Houghton Conquest Circular Walk 3

Houghton Conquest Circular Walk 3

The route uses footpaths to and from the neighbouring parish of Wilstead passing through Chapel End and Thickthorns. The walk gives splendid views of the Greensand Ridge to the south and crosses flat, open countryside.

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

The village can be reached by road from the A6 (Bedford –Luton) or from the B530 (Bedford – Ampthill) roads.
There is no parking in Mill Lane. Parking is available in the Village Hall car park but may be limited if other functions or events are taking place there. On-street parking in available elsewhere in the village. Please park thoughtfully.

Start/Finish Point

This circular route can either be started from Mill Lane, Houghton Conquest or from the village of Wilstead.

Access and General Information

Length: 4 miles (6.4 km)
Time:
Access Information:
Surface Types: You can expect to walk across varied surfaces ranging from a hard, firm surface with stones no larger than 5mm to hard and firm with no stones larger than 10mm, to grass or uncultivated earth paths with and without ruts to farmland. Please note that this route can become very muddy in winter or in wet weather.
Linear Gradient: The steepest linear gradient is between 1:10-1:13 for a short stretch.
Cross Falls: None recorded.
Width Restriction: None recorded.
Steps: There are steps at point 3 when crossing the A6 - these have a maximum height of 220mm. There are also steps at the bridges - with a step height of less than 350mm.
Barriers: There are three 2-way opening gates with a width less than 750mm, three kissing gates with a restriction of less than 1000mm, two 2-step stiles and three 1-way opening gates built into field gates which have a high stepover of greater than 300mm.
Refreshments: There are two pubs in Houghton Conquest - The Knife and Cleaver and The Anchor and The Woolpack and Red Lion in Wilstead. There is a shop near to the village hall in Houghton Conquest and a shop and post office and take away restaurant in Wilstead.
Public Toilets: None on route.
Picnic Tables: None on route.
Seats: There are three seats along the route.

Route Description

1. Starting from Mill Lane (1), take the footpath (f.p.) on the right (R) just before a bungalow near the end of the lane. Follow the hedge for a short length then turn left (L) over a small bridge and through the hedge. Continue along behind the gardens and then straight across the field to Chapel End Lane. Turn R into the lane and continue to f.p.sign on the L.

2. Follow the footpath through a hedge, over a small bridge and across a garden lawn between a bungalow and Chapel End Farm. Continue in the same direction past tall conifers, along a field edge and track and across a field towards the A6 road. At the far side of the field, cross a bridge and stile and head across the meadow, keeping L of the barns, to a waymark post in a gap in the hedge and then across a smaller meadow to the finger post on the A6 road. Cross over a stile, and go L, to the start of the layby and you will see the f.p. sign opposite. TAKE GREAT CARE WHEN CROSSING THIS FAST, BUSY MAIN ROAD.

3. (Planning permission has been granted for development of the next field and the f.p. will eventually be surfaced and should be easy to follow.) At present go over the stile and head diagonally across the meadow towards the church (the top of this can be seen if you look carefully!). Cross a stile between a brick barn and an old corrugated iron one and continue along a path (which may be overgrown) between a stone wall and a hedge, to a stile onto the end of Vicarage Lane.

4. Cross Vicarage Lane and take the footpath to Wilstead Church, following it through the church yard and out of the gate into Church Road, where there are some very attractive old cottages. At the end of Church Road turn L into Bedford Road. where you have the choice of The Red Lion or The Woolpack for refreshment if required. Continue along Bedford Road, past Black Hat Close and The Square to a layby on the L opposite Duck End Lane.

5. Part way along the layby, turn L at the f.p. sign into a private drive. As the drive bends L go R through a gap in the conifer hedge, then L along the path between the hedge and a fence and through a small gate into a meadow. In the meadow, go through a gateway a little way on your L and across the next meadow to the hedge opposite, then R following this hedge to a stile onto the A6 main road. ONCE AGAIN TAKE GREAT CARE CROSSING THE BUSY MAIN ROAD.

6. Go through the kissing gate slightly to the L and follow the path alongside the hedge to the yellow-topped waymark post at the next gateway. Continuing in the same direction, go diagonally R across the field to a kissing gate and bridge in the corner, then diagonally L across the next field towards the waymark post about two thirds of the way along the hedge opposite. Cross a second bridge over a ditch and continue over the next field to a point slightly L of a tree in the opposite hedge. Cross a third bridge in this hedge and continue along, keeping the hedgerow on your R, then straight across the field to small spinney ahead.

7. Carry on along the L side of the spinney and pond to a waymark post in the field. Thickthorn Farm is a little way away on your R. At the waymark post turn slightly L and head towards a small tree in the hedge to the R of the mill. As you near this tree you will see the next waymark post. From the post, follow the hedgerow along past the old mill, which is on private land on the opposite side of the hedge, and is possibly in a dangerous state. At the end of the hedge turn R into Mill Lane.

Details of Points 2 and 5

Points of Interest

WILSTEAD CHURCH

Originally built in 1235. The tower collapsed in 1742 and was rebuilt out of wood and subsequently replaced during Victorian restoration (1851). The nave roof, of 15th C. origin, contains carvings of angels.

CHAPEL END

There are several theories as to how Chapel End got its name. Some say it was named after a church warden, Mr Chappell, who lived in a homestead there; or did the monks of Chicksands Priory set up an occasional open-air place of worship there? Or was it the site of a private chapel to one of the long since disappeared manors which made up the parish? Whatever its history, Chapel End is today a quiet, secluded spot with a couple of fine farm houses at Chapel End Farm and Hill Farm.

THE RED LION

This public house was built in 1935 on the old village green. The original Red Lion is a cottage behind the present one. This cottage is probably the oldest house in Wilstead and dates back to the 16th C. This inn was previously "The Bell" and then "The Compasses". At one time the Assizes and local lock-up were here.

THE WOOLPACK

This is also an old coaching inn, both being on the old Bedford to London road. The Woolpack had a sheep and cattle pen where travellers could house their animals overnight.

THE WINDMILL

In the 1830s, this mill was built to replace an earlier wooden mill. Originally 35ft (11m) high, it was topped by a cap with a ball and finial and would have been an outstanding and imposing feature visible for many miles. In 1877 a gale removed the cap but, repaired and modernised, the mill worked for a further 33 years. In 1920 it finally ceased production and eventually the sails were removed to Cranfield Mill.

THICKTHORNS

Early maps show that there was a medieval settlement here. An area of small closes (fields) in an expanse of ridge and furrow.

Fossils

Introduction

As you cross the fields on this walk watch out for fossils of sea creatures which lived on the bed of a vast shallow warm lake that covered this area some 180 million years ago. Gryphea look like a large claw and so are known as 'Devil's Toe-nails'. Ammonites - small snail-like creatures. Belomnites - the fossilised spines of sea-urchins.

Acknowledgements

This leaflet has been designed and produced by members of the Houghton Conquest Parish Paths Partnership Group in order to help and encourage others to enjoy the local countryside. Together with all improvement works to the footpath network in the parish, it has been funded entirely through the Parish Paths Partnership Scheme. If anyone would like further information about walks or would like to assist with the care and maintenance of footpaths, please contact any member of the Parish Council.