Escape to Lilley, Chilterns

It is surprising how easy it is to escape from urban Luton to quiet open countryside. This walk is a short circuit from Bushmead to Lilley and back.

Particularly lovely late on a June evening, during the summer when the fields are full of ripe crops or in winter to blow away the cobwebs.

Technical sheet No. 29661336

A Luton walk posted on 03/01/23 by Chiltern Society. Last update : 20/02/23
Calculated time Calculated time: 2h45[?]
Distance Distance : 8.60 km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 96 m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 96 m
Highest point Highest point : 179 m
Lowest point Lowest point : 122 m
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Chiltern Hills
Location Location : Luton
Starting point Starting point : N 51.905249° / W 0.411445°
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View across Lilley valley


Start : At the Bushmead Road/Fairford Avenue roundabout. Grid ref. TL 093 241

(D/A) From the Bushmead Road/Fairford Avenue roundabout head North-East along Bushmead road towards Bushmead. After the turning to Harvey's Hill, ignore the first footpath to the right.

(1) Take the second footpath to the right (North-East), just before you come to more houses on your right. The footpath runs to the right of these houses and continues in the same direction as it becomes a broader track between fields. Keep straight on at crossing tracks. The track climbs steeply to a ridge.

(2) Pause here to gather your breath and look at the view (see (A)) then continue straight over a broad crossing track and descend steeply. A kilometre after the ridge you come to a broad hedge lined track - Wardswood Lane. Here you turn right.

(3) Turn right (East) on to Wardswood lane. The track climbs a little alongside Ward's Wood then curves left at the corner of the wood and then right. 100 metres on continue straight ahead on a byway running between hedges (the main track curves left here). This becomes a road as you enter Lilley village (B). Keep straight ahead through the village and look for the first turning right after the church.

(4) After the church take the next turning to the right past the Cassell memorial hall. You will see a Silver Lion on a post ahead of you. Take the broad track to the right of the post. Initially you walk between hedges with the Church and cricket pitches on your right. After 200 metres the path continues in the same direction with an open field on your left and, on your right, a wood, then a hedge.

(5) Pass through a narrow belt of trees and continue straight ahead uphill across a field past a solitary oak tree that you can see on the horizon. After the path has levelled out you pass through a kissing gate in a fence. Head across the centre of this field. The exit is in the far corner just underneath a large ash tree.

(6) Turn left on the road, pass a house with a round turret and a turning to the right. Immediately after this turning, take the footpath half right off the road through a kissing gate into a field. Head South across the fields, aiming for a gap in the hedge in the far corner of the second field. You will find it to the right of the buildings of Manor farm and to the left of an oak tree in the hedge. The gap leads to a stile.

(7) Once across the stile you will see an area of trees and bushes ahead of you across the meadow. Head across to the nearest corner of the clump of trees. There may be high grass ahead of you. If the grass is too high to cross take the path to the left along the hedge and after 80m you should find a clear path sharp right heading back to the corner of the trees. Paths in this section are a little informal so check your position on the map screen regularly. Once at the trees/bushes walk along the right hand side of the trees in a grassy strip to the left of football pitches/playing fields.

At the far corner of the trees you need to cross the open field half right to the end of a hedge. It is not that clear from here that this is a hedge, so aim to the left of the trees that you can see at the edge of the field and to the right of the larger hills on the far horizon. When you get to the hedge, walk down its left hand side.

(8) After a short distance the path starts to descend, steeply at first. Keep to the broad main path ignoring paths to the left and right. At the end of the steep section follow the broad path as it curves round to the left and continues to descend. After 100m the path turns right, drops down steps and then passes between houses to return to the starting point.(D/A)

"We hope you have enjoyed your walk. Please remember to rate the walk and add comments. We are interested in how we could improve the instructions or the route and would like to hear about any issues with paths on the walk."

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 122 m - Roundabout
1 : km 0.23 - alt. 124 m - Second footpath
2 : km 1.53 - alt. 151 m - Ridge
3 : km 2.86 - alt. 146 m - Wardswood Lane
4 : km 4.91 - alt. 132 m - Village Hall
5 : km 5.09 - alt. 137 m - Belt of trees
6 : km 6.67 - alt. 178 m - Road
7 : km 7.47 - alt. 171 m - Stile
8 : km 8.11 - alt. 170 m - Descent
D/A : km 8.6 - alt. 122 m - Roundabout

Useful Information

Start & finish: At the Bushmead Road/Fairford Avenue roundabout.

Parking: In Bushmead road before the roundabout.

Local transport: Arriva buses 24H and 25 from Luton Town Centre or Dunstable to Bushmead

Terrain: Good, well waymarked paths. 2 Stiles

Food & drink: The Lilley Arms pub in the centre of Lilley.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

(A) Hexton Highway: the first section of this route follows the old Hexton Highway North out of Luton. You can still follow the route all the way to Hexton.Looking back at the top of the steep ridge you have just climbed you get an extensive view over Luton with Warden Hill to your right. Once you head down from the ridge the town disappears and all you can see is pleasant open country.

(B) Lilley is a beautiful village set in charming countryside. The village is ancient: it was recorded in the Domesday Book and the manor of Lilley dates back before William the Conqueror. In 1788, the manors of Lilley, Putteridge and Horwellbury were sold to John Sowerby Esquire, a wealthy merchant of Hatton Garden. Many of the buildings seen today are at least 250 years old, others are estate cottages identified by the silver lion of the Sowerby crest. St Peter’s church dates from the 12C but was rebuilt in 1871 using some of the old fittings.  When the Silver Lion pub closed its crest was rescued and installed next to the village hall.

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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.