In short: lovely figure of eight walk bookended by two pretty Hertfordshire towns, lots of waterside walking all within the shadow of the A10. Public toilets at start and cafe plus toilet halfway, in Ware. 2 hrs 35 mins walking + 20 min pitstop.
The promised glorious sunshine on Wednesday tempted us to try a walk away from the big smoke and so we head out to Hertford to try this walk, found on the Hertfordshire council website.
We take a lovely route out of North London – the A1000 up through Potters Bar and then B roads across beautiful countryside to Hertford. We park in the Hartham Lane car park; postcode SG14 1QR brings us to the foot of Hartham Lane – the car park is at the end of this short road, just beyond the large Sainsbury’s.
There are public toilets here at the start of the walk – between the car park and the children’s playground – and we are finding it a little difficult to orient ourselves with relation to the walk instructions (there are a lot of rivers here – it’s honestly quite confusing!). We start by heading past the toilets towards the leisure centre and a bridge ahead, looking for the pumping station mentioned. It isn’t immediately obvious – actually we realise we have to retrace our steps, crossing a bridge closer to the toilets, where we immediately spot the pumping station and hear the rushing water, and we cross another bridge to the end of Thornham Street (an exquisite little road – lined with trees absolutely laden with blossom).
We turn right onto The Folly, turning left at the ‘Old Barge’ pub onto the towpath of the River Lee (the navigation part so plenty of canal boats here).
We pass some more gorgeous cottages fronting onto the canal – more prosaically the far bank sports a Starbucks, shopping centre and a bus station. We carry on along the towpath until, just after the river bends to the right, we cross at the weir, go across the road and pick up the towpath on the opposite bank.
The riverbanks here are a mixture of attractive new housing (on our side) and low level light industrial units on the far side. We pass under a road bridge and shortly arrive at Hertford lock – King’s Mead nature reserve is now on our right hand side and a lovely green view, punctuated by a number of waterways opens out in front of us.
We stay on the towpath as it bends right; we are now heading towards the huge A10 road bridge and soon reach another Pump House with a board marking it as the start (more or less) of the New River which flows through North London and down to the Thames. We continue on under the A10, pass some playing fields on the opposite bank and then a footbridge leading across the river to the Fanshawe Pool and gym.
We are now on the outskirts of Ware and soon reach the Ware lock and weir. We stay on the towpath here and continue towards Ware town centre passing the beautiful gazebos on the riverbank – a historic leftover from the gardens of Ware’s 18th century coaching inns.
At the first road bridge in the town we turn right onto Amwell End, passing some shops and cafes – we decide to make a quick pitstop here at the local cafe where we have a lovely toasted teacake and coffee – and very soon become heavily outnumbered by cyclists – it seems to be a meeting point for a couple of peletons, all folk of a certain age and absolutely buzzing from the fresh air and exercise – what joy!!
We leave the cafe, heading away from the river and turn right into Broadmeads, passing a car park on the left and eventually a primary school on our right. At the end of the road we continue straight on, on a cycle path close by the railway line. After a short while the path curves right and heads back towards the river eventually meeting the towpath beside a kissing gate, which we pass through heading left onto King’s Mead and back towards the railway line. We pass through another (very muddy) kissing gate and are now heading straight for the railway line.
Much to our enormous surprise we now cross the railway line – no level crossing, bridge, underpass or other safety feature other than a gate, a safety notice and a slightly sobering sign with the Samaritans’ phone number on it. We quickly cross to the far side and almost immediately jump out of our skin as there’s a loud blare followed by a speeding train shooting through. Definitely an experience to get the blood flowing – albeit other walkers are taking it in their stride and it’s only us that seem to be mildly hysterical about the whole experience!
We move swiftly on, following the path through grassland to a small white building beside a junction of streams and rivers. We keep to the left of the building and, avoiding the path heading right to the train line, take the path through a gate, heading between two lakes. The directions we are using describe this as an embankment raised above low lying land so possibly these are only lakes due to the winter and spring rainfall but today they are really beautiful.
Reaching the far bank of the lakes we turn right and head up the ridge towards the A10, going under the flyover here. We stay on this path with the Meads on our right and the backs of houses, then allotments to our left. There are paths off right which we ignore – other than to get closer to a regal looking heron on a pond – and the path gradually leads us back to the railway line.
We pass through a gate onto a road and immediately take a path to the right onto the railway crossing – marginally safer than the previous one as there is a red/green light warning system here. After crossing the line we turn right onto the road, Mead Lane, take a path left and go through a gate back onto King’s Mead.
We go through a kissing gate and follow the path as it bends left along the bushes at the edge of the field heading towards Hertford Lock.
We cross the bridge and take the path on the far side heading directly away from the canal across an area known as Lea Island towards Jacobs Island. We don’t cross the bridge onto Jacobs Island, instead we turn left and follow the path beside the river Beane as it winds its way back towards Hertford town. We cross a bridge onto Hartham Common and after following the main surfaced path for a few yards the common opens out and we take the path to our right, again following the river Beane riverbank as it wends its way around the common and behind the tennis courts.
We pass another weir and at the end of the courts the path bends left, we pass a nursery school and return to our car park.
A trip to Sainsbury’s makes for a very practical end to our walking day but as we leave Hertford by car we pass a lovely looking cafe-cum-bookshop, Leaf, which we determine will be our end point next time!