Lilley Hoo Common was once a sheep grazed common, but in 1944 much of it was ploughed up due to wartime food shortages. The only area of downland that remains is on Telegraph Hill, where it is possible to see cowslip and common spotted orchid.
On top of Lilley Hoo, a thin cap of clay is present, and where arable crops are now farmed, heather and gorse used to grow. During the 17th and 18th centuries, there was a popular race course on top of Lilley Hoo. George IV is said to have attended meetings there along with nobility from far and wide.
The hills around Lilley are part of the chalk ridge that runs across Southern England, linked by Britain’s oldest road, the Icknield Way which crosses the common at Telegraph Hill.
Telegraph Hill was named after the wooden telegraph station built in 1808 to link the Admiralty in London with Great Yarmouth. There are magnificent old beech trees on its fringes.
Lilley Hoo is mentioned in the poem “The Chilterns” by Rupert Brooke (1887-1915).
The Common is crossed by a comprehensive set of paths including the Icknield Way and providing access to Lilley and adjacent villages.
Car parking is available at Lilley.
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