This interesting walk, mainly on good paths and quiet roads, passes three disused mills on the River Ivel and has good views across the rural Bedfordshire landscape.
Stotfold is located three miles north of Letchworth on the Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire border.
There is a car park behind the Memorial Hall in Hitchin Road, Stotfold and a free car park at the sports field.
This circular walk starts at the car park behind the Memorial Hall, the curved-roof building in Hitchin Road a hundred yards down from the traffic-lights.
Length: 6 miles
Time: 2½ hours
Surface Types: You will walk across surface types ranging from hard and firm with no stones greater than 5mm in size, to hard but variable surfaces with loose, variable sized stones, to grass or uncultivated earth paths with ruts and/or mud and farmland.
Linear Gradient: The steepest gradients range from 1:6 to 1:9.
Cross Falls: None recorded.
Width Restriction: There is a minimum width restriction of 690mm.
Steps: There is a maximum step height of 250mm on the footbridge between Bowman's and Taylor's Mills.
Barriers: There are two kissing gates with a restriction of less than 1000mm, one 1-way opening gate with a width of greater than 750mm, one staggered barrier with a minimum restriction greater than 950mm and one 1-step stile.
Refreshments: Stotfold has a selection of pubs, shops and cafes.
Public Toilets: Located at the junction of the High Street and Brook Street in Stotfold.
Picnic Tables: There are picnic tables at point 6 on the map.
Seats: There are benches between points 3 and A on the map, at point B, where Mill Lane meets Wrayfields and at Randall's Mill.
Go up the tarmac footpath between fences, then left into High Street and across traffic-lights (1) into Arlesey Road. Pass the end of Vaughan Road and follow the low-level tarmac path between verges beside open country on your right. Beware of cyclists - this is used as a bridleway!
Just past the Fox and Duck (2) go right on a sign-posted bridleway, a water-tower ahead on the horizon. Continue this field-edge line for almost a mile, an intermittent hedge, then a ditch, on your left. This bridleway eventually turns right at a fenced area of rough ground and trees (3). Follow the bridleway to reach the road and turn right, pass houses and a barn on the left, then go left along a clear path heading diagonally across the field. Continue through a gap in the hedge, across a small field, over a footbridge and beside a fence to walk between the disused Bowman's Mill (A) and a large white house to a tarmac lane (4).
Follow this lane to the right joining Kingfisher Way and, just after it turns left, go right along a fenced footpath with a large back garden on your left. Cross a sleeper bridge and continue along the field edge, the River Ivel appearing on your right, through squeeze point and kissing gate, to turn right on to a road at "Ivel Mill" (5). Stay on this road to cross the river, buildings on the site of Taylor's Mill (B) on your left, and follow it as it heads back towards Stotfold. Before the houses turn left along the sign-posted route between factory buildings, emerging into a road. Walk along the top of this T-shaped road towards floodlight pylons, turn left through gap in fence at the end then right (6) round the fenced football pitch and tennis courts, with playing fields, partly studded with trees, appearing on your left. Cross a small car park and turn left along the road, taking care as you cross the narrow hump-backed ford bridge where Kingfisher Way turns off right.
Bear left on to Wrayfields, following it up to turn left at T-junction to continue on Wrayfields to A1 and turn right on to the broad verge of the busy A1 road (7). Take care here - the road is very busy. Before the crown of the hill, go right, where sign-posted, via a stile. Follow this path, a hedge on your left, and descend towards houses, church-tower and mill chimney and mobile phone mast disguised as a conifer tree. Pass a small wood on your right, then descend again to go left at the road. Cross a bridge at the burned-out Randall's Mill (C, now being restored as a museum), then pass almshouses (D) and (immediately after the Hope Baptist Chapel) the small unassuming "Lock-up" (E).
At the Chequers, at T-junction, turn right into Rook Tree Lane (8). Pass bungalows on your left, then turn on to the sign-posted tarmac footpath to pass close to St. Mary's Church (F) on your right. Continue ahead on this path, passing a red-brick building (G) on your right as you leave the churchyard, then turn left along the road to reach Stotfold High Street. Turn right at the traffic lights beside the shops, fork left down Brook Street, pass Melbourn Close and the Stag, and take the tarmac footpath on your right just before the Pig and Whistle to return to the car park where you started.
Although none of the three mills whose sites you pass is currently operational, there are plans to restore Randall's Mill (C), with a local museum incorporated in the rebuilt structure.
Many local Stotfold people still refer to it as "the village", but it is now a town of about 7,000 inhabitants. Although there are a few small factories on the outskirts of the town, most of the working population commutes to Letchworth, Hitchin or Luton, and some travel daily as far as Cambridge or London. Stotfold is mentioned in the Domesday Book, the name reputedly being derived from the practice of northern cattle-drovers breaking their journey along the A1 and penning their cattle (stots) in enclosures (folds) before continuing south to market. The proximity of this main arterial road also encouraged the building of several water-mills along the River Ivel, the sites of three of which give this walk its name. The walk leaves the west edge of the town, crossing typical rural Bedfordshire landscape - mainly flat and arable, with restful open vistas under broad skies - before joining part of the Kingfisher Way, a new 20-mile path beside the River Ivel opened in 1997. After a short stretch along the Astwick/Stotfold road your route strikes off across fields past the disused Bowman's Mill (A), with its derelict water-wheel and reaches another minor road just before the site of Taylor's Mill (B).
After passing sites concerned with light industry (Motorola) and sport (Stotfold Football Club), you briefly sample the dubious delights of a busy dual-carriageway (the A1) before leaving the noise of the traffic to descend along field margins back towards Stotfold, a pleasing view of the town laid out before you. When you cross the River Ivel you reach the town's most interesting area. On your right is Stotfoldbury, one of the oldest houses in Stotfold, mentioned in fourteenth century records. On your left you pass the eye-catching bent chimney of Randall's Mill (C), the almshouses (D), built in 1835 as a gift from H.O. (Octavius) Roe, a generous local benefactor, and "The Lock-up" (E), where local miscreants were incarcerated overnight as penance for misbehaviour.
Soon you reach St. Mary's Church (F). Some of the existing fabric dates back to its consecration in about 1150 AD, and there is evidence that an earlier place of worship stood on that site as a Saxon stone coffin containing human bones was unearthed during excavations in the nave in the late nineteenth century. You leave the churchyard past a red- brick building (G), originally built in 1808 as a school founded by Octavius Roe, and finish the walk through the streets of the town, the task of crossing the main east-to- west road is considerably safer now since the busy A507 road, used by many to go from the A1 to the M1, was diverted in 1996 onto a by-pass.
This leaflet was produced by the Parish Paths Partnership and supported by Rural Action for the Environment and Bedfordshire County Council. Illustrations by Robin Tasker