10 – Rickmansworth Aquadrome and Grand Union Canal 6.5 miles – 6th April

In short: mostly well surfaced paths around a couple of lovely lakes, along a cycle path and the canal towpath. Functional if not exactly appealing toilets and yet another amazing cafe. 2 hrs 20 mins walking + 40 min pitstop.

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With a little more time to spare this week we decided to explore a little further afield and head off to a part of the Grand Union canal we hadn’t visited before. The weather was a bit of a mixture but the brief showers didn’t spoil this lovely walk for us – and all only a 45 minute drive from home.

We park in the large free car park at Rickmansworth Aquadrome, postcode WD3 1NB. The cafe and public toilets are right beside the car park, so starting from there we take the path to the left of the cafe leading to the lakeside and turn left at the lakeside keeping the lake (Bury lake) on our right. This path heads towards the sailing club but just before reaching it the ground becomes extremely muddy so we take a left turn across a bridge over a ditch and join the paved cycle path, numbered 61, turning right onto it.

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The path goes round the sailing clubhouse and is signposted as the Bury lake circuit and we turn right, keeping Bury lake on our right and with another lake to our left. At the end of the lake the path continues ahead but we turn right, continuing our circuit along the side opposite the sailing club. At the end of this side we again turn right as though returning to the car park but after a couple of minutes we take a path on our left – almost doubling back on ourselves and head towards Batchworth lake.

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We ignore the odd path off to the left and carry on going around this lake – again with the lake on our right – until we come to the gate onto the canal, where we turn left. We have walked along the Grand Union canal before – but a bit further up, from Watford, and that was really interesting – there is something very special about the quality of the surroundings on the canal – the slow moving water, interesting boats and landscape of the canal banks – whether urban, suburban or rural. Always changing – I think that’s the real appeal.

We follow the towpath here for a little way – we are on the outskirts of Rickmansworth now and pass the back of a large Tesco and under a main road close to a roundabout. Just after the walkway under the A404 we are immediately at the Batchworth Lock Canal Centre. Here we plan to take the Ebury Way and the kind lock keeper sees us puzzling over our tiny map (printed out from the internet) and offers us a selection of leaflets with lovely clear (larger!) maps of our surroundings.

The Ebury Way (or cycle path 61) heads left at the fork here, this means crossing one bridge but then heading immediately left – not along the main canal towpath. Confusingly there is a little offshoot of the canal here and after a bend it’s quite domesticated with the moored narrowboats having gardens on the bank. It’s a charming spot – with pretty views from a bridge to our right. However the path doesn’t involve crossing this bridge and we carry on, almost immediately turning right at the Ebury Way sign (heading towards Watford) and crossing a bridge here.

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This path continues straight for quite some time – it is tree-lined with lakes to the right and left. After a short while (10-15 minutes) we are crossing the Grand Union canal again and carry on the Ebury Way on the far side. Shortly after we pass under a railway line and find ourselves passing an industrial estate on our right with Croxley Common Moor to our left. The Common looks interesting – unfortunately the fact that there is an industrial estate to our right has generated a fair amount of rubbish along the right hand side of the path which is a real shame.

Just as we get to the end of the common we take the final path onto it – with a large signpost at the gate for Croxley Common Moor and start walking along the edge of it. At this point it seems like a fairly ordinary if slightly wild common, we reach the bushes directly ahead and turn left just before them, turning immediately right at a path through the bushes and across a stream. This second half of the common actually looks like moorland – with gorse and low growing bushes. The weather is very grey and this section is actually really atmospheric – looking to the left we could quite honestly be anywhere – and certainly not on the outskirts of Watford!

The path continues straight across the moor – it’s not all that easy to discern – but directly in front of us we can just about make out the canal again and that’s where we are heading. There is a river just before the canal, running parallel to it, and we cross two bridges firstly over the river and then the canal. Here we turn left and take the canal towpath with the canal on our left.

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We now stay on the canal towpath all the way back – under the railway bridge, past Batchworth Lock centre, under the main road, past the entrance into Batchworth lake and the first gate into Bury lake till we reach the second entrance signposted to the cafe and car park.

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The cafe is really fabulous – we had an amazing lunch and delicious coffee – on another day we might have taken advantage of the terrace overlooking the aquadrome – or alternatively the quiet room (child free zone!) had we spotted it!! To be honest the cafe is pretty much worth the visit by itself – we wholeheartedly recommend it!

 

 

 

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