Silsoe & Shillington Circular Walks


Introduction
These two walks explore the undulating countryside around the villages of Silsoe and Shillington, set between the Lower Greensand Ridge in the north and the chalk hills of the Chilterns in the south. Because the ground in the area is very marshy most of the villages were built on higher land, from where there are splendid views of the surrounding countryside. The place names of the area are mainly Saxon in origin and reflect their situation, eg Silsoe - Sifel's hoh (hill), Shillington - Scytlingedune (hill of Scyttel's people), Gravenhurst - Grafan hyrst (a wooded hill top).
The lovely 17th and 18th century gardens of Wrest Park House can also be seen on these walks, along with a variety of fascinating Norman and mediaeval earthworks.


How To Get There by Passenger Transport
BY BUS - Silsoe is on several routes between Bedford, Flitwick and Luton. Contact Bedfordshire Bus Information line: 01234 228337 Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5pm or Travel Line: 0870 6082608, 7 days a week, 7am -10pm
BY TRAIN - Flitwick Rail Station is approx 3 miles from Silsoe/Wrest Park. National Rail Enquiries: 08457 484950 24 hour service.
Click here for National Rail Enquiries website


How to Get There by Car
Wrest Park House is situated on the A6 between Luton and Bedford, near the village of Silsoe. The car park is used with permission of English Heritage and AFRC and is not a public car park. There is also a car park at St Mary's Church, Meppershall. And in Shillington by the side of the playing field.


Start/Finish Point
Wrest Park House car park is the suggested starting point. The walks are described in an anticlockwise direction from there. However, you can begin at other points on the route. Grid Ref TL 088 357


Access and General Information
Distance Walk 1: 7 miles Time 3 hours
Distance Walk 2: 8.5 miles Time 4 hours
Access Information
Surface Types: You will walk across surface types ranging from hard and firm with stones larger than 10mm, hard but variable surface with loose varied type stones to grass or uncultivated earth path with ruts/mud. If you follow the 8˝ mile route you will walk across cultivated farmland.
Linear Gradient: The steepest linear gradient is 1:6 - 1:9 on the 7 mile walk. Part of the 8˝ mile walk is steeper than 1:6.
Cross Falls: There are cross falls of 1:9 or steeper.
Width Restriction: The 7 mile route has a width restriction of 700mm whilst the 8˝ mile route has a width restriction of 760mm (a bridge made up of three railway sleepers).
Steps: Shillington Church has two flights of steps, one flight has two steps, the other has 11 steps. The max. step height is 200mm. There are 9 steps at point 6 (Shillington), the max. step height is 280mm.
Barriers: On the 7 mile walk you will encounter eight kissing gates with a width restriction of 1000mm, one staggered barrier with a min. restriction of 950mm, three one-way opening gates with a width restriction of 750mm. It also has two two-step stiles and one three-step stile. The 8˝ mile walk has one kissing gate with a width restriction of 1000-1500mm, four kissing gates with a width restriction of 1000mm and one two-step stile.
Refreshments: There are pubs and shops in Shillington and a pub in Upper Gravenhurst ; The Green Dragon
Public Toilets: None on route
Picnic Tables: None on route
Seats:There are seats between points 1 & 2 and at Shillington Church and Shillington playfield.


WALK 1: SHILLINGTON & GRAVENHURST
Point 1 At the gate on the edge of Wrest Park House car park, past the buildings, take the bridleway on the right and follow it into Whitehall Plantation. Beyond the ha-ha (sunken ditch) there are views into Wrest Park. Walk until you reach a waymarked unsurfaced track on the right.
Whitehall Plantation is of 17th century origin. The tree species in the wood, in particular the fast-growing poplar, reflect the poorly drained quality of the soil. The bridleway runs approximately along the line of an old road to Higham Gobion. Its hollowed-out course can still be seen in Whitehall Plantation, to the right of the path.


Point 2 Turn right and follow the track through the trees to the Gravenhurst road. Cross to the bridleway opposite (if the track through the wood is too wet, continue straight ahead to the road at Ion Lodge, then turn right along the road until you reach the main route where it crosses the road). Follow the bridleway to The Camp where it turns right along the edge of the field. Continue down to the road outside Higham Gobion.
The outer banks of the mediaeval earthworks of The Camp once enclosed a lake which may have been used as a fish farm to provide food for the manor of Higham Gobion. The large mound was probably a nesting island for ducks and swans.


