Harlington Vale (The Bottoms)

Harlington Vale (The Bottoms)

This circular walk covers the attractive countryside of Harlington Vale which is bordered on the south by the chalk downland of Sundon Hills (designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty (and to the north by the sandy outcrop of Harlington Hill.

How To Get There By Passenger Transport

BY BUS – Telephone Bedfordshire Bus Information Line : 01234 228337, 8.30am – 5pm open 5 days a week or Travel Line 0870 6082608.
BY TRAIN – For timetable information, please telephone National Rail Enquiries 08457 484950.
Click here for the National Rail Enquiries website

How To Get There By Car

Harlington is just off the A5120 to the south of Ampthill, and is located about 1.5 miles from Junction 12 of the M1.
Parking is available at Sundon Hills Country Park or at the Village Hall car park. You can also park at Harlington Station car park (there is a charge).

Start/Finish Point

This circular walk starts from the Village Hall car park.

Access and General Information

Length: 5 miles (7.7 km)
Time:

Access Information:
Surface Types: You will walk across surface types ranging from hard and firm with no stones larger than 5mm to grass or uncultivated earth paths with and without ruts and mud.
Linear Gradient: The steepest linear gradient is greater than 1:6 at Point 1 on the map.
Cross Falls: None recorded.
Width Restriction: There is a width restriction of 800mm at Point 1, of 790mm on the sleeper bridge and of 700mm at Point 2 (between the houses).
Steps: The maximum step height is 60mm – on the footbridge at Point 8 and in Oak Close.
Barriers: There is one two step stile.
Refreshments: There is one pub in Harlington – The Carpenters Arms and a selection of shops.
Public Toilets: None recorded.
Picnic Tables: None recorded.
Seats: There are two seats by Bacchus pond.

Route Description

1 On leaving the Village Hall Car Park cross the road bearing left and almost immediately turn right into footpath south of the Carpenters Arms Car Park. Proceed through Oak Close crossing Park Leys and down towards the railway. Turn left by iron fence and walk beside railway into Pilgrims' Close ignoring bridge on the right. Turn left before field gate.

2 After 50 meters take footpath on right between houses numbered 17 and 19. Cross over the bridge and stile into a triangular field. Walk towards waymark post on railway fence and follow fence to the far corner of this field. Pass through a tiny copse then walk parallel to the railway over a plank bridge into 3 Harlington Spinney, a remnant of ancient woodland. Note the coppiced hazel. In the Spring there is a profusion of wild flowers: wood anemones, bluebells, primroses, dogs mercury, nettles etc.

Leave spinney by plank bridge and walk along until you see the railway arch on right. Although this is not part of the walk it is interesting to go through and, looking to the left, one sees the 4 Filtration Plant cleaning up the water draining off Sundon Rubbish Dump. Return under the arch and the walk has now joined the Icknield Way. (An ancient trackway now a long distance path). Continue along the bridleway with hedges on each side again noting the wild flowers including patches of oxlips (a hybrid of cowslips and primroses) in Spring.

Leave this lane over the seven sleeper bridge, turn right following the field edge noting masses of hemlock (which should not be used as pea shooters). Sundon Rubbish Dump is on your right. At the next footpath sign turn left noticing the newly planted hedge including cherry and spindle on the right. Just before the disused piggeries of Dyers Hall Farm (the old house was destroyed by the military during World War 11) turn right towards Sundon. Soon the path bears left following a spring fed stream, lined with old willows, out to the main Harlington - Sundon road.

5 Cross this and take the metalled lane, signposted to Sharpenhoe. After about two hundred meters turn right onto the bridleway by a six barred iron gate. Straight ahead, in the distance, is Sharpenhoe Clappers owned by the National Trust. Follow the gravel track until you reach two ponds. The one on the left with an island is part of a wild life reserve. You are now close to the site of Woodfield Farm, also destroyed by the military for target practice during World War II. 6 Both of the ponds are home to toads, newts, geese, ducks, coots and moorhens.

