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Along the Icknield Way

Wilbury Hill to Sharpenhoe Clappers

Walking through the landscape of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire near the border between the counties along the Icknield Way. The links will take you to sections about Landscape and Flora, the History and Mythology all tied together through walks along the Icknield Way in this area.

Forts, Barrows and Earthworks and more along or near the Icknield Way

Walking along the ancient track that is the Icknield way between Letchworth and Luton you will come across many features of occupation through the ages from Neolithic times to the present. You will see, once you set your eye you will see strip lynchets, earthworks, barrows, forts dating to the late bronze and iron age, Roman Camps, and a middle age Motte and Bailey castle that is as well as the settlements of Letchworth, Hitchin, Ickleford, Pirton, Pegsdon, Hexton, Luton Streatley and Sharpenhoe stretching back into antiquity.

There are several Barrows and Earthworks along the Icknield Way between Wilbury Hill and Shappenhoe. There are 3 Iron Age Forts at least one, maybe even earlier, and much more later structures, such as a Motte and Bailey castle and settlements from prehistory up to the present day.

Several sites in the area include the following sites:

Warden Hill Looking toward Sharpenhoe Clappers

Romans in the Area

There is evidence of Roman occupation along the Icknield Way:

  • Roman encampment, on Wilbury Hill,
  • On the earthworks near Telegraph Hill there was evidence of a broach
  • At nearby Ravensburgh Castle it is though that Ravensburgh  was repurposed during the roman occupation as a military site.
  • South of Hitchin at Purwell there is the location of a Roman Villa, where coins and pottery shards were found.
  • When walking along near Pegsdon there is also evidence of roman occupation north of Knocking Knoll.
Details
Icknield Way (Wilbury Hill to Sharpenhoe Clappers)

This route follow the Icknield Way, but I do take a bit of a detour from the trail at Pirton and along the the ridge of the Pegsdon Hills, apart from those two differences the route follows the Icknield Way.

This area has evidence of human activity since people migrated here at the end of the last ice age some 12000 years ago. The evidence is not always evident, or visible but sometimes if its the right season and the sun is in the sky at the right angle evidence of ancient settlements and structures can be seen.

The Icknield way

Along the Pegdon Hills

This is thought by some to be a neolithic route from the East coast of England all the way down to the South coast. There is debate whether it was or not but most romantics like to think that our ancestors were organised and trekked the country from Wiltshire to Norfolk, trading and interacting. Or it could just be a Victorian fantasy.

I prefer to think of it according to popular myth, as the “oldest road in Britain”

The Route

If it is or is not, does not really matter, as it is a great route to follow in this area taking you across the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire countryside, giving you easy to walk paths that follow ridges and leafy lanes that have been enjoyed by many walkers. I will use the Icknield Way as the frame to hang all the walks that I have taken in this area.

Starting at Wilbury Hill the site of an Iron Age Fort and a Roman Camp. Then finishing at another Iron Age Fort at Sharpenhoe Clappers . From Wilbury Hill you drop down to pass through Ickleford, skirting Hitchin then heading across open countryside towards Pirton with its Motte and Bailey Castle next to the Church. Continue the trail out of the village, there are numerous other older sites across or near the trail including a long barrow near Knocking Hoe between Pirton and Pegsdon.

At least two smaller barrows can be found on or near the hills above Pegsdon, Below the barrow at Telegraph Hill, above Pegsdon there is Earthworks stretching down the boarder between Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Ending just above the Devils Ditch.

Earthwork above Devils Ditch

Further along the Icknield Way is the largest iron age fort in the East of England on the hill behind Hexton known as Ravensburgh Castle. Taking the trail towards Warden hill on the outskirts of Luton you can walk over another barrow at the top of Galley Hill and track down between Galley and Warden Hill to another earthworks known as ‘Dray’s Ditches’ before skirting Luton to head out towards Sundon then Sharpenhoe Clappers. This area has a great deal of recorded and probably much more unrecorded history, with many local legends and tales hopefully you can explore some of these along this route.

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