The Letchworth Greenway is a 13.6-mile orbital path that runs around the outside of the world’s first Garden City. You can learn everything about it on its website here. While some of it is on rural footpaths and some on roads and pavements, a large portion is on a wide, flat, level, extremely accessible and specially-surfaced path, following a route very similar to the boundaries defining the land purchased for the founding of the town.
This means that it is less the kind of robust challenge usually grappled with by endurance or long-distance walkers, and more a multi-use utility path for the town’s residents – you might think of it as a very long, very thin park linking some of the area’s outdoor attractions and catering for runners, walkers, cyclists (where appropriate), dog-walkers and anyone who simply wants to get out into the fresh air and the countryside for a bit without wearing themselves out.
As such it’s a fantastic amenity and one that we’re very pleased to live close to. It is, however, nowhere close to the toughest walking challenge or the most wild, varied scenery that we’ve ever encountered, and its character is surprisingly different from the neighbouring Hitchin Outer Orbital Path with which it shares a long section and which you can read about in exhaustive detail here.
This means that, if you’re regularly tackling this kind of distance, you’ll probably find it a pleasant, interesting and engaging stroll, should you choose to attempt it in one go. We did this – because if people will put down long-distance footpaths in our neighbourhood, then we tend to feel compelled to have at them (the paths, that is, not the people).
However, if you like your walks shorter, you’ll find plenty of potential and a lovely range of moods and places to visit around the different stages. Our favourite bits were probably around Norton and Willian, with the detour to cross the railway and the presence of the A1(M) making a considerable impression on the path in other places. Still, that’s the nature of an orbital walk – it has to deal with what’s actually there on the ground, after all, and inevitably that will mean you are occasionally forced onto roads and through less-than-picturesque bits of town.
We suggest that if you’re local, or visiting the area, then you take advantage of this lovely facility and all the gentle attractions it has to offer. Our top picks for a stop-off visit (based purely on personal taste) would be Wymondley Wood and Willian Arboretum. And if you’ve never visited this fascinating town then we’d definitely counsel not just walking round the edge, but stopping off in the middle too.