In short: a really lovely walk along first a canal towpath and then a riverbank. Public toilets at start; garden centre cafe with decent coffee and smart facilities at halfway point. 2 hrs 15 mins walking + 30 mins pitstop.
For the first time since starting this blog more than 4 months ago I found myself having to walk alone this week. Also, following another few days of very heavy rain I thought towpath walks might provide the safest options all round – for firm ground underfoot, ease of navigation and general security.
My plan was to explore the section of the Lee Valley between Waltham Abbey and Ware. So I head to Rye House; beside the go-karting track is a beauty spot, Rye House Gatehouse, with a small free car park, postcode EN11 0EH. There was only one other car there when I arrived, although I suspect it gets busier at the weekends. I did originally try to park at Rye Meads Nature Reserve (postcode SG12 8JS) which is a hundred yards or so further along the same road. However it turns out that although this is nominally also part of the Lee Valley park it is primarily an RSPB reserve and as such couldn’t provide me with a map which would allow me to walk through the reserve and join the canal further up – and additionally required £3 to leave my car in their car park. It is however worth noting that the reserve is free to use and the main building, including the toilets, is well-appointed. It does not have a cafe but there is a drinks machine and I could have walked to it to use the toilets at the start if I had wanted to.
I therefore start from the car park at Rye House Gatehouse and walk past the Gatehouse building itself and, bearing left, head out of the grassy surrounds, passing a picnic area on my right, to the road bridge which crosses the canal. Here I turn right onto the towpath, keeping the canal on my right.
At this point the canal runs parallel to the railway line and for the first few minutes there is a distinctly light industrial feel to the area. This is soon behind me though and I am in much more typical canal territory with gorgeous bright green trees overhanging the path and willows bending down to the water on the far side.
The path continues to pass under the very busy A414 and immediately after becomes more suburban on my side with the Stanstead Abbotts marina providing lots of boating activity on my right.
Just beyond the marina I pass the small town of St Margarets, going under another road bridge and shortly after passing Stanstead lock. This next section of the canal is extremely pretty and very peaceful – lots of boats and plenty of waterfowl and their babies.
A few minutes after this boating section I come to a footbridge over the canal and walk up onto it, turning right over the canal as it is a recommended viewing point over Amwell Nature Reserve – and wow is it worth it! It is a huge lake, full of water birds of all types – the view is as far as the eye can see – stunning!
I retrace my steps across the footbridge and continue along this track away from the canal, across a level crossing over the railway line (one of the look right, look left & quick march ones!) to a road, Amwell Lane. Crossing here I climb the steps ahead up to the New River towpath where I turn right. This is a charming section of river – quite clearly a channelled waterway at this point, raised up from it’s surroundings to pass under trees and bridges and affording a lovely view back across the Amwell Reserve on my right.
The river is on my left as I approach some houses and a bridge which I pass until I reach Cautherly Lane on my left. Here I turn left away from the river up the lane, taking a public footpath almost immediately on my left which cuts through up to the parish church of Great Amwell village. I turn right in front of the church, passing the King William IV pub on my right and turn right at a public footpath at the road junction onto a track which leads through trees and then past the fronts of houses as it runs parallel to Church Path, finishing at a main road, Amwell Hill (the A1170).
Here I turn left, crossing the road carefully once there is a pavement on the far side, to the entrance to the Van Hage garden centre. Through the huge car park here – where the smart public toilets are situated – I enter the main building and find the large and very popular (with coach parties of both pensioners & school children) cafe – a delicious scone and very decent coffee on the outside terrace is the perfect pick-me-up at this point.
On leaving the garden centre via the car park, I return to the main road where I turn left, retracing my steps for a short way till I come to Madgeways Lane on my right where I turn right. Here I pass some lovely properties before arriving back at Cautherly Lane where I turn left at the Great Amwell village sign. I follow this road back to the King William IV pub where I take the public footpath I was on previously bringing me back to the New River path.
I turn right onto the New River path with the river on my right. After passing the point where I joined the path I continue straight on, passing nesting swans and other delightful sights till I come to a road, the High Road heading into St Margarets.
Here I cross over and continue on the New River path towards the A414. This is another pretty stretch with lovely countryside views to my right, finishing at a road, Hoddesdon Road, after passing under the A414.
Here I turn left, following the New River path signs and head back towards the road bridge, but cross and enter the St Margarets Community Woods at the sign on my right. I take the right fork and head through this small patch of woodland and out to return to the bank of the New River with woods and bushes to my left and houses backing onto the river on the far bank to my right.
This stretch ends at another road, Cranbourne Drive, which I cross and continue along the last section of this walk leading to Rye House. Unfortunately this final section is the least attractive so far, firstly with a very ugly concrete wall facing me, covered in graffiti, then the service road of an industrial estate running alongside the path. However it only lasts a few minutes and then I am onto Rye Road where I turn left and cross first the railway line and then the canal to return to the grounds of the Gatehouse and the car park.
This was a lovely walk and I felt pretty safe walking it on my own – there is plenty of activity along the canal and although the New River path is quieter I didn’t feel uncomfortable at any point. Furthermore I kept the walk straightforward with the outward journey along the canal and the return along the New River. My distance I’m afraid is a bit of an approximation – although my Sportstracker app gave a distance of 7.8 miles I’m confident that is incorrect – the 7 miles in the header is my best guess!