Keep walking along the gravel path with hedgerow on right. Shortly you will reach a junction with two foot bridges. (This is the furthest point of the walk). 7 Ignore both, bridges and turn sharp left keeping the hedge and stream on your right. After 200 meters, cross the stream and follow the path keeping the hedge and stream to your left. When you come to the footbridge with a handrail, cross and turn sharp left. 8 Ignore the next footbridge but continue round the field edge until you cross a lane called 'The Bottoms'. On the right is Willow Farm.

Follow the path opposite which soon turns sharply with the hedge on your left. At the T junction at the end of this path turn right up the hill towards a spinney. Don't cross the footbridge but go straight on. When you reach the road turn left, walk a few yards then turn left again onto the Village Green (Bury Orchard).

9 To the right is Bacchus Pond, rich in wild life and where gravel was excavated in the 19th century. Straight across the green is the car park where we began the walk.

Points of Interest

Herlingdone (later Harlington), in the Hundred of Manshead, is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, when it was held by Nigel de Albini, a Norman baron! Harlington had been held by four Saxon thanes during the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066). The literal meaning of the place name is 'hill of Herela's people'.

Harlington Vale is bordered on the south by the chalk downland of Sundon Hills (designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty) and to the north the sandy outcrop of Harlington Hill. The streams run into the River Flit.

Many road names in the village are connected with John Bunyan and Pilgrims Progress. John Bunyan was arrested at Samshill in nearby Westoning for preaching. He was brought before the magistrate Francis Wingate at Harlington Manor and sent to Bedford Gaol.

Sundon Rubbish Dump is to the right of the Bridleway between 4 and Dyer's Hall Farm. The Dump was started towards the end of the nineteenth century, rubbish being brought from London by the trainload and tipped from special sidings. Some of these wagons spent the night in sidings at Harlington Station. Without doubt you will see large patches of hemlock which was not common until the 1950's but has now dramatically spread from the Dump. The old Piggeries are close to the site of the original Dyers Hall Farmhouse. Our route crosses the old road to Sundon which emerged by the Red Lion in Upper Sundon.

At 5 you will hear running water because in this small copse a spring rises. In times of severe drought in the past, when all the village wells had dried up, this spring was essential. The private trackway up the hill via the green iron gate was once used for transporting chalk and lime from the quarry. The trackway to the right at 6 leads to further disused chalk workings on the Sundon Hills.

At 8 we cross the Mill Stream which flows to Harlington Mill half a mile further down. When you cross the Bottoms Lane near Willow Farm you are at the eastern end of the old hamlet of Harlington Lower East End. The Bottoms Road was once known as Hoardfield Lane which led to Common Fields. Looking north towards the ribbon development of Barton Road you will see a very large field devoid of hedges which have been removed since the 1950's. The topmost branches of the trees in the spinney on the left house a large noisy rookery. These trees are growing on the site of a disused gravel pit.

The three houses grouped in the corner by the spinney are situated on Homes End. The remains of the orchard belonging to one of the cottages can be seen beside the wall as you enter Bury Orchard. 9 This large recreation ground has not always been a village amenity. Many villagers who strayed from the path in days gone by can remember being chased off by the owner as previously it was used for grazing. However, the local farmer laid a cricket pitch near the school.

The large depression on the right is a result of nineteenth century gravel workings. The original Village Pond, known as Bacchus Pond, was slightly further to the north and stretched across the road.

Of course one cannot fail to notice the 15th century tower of St Mary's Church and the line of the earlier mediaeval nave roof. Much of the surrounding area has produced pottery probably evidence of a mediaeval settlement. So check the molehills!

At the end of the path behind the railings stands the east room of the old village school founded in 1859 now the Parish Hall. Once back at the car park you will be able to see the new cricket and football pitches (New Grounds) once known as Vineyards.

Acknowledgements