A walk along the chalk ridge between George Orwell's home in Wallington and Clothall.
Distance 5 miles (8km)
Minimum time 2hrs 15min
Ascent/gradient 130ft (40m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Mainly tracks and green lanes, road in Wallington, 5 stiles
Landscape Rolling chalk hills, farmland and woods
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 193 Luton & Stevenage
Start/finish TL 291338
Dog friendliness Hostile: near Quickswood Farm is warning about rat poison; be careful crossing fast, busy A507 (twice)
Parking On south side of Kit's Lane, Wallington
Public toilets None on route
1 Start on Kit's Lane at the west end of Wallington. George Orwell lived in a cottage on this street in the late 1930s. His thatched and plastered home, The Stores, can be seen to the left of the former Plough pub.
2 Walk uphill, out of the village, then descend to a bridleway to bear left. Now on the Icknield Way path, you wind up and along the chalk ridge, with occasional stretches of hedge. As it climbs out of a valley the path passes to the left of some modern farm buildings. The track crosses a lane and descends to the busy A507 Baldock to Buntingford road.
3 Across the road the path curves along the edge of a field with pasture to your left and the ridge on which Clothall's church stands. Ignore the stile and, at the tree belt, turn left on to a path, which becomes a metalled track. At the village lane turn left and left again after a few paces, through a kissing gate, and uphill to the churchyard. Take time to look at the church, then, from its porch, go down the path towards garages and turn right on to an access drive. At the road turn right. At a bend, just before Glebe House, go left at the footpath sign to follow the left edge of a field, uphill. At the top bear right along a track between fields.
4 Cross the A507 and head for a footpath sign pointing you along a track. Past a farmyard the track becomes a green lane heading towards Clothallbury Woods. Follow the edge of these woods until the hedge and a tapering tree belt merge from the left. Go diagonally right, downhill to reach a post at the left of some hedges around a pond. Bear left to another footpath sign in front of Quickswood Farm.
Turn right (do not cross the footbridge) and walk along the edge of the arable field. At a metalled track go right and pass a cottage to follow the track alongside oak and ash woods. At the corner of the wood go straight on along a green lane with the Corsican pine plantation of Spital Wood to your right. Where the track goes right, continue straight on, the footpath now in the edge of the pines, with pheasants everywhere.
5 Cross a cattle-grazed pasture, heading to the left of some ponds, and go over a stile. Carry straight on. In a shallow dry valley cross a footbridge over a drain. Where the drain goes left, continue straight on. The path crosses a hedged green lane, then a gravelled drive. Continue to the corner of the field, go right over a stile and along a path to St Mary's Church.
Out of the churchyard go left to a lane, descend to a junction and turn left to walk down Wallington's Main Street. On the way you will pass Manor Farm on the right, whose barn is thought by many to have been the inspiration for the Great Barn featured in George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945). Follow the road round by the pillar box and left back into Kit's Lane.
There are two delightful, small villages to enjoy, at the east and west ends of this circuit.
Wallington has a place in literary history, for Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell, bought a cottage here in 1936 after spending time in Lancashire and Yorkshire researching The Road to Wigan Pier (published 1937) and subsequently enjoyed a prolific spell of writing. Orwell married Eileen O'Shaughnessy in Wallington's parish church, but spent much of his time abroad, first in Spain, fighting in the civil war, and then in Morocco. The couple moved to London in 1940.
Wallington's church is mainly 15th-century but the chancel was rebuilt in 1864 (badly, according to the guide book).
This village has preserved medieval stained glass paintings of local birds in its church. Your route follows an attractive section of the chalk ridge south of the ancient Icknield Way, now followed by the A505. The countryside is a wide expanse of rolling arable land in huge fields with few hedges, but the long views to the north make this an exhilarating walk.
Cromer Windmill - Hertfordshire's only surviving post mill - stands just a mile (1.6km) south of Cumberlow Green. It was built in the early 19th century and was a working mill until 1924. Subsequent decay and loss of sails and machinery was reversed in 1967 when the Hertfordshire Building Preservation Trust acquired it. The Trust had fully restored it with sails by 1991. It is open some afternoons in summer.
There are now no pubs in Wallington. The Derby Arms closed in 1950, while The Plough lasted until as recently as 1988. Clothall is similarly ill-served for its last pub, the Barley Mow, also recently closed down. If you are likely to get peckish on this 5 mile (8km) walk you should purchase 'iron rations' in Baldock or elsewhere en route to the start.
St Mary's Church, in Clothall, is beautifully situated on a ridge that allows fine views to the north and west. In the chancel east window is 15th-century stained glass, notable for the remarkable depictions of birds, including ducks, lapwings, hawks and partridges.