farms. Reach the road, going right, then take the first left on to Pegsdon Way.
1. ONE AND A HALF MILES
Walk through the hamlet of Pegsdon, past the Live and Let Live pub, go left before reaching the main Hitchen Road and joining the Chiltern Way Extension. Beyond a long double bend, go right across a ploughed field to a hedge gap by a copse. The path climbs along a deep dry valley, bearing left before its end alongside a hedge – the distinctive Knocking Knoll ahead, a National Nature Reserve.
Descend to a footpath sign, then go right to skirt another deep-cut dry valley and, by a gate, go left on to a path. At a track go right leaving the Chiltern Way, with a hedge on your left, and pass through a hedge gap on to the B655.
2. TWO AND A HALF MILES
Turn right along the main road and at a lay-by go through a kissing gate on to a path that heads to a gate on the slopes of Deacon Hill – downland pasture and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
3. THREE MILES
From the summit of Deacon Hill at 565ft (172m) there are views over the low-lying, sheep-cropped pasture fields of Bedfordshire. Retrace your steps,go through a bridle gate and turn right on to the Icknield Way, a prehistoric trackway that runs from Norfolk to Oxfordshire – here the county boundary between Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
The Icknield Way track steadily ascends south-west, then levels out and descends below coppices with ancient beech trees. At a footpath junction continue ahead in a fine beech avenue and carry on to a road, briefly again meeting the John Bunyan Trail.
4. FIVE MILES
Bear right on to the road, then left at the Streatley sign. At the crest of the rise go right alongside a tall hedge towards woods. Reaching them, go right, shortly bearing left and descending with woods on both sides of the track. Out of the woods, continue on a field track, at the road bearing left.
5. SIX AND A HALF MILES
The former Hexton village pump is at the crossroads, erected in
1846, now surmounted by a signpost. You can divert left to look at the parish church or continue alongside the high kitchen garden walls of Hexton Manor and the end of the walk.
Mainly tracks or quiet country lanes. The route crosses one small ploughed field, with paths on grassy balks alongside. There are no stiles and only three gates on the route. There are ascents onto the chalk hills, climbing about 100 metres (325ft).
HOW TO GET THERE
Turn off the Barton-le-Clay to Hitchen road (B655) about 1½ miles (3km) east of Barton, into Hexton village.
By public transport:
Centrebus’s 79 service from Luton to Meppershall stops at Hexton crossroads, Mon-Sat only.
The Raven, Hexton SG5 3JB
Tel: 01582 881209
Country Matters tea room, Hexton Village Hall
The Live and Let Live Pub, Pegsdon, Hitchin SG5 3JX
Tel: 01582 881739
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 193.
Grid ref: TL 106 309
East of England Tourist Board www.visiteastofengland.com
Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty