60 – Ware to Hertford and back 7.5 miles – 19th April

In short: a really terrific walk from the AA book of Hertfordshire walks, not simply the reverse of the walk we did a year ago – no 12 – but something a little different. A fair amount of walking in the two towns but plenty of country views, towpath walking and all very little disturbed by the A10 which basically bisects it. Parking in a very reasonably priced pay and display car park, decent public toilets in Ware and a lovely pitstop at a bookshop-cum-cafe in Hertford. Not at all muddy so any sturdy trainers or boots appropriate. 3 hrs 15 mins walking + 30 mins pitstop.

By a strange coincidence its a year since we did the lovely Hertford to Ware walk and ever since we have been promising to return to do the circuit in reverse. This walk takes a different route in that it doesn’t have the hair-raising railway line crossing of the first – and in fact takes a higher path with lovely countryside views rather than the path through the marshes of walk no 12.

We make our way to Ware town centre – about a 45-50 minute drive from North London – and park at one of the Kibes Lane car parks, postcode SG12 7BP; costing just £2 for 4 hours. The AA walks book suggests there are public toilets here somewhere but we can’t see them so keep our eyes peeled as we leave.

We turn right out of our car park along Kibes Lane and cross New Road to East Street which very shortly merges with the High Street. We continue straight on until just after passing the church on our right we spot a signpost to public toilets and turn left into Priory Street and then left again into a park and playground to make use of the reasonable public toilets.

We retrace our steps along Priory Street and turn left again into the High Street. At the roundabout ahead we turn left and then bear left again at a second roundabout onto Park Road. We now pass a massive complex of GlaxoSmithKline factories on our left and then a couple of schools on our right until we reach a junction with Trapstyle Road off to the right and we bear left on a lane running at the backs of houses. This climbs slightly and very soon brings us out onto a bridge across the A10.

On the far side of the bridge we take a track straight ahead with farmland on both sides.

The book advises us to take a footpath parallel to the lane on our left and this we try to do but the path is soon blocked by a locked gate at a field of cows (or is it young bulls – we’re not sure?) and we have to retrace our steps to the track. This isn’t really a hardship but we are annoyed that it isn’t possible to rejoin the path at any point as all access points are firmly blocked off. However it soon becomes apparent that the field to our right holds heavily pregnant cows and the one beyond that has cows and their calves, so maybe there’s a good farming reason for blocking the path.

We continue along the lane – keeping an eye on the route of the footpath to our left and we soon come to a very attractive garden on our left. We turn left just as it finishes and spot a footpath sign over a stile and across a field on our right but first we take a closer look at the pretty garden by turning left along a path – in fact this is actually the footpath we should have been on.

Retracing our steps along this path we see that the path continues straight ahead – joining up with the path across the field on our right – and we then enter some lovely woodland.

The path is clear ahead and we continue straight on then bearing slightly left to descend to the bottom of the valley. We arrive at a lane where we turn left to cross a bridge and then right at a lane – walking along a raised path beside the road with the river below and on our left.

We turn sharp left onto a marked footpath just after crossing a river bridge, pass the back of an attractive large house set in parkland and then head straight down across a field towards the river Lea ahead.

We don’t cross the river at the bridge here but instead turn right and climb the hill on a path leading to a clump of trees and the village of Bengeo. Arriving at the top of the path we come to the back of a gorgeous Norman church set in a pretty churchyard.

We walk around the church, taking a good look and head out of the churchyard on the far side taking the path ahead – ignoring the one sharply downhill on our left onto Hartham Common.

This path takes us through light woodland heading gently downhill past a sports centre on our left until we come to some iron gates out onto the road, Port Hill, where we head left towards Hertford town centre.

At the end of this road we turn left onto Port Vale, cross the river and continue on this road until we reach McMullen’s Brewery on the corner of Old Cross where we turn left and cross over to the lovely Leaf bookshop and cafe. Here we stop for a delicious coffee and piece of homemade banana bread in the courtyard garden – a lovely spot. (And of course make use of the facilities!)

On leaving the courtyard we turn left and cross the main road into St Andrew Street, continuing along here until just after the church we take a footpath left until just after a children’s playground we take a left through a gate and enter the grounds of Hertford Castle.

This appears to be a municipal building – pretty, historical and also functional – possibly a wedding and party venue? – a lovely spot anyway. We cross the front of the castle and take the path to the right of it into the gardens beyond and following the path around we exit at some impressive looking gates. On leaving we pass a theatre-cum-cinema on our left, cross the main road, turn right and then immediately left into Fore Street. We continue along here turning left into Market Street then right into Railway Street until we reach Mill Road at a roundabout where we turn left. We stay on this road into Dicker Mill until finally we reach a footpath sign on our right hand side and we drop down onto the River Lea towpath.

From here we simply follow the towpath out of the town, past flats on our right and light industrial units on our left, shortly coming to the picturesque Hertford Lock – where we have a beautiful view of the river ahead.

We continue along this towpath all the way to Ware – passing the pump house that marks the start of the New River and under the A10.

We spot some newborn coot chicks…

…with their adorable fluffy red heads. We pass the weir at the entrance to Ware town centre and carry on following the main towpath as it curves around past the weir to a lovely leafy stretch of water.

Just before we leave the river at a road bridge, Amwell End, we pass the iconic gazebos – summer houses perched on the edge of the water.

At the end of the road bridge we turn left into the High Street and immediately right into New Road. Our car is parked in a car park on Kibes Lane on our right here but we make use of the facilities offered on Ware High Street and shop for a few supper essentials first!

This is a surprising walk for anyone who has done the journey from Hertford to Ware using the county council walk leaflet as it really does offer alternative views and a completely different feel – whilst still orientating itself around one of our old favourites…the lovely River Lea.

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