Lea Valley Walk

The Lea Valley Way

The Lea Valley Walk is a 50 mile Regional Route from the Thames to the source of the River Lea in Luton. The Leagrave to East Hyde section is 9 miles long and runs through Luton’s parks and attractive countryside in South Bedfordshire. Also you can take a 7 mile circular walk around Someries Castle if you would like a longer walk. The Lea Valley Walk is sign posted and waymarked with the SWAN symbol.

How To Get There By Public 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

From junction 11 of the M1, take the A505 towards Luton. Follow signs to Leagrave Station. Leagrave Common is a little further on.
There is car parking at Leagrave Common.

Start/Finish Point

The linear route starts at Leagrave Common and ends at East Hyde or, if taking the circular walk, Someries Castle.

Access and General Information

Length: 9 miles (14.4 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, to farmland.
Linear Gradient: There are linear gradients all along the route - from steeper than 1:6, to between 1:6-1:9, between 1:10-1:13, between 1:14-1:17 and of 1:18 or less.
Cross Falls: There are cross falls along the route, from 1:9 or steeper, to between 1:10-1:15, between 1:21-1:25 and of 1:26 or less.
Width Restriction: There are no restrictions less than 1000mm.
Steps: There are steps with a maximum step height of 200mm at the road crossing just to the north of New Mill End.
Barriers: There are two kissing gates with a restriction of less than 1000mm between the Airport Way Station and New Mill End, and a staggered barrier with a minimum restriction of less than 950mm in Wardown Park.
Refreshments: Luton has many pubs, restaurants and shops.
Public Toilets: Located in Luton.
Picnic Tables: None recorded.
Seats: There are seats along the route but none after you leave Luton.

Route Description

The Lea Valley Walk is signposted and waymarked with the SWAN symbol.

Points of Interest

Introduction

The Icknield Way

The Lea Valley Walk and Icknield Way Historic Route run together for a short distance in Luton. Probably older than Waulud’s Bank, the Icknield Way follows the underlying chalk from Norfolk to Buckinghamshire and is open and waymarked for walkers.

Leagrave Common

This green corner of Luton is well worth investigating. The Walk crosses Waulud’s Bank (a 4000 year old bank and ditch), one of the most important archaeological sites in the Chilterns. It may have been used by locals of the time for religious festivals.

Leagrave Marsh is fed by the spring waters of the rising river. It is home to several rare plants including marsh bedstraw and common twayblade.

The Moat House, pub and restaurant, just off the route in Nunnery Lane, is one of the oldest secular buildings remaining in Luton and dates from the late 14th century.

Bide-a-While is a small formal garden maintained by Luton Borough Council. The Walk passes through Wardown Park, with its boating lake, mini golf and beautiful gardens. It is home to the Luton Museum and Art Gallery which house fine collections of decorative art, natural history, archaeology, local history and much more.

St Mary's Church, founded in 1121, is one of the finest medieval churches in England and the largest parish church in Bedfordshire.

On 19th July 1919, a parade celebrating the end of the Great War got out of hand. Missiles were thrown and in the subsequently infamous “Peace Day Riot,” the Town Hall was burnt to the ground. The current Art Deco building was opened in 1936.

Hats in Luton

By the end of the 17th Century, Luton was becoming known for its straw hats. The industry grew rapidly in the 19th century, overtaking brewing, which had been the town’s main industry before 1900. Hat making changed a sleepy country market town into a major industrial and commercial centre. It remains part of local industry; Luton Town FC are still known as “The Hatters”.

Luton Hoo

Originally 15th century, the present house is largely a reconstruction following a fire in 1843. It used to be the home of the famous Wernher collection which is now housed in London. Good views of the Capability Brown landscaped park are to be had from the Someries Castle area.

Someries Castle dates from about 1448 and is one of the earliest surviving brick buildings in England.

Wildlife

Marshy areas and the river itself provide food and shelter for a wide range of wildlife. Grey heron, cormorant, tufted duck, lapwing and swans are regularly seen especially on the river near East Hyde. If you are continuing to Harpenden, it is worth walking a few yards further down the road towards East Hyde (follow the circular walk); the road bridge across the river is a pleasant place to stop and watch the waters flow towards the North Sea.

The Luton, Dunstable and Welwyn Junction Railway

After rejecting Robert Stevenson’s advice 10 years before to build a railway from Luton to Dunstable, the line was completed in 1858 by engineer J C Birkenshaw; its extension to Welwyn being opened in 1860. It is this section, closed in 1965, that the Walk follows. The current Thameslink line, parallel with the walk, was opened in 1868.

Acknowledgements

This guide was made possible by financial contributions from the Luton & Dunstable Countryside Project, Bedfordshire County Council, South Beds County Council and the Lee Valley Park.