Point 3 Turn left along the road, and then right at the footpath opposite Higham Cottages. Follow the footpath beside the field boundaries to the road near Chalkleybush Farm.
The stream marks part of the county boundary between Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and the walk rejoins it several times. Near Shillington, a number of streams converge to form the River Hit, which joins the River Flit near Shefford.


Point 4 Cross the road to the footpath opposite and follow it between houses and through a kissing gate. At the corner of the next field, go through many kissing gates and follow the footpath beside the stream, through another kissing gate, as far as a bridge. Turn left at the bridge and cross the field to another gate. Turn right and follow the bridleway uphill to All Saints' Church, Shillington.
The present All Saints' Church dates from the 14th century. The original church was constructed in the 11th century, possibly on the site of an earlier building, by the Abbot of Ramsey Abbey in Huntingdonshire, owner of much land in Bedfordshire at that time. The brick tower is a more recent addition. Many fascinating examples of graffiti dating back over hundreds of years can be found on the inside and outside walls of the church. From the churchyard there are extensive views over the surrounding countryside.


Point 5 Take the footpath through the churchyard and follow it through the allotments. Follow the path to the right, past some houses, as far as Hillfoot Road. Turn left along the road, then right into New Walk (be careful, this hasn’t been signposted for a while). Turn left through the kissing gate, keep to the hedge on the left into playing field.


Point 6 Cross the playing field, then bear left to the corner of the next field and on to Bury Road. Follow the footpath on the opposite side of the road alongside the stream to Church Pannell.
Church Pannell earthworks once surrounded a mediaeval building and may have acted as protection both from attack and from floods.


Point 7 Continue to follow the path beside the stream, across two footbridges separated by a pasture. After the second footbridge, turn left and follow the edge of the field, crossing into the next field on the left, to Barton Road, just outside Lower Gravenhurst.
St Mary's Church in Lower Gravenhurst, to the left of the route, was used as a refuge by villagers during the Civil War. Traces of bullet marks can still be seen on the door. The church now stands isolated, as the village has largely disappeared.


Point 8 Turn right along Barton Road through Upper Gravenhurst, as far as a bridleway on the left. Follow the bridleway back to Wrest Park.
From the bridleway there are views of the surrounding countryside. In the pasture beyond the lodge, traces of mediaeval ridge and furrow cultivation can be seen.


WALK 2: SHILLINGTON, MEPPERSHALL & UPPER GRAVENHURST
Follow the route for Walk 1 as far as Point 6, at Shillington playing field. Cross the playing field then follow the path to the right hand side and into the far corner of the field to a kissing gate. Go over the stile and follow the field edge to a kissing gate on the right. Cross the next field to Upton End Road.


Point 9 Turn left along the road, past Shillington Bury, then turn right along the farm track. At the end of the track, follow the field boundary straight ahead and then to the left.
The grounds of Shillington Bury contain a mixture of pasture, ponds, scrub and trees which provide a variety of wildlife habitats. A path on the right of the walk route leads to the earthworks of a Norman motte and bailey castle, known as The Hills, at the edge of Meppershall village. The castle was probably built soon after the Norman invasion in the 11th century.


Point 10 Follow the path round to the left, following a ditch which marks the boundary between Shillington and Meppershall. Cross the bridge over the ditch and continue along the path, past a small wood and over a bridge into a pasture. In the next field, cross a concrete bridge and bear left to a stile. Cross the stile into the next field, then follow the hedge to the right as far as the road in Upper Gravenhurst. Turn left along the High Street, then right at the T-junction with Barton Road, to rejoin Walk 1. Follow the instructions from Point 8 back to Wrest Park House car park.


Acknowledgements
This leaflet was produced by the Leisure Services group at Bedfordshire County Council.
Bedfordshire County Council promotes
healthy living...
More people...More active...More often


This was a great walk. I was lucky with the weather and the views towards Pegsden Hills and Shillington from Gravenhurst were tremendous. Definitely worth a try.
Dave Mar 2006
Leave your feedback