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Totternhoe Knolls

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Totternhoe Knolls
Author: Claire, Published: 13 May 2013 Walk Rating:star1 Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide star1 Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide star1 Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide star1 Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide star0 Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide
Bedfordshire, Dunstable
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Totternhoe Knolls
Length: 4 miles,  Difficulty: boot Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide boot Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide boot Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide
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0001_sunny Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide Today's weather
7 °C, Clear/sunny, Wind: 9 mph SSW
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0002_sunny_intervals Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide 0004_black_low_cloud Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide 0002_sunny_intervals Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide 0006_mist Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide 0002_sunny_intervals Totternhoe Knolls Walking Guide

A 4 mile circular walk near Dunstable in Bedfordshire taking in a couple of the ancient forts which populate Totternhoe Knolls in this area of grass chalkland. The route gives an option to climb to the top of Castle Hill (the remains of a Norman castle) which gives truly amazing views across the Dunstable Downs. The remainder of the journey descends to join a long section of cycleway before climbing back into the chalk hills alongside Maiden Bower, an iron-age hill fort.

The route has no stiles or gates and the paths are generally wide and well-made but being chalk they can get quite muddy and slippery when wet. There are several climbs and descents both at the beginning and end but these are balanced with a long flat section along part of the National Cycle Network. There are no toilet or refreshment facilities on route. Approximate time 1.5 to 2 hours.

Totternhoe is just a few miles east of Dunstable in Bedfordshire, close to the M1. The walk starts from the Totternhoe Knolls free car park (with height restriction barrier) which is marked with a brown tourism sign off Castle Hill Road. Approximate post code LU6 1RG.

Walk Sections

Start to Castle Mound
Start to Castle Mound

Start point: 51.8858 lat, -0.5684 long
End point: 51.889 lat, -0.5786 long

From the car park, stand with your back to the entrance barrier and take the path on the left passing alongside a small noticeboard. Follow this path up a short flight of steps, pass through a gap in the fence and turn right. At the T-junction turn left, and continue on this main path ignoring any turns to the left and right.

Follow the path as it winds and climbs steadily. Where there are gaps in the hedgeline you’ll get tantalising glimpses of the views with which you’ll be rewarded later. As the track bends to the right, with a kissing gate to the left, ignore the kissing gate and stay on the main path. A little further on look out for a yellow post marking a small footpath up a slope to the left. Take this path to reach the remains of the Motte and Bailey Castle – Castle Hill.

Climb to the top of the mound should you wish where you’ll find a concrete trig point (the views make it worthwhile!). Totternhoe Castle was an 11th century Norman castle. An archaeological excavation in 2001 revealed that the castle was built on the site of a Roman enclosure. The flat top piece of chalk grassland remaining today is an important habitat for many species of orchid.

Castle Mound to Cycleway
Castle Mound to Cycleway

Start point: 51.889 lat, -0.5786 long
End point: 51.896 lat, -0.58 long

When you’ve finished at the castle mound, exit via the same path you entered on, and turn left to continue along the main bridleway. Within 200 yards follow the path as it swings hard right and descends fairly steeply. Take care as the chalk can be quite slippery when wet.

Follow the track as it bends left and then steadily descends along another straight section. About 100 yards before you reach the gate at the bottom, turn sharp right almost back on yourself onto a footpath marked with a yellow post. Follow this narrow enclosed path as it zig-zags between fields and eventually you will emerge out to a T-junction with the road.

Turn right here down the narrow vehicle lane lined with white metal bollards. Pass alongside the vehicle barrier and keep ahead until you reach a junction of paths with a gate ahead. Turn left here and follow the track with a tall hedge to the left and views across fields to the right. The track emerges to a T-junction with a tarmac cycleway.

Cycleway to Crossroads
Cycleway to Crossroads

Start point: 51.896 lat, -0.58 long
End point: 51.8885 lat, -0.5506 long

Turn right onto the long straight tarmac cycleway – Sewell Greenway Cycleway – which forms part of the National Cycle Network. The cycleway was built on the old railway line between Stanbridgeford and French’s Avenue in Dunstable. Take care with children and dogs as the banks at the side get fairly steep in places.

Follow the track for some distance. Some people consider walking on this sort of long straight path enclosed by hedgerows to be lacking in interest, but I always believe a path is what you make of it. Take time to appreciate the variety of native trees that make up the hedgerows, the abundance of wildflowers and the piercing birdsong in the spring and summer months; a great opportunity for reflection.

After some distance follow the cycleway ahead as it crosses a bridge with a minor road below. A few paces later turn right and then left alongside a yellow post, to join a tarmac byway with the cycleway now over to the left. Follow the lane climbing steadily and follow it as it bends to the right.

The path climbs to the brow of a hill and then steadily descends on a long straight run, with open crop fields to the left and the properties of Dunstable visible ahead. Follow the path as it swings right again and a little distance further, as the track bends left, you’ll reach a crossroads of paths with an ornate carved wooden bench.

Crossroads to End
Crossroads to End

Start point: 51.8885 lat, -0.5506 long
End point: 51.8861 lat, -0.5686 long

Turn right at this crossroads, leaving the tarmac track to join a wide grass bridleway between hedgerows. A little distance in, look for a section with a wide gap in the hedge on the right with large logs laid across. This is an excellent view point for Maiden Bower.

The circle of trees here marks the site of Maiden Bower an iron-age hill fort. Beneath the hill fort are the remains of a Neolithic camp.

Keep ahead on the same track and at the next junction, marked with a yellow post, turn left following the wide grass track. Through the hedge on the right you’ll be able to see the chalk ridge, the path over which is your return route to the car park!

As the hedge on the right ends, pass by the field gate and then turn immediately right to join the wide grass track climbing up the chalk ridge. At the brow of the hill, your efforts will be rewarded with stunning views in every direction. Keep ahead to descend on the opposite side of the hill. At the bottom of the slope, take the first left and then turn immediately left again through the gap in the fence. Go down the steps to reach the car park where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2013 by iFootpath and the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.

2 Comments for: "Totternhoe Knolls"

Fantastic views. Very pleasant walk and lovely countryside.

By Carol on 05 Aug 2018

Really good walk and convenient free parking , great day out

By Mexibug on 17 Aug 2017

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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