62 – Cassiobury Park, Whippendell Woods and the Grand Union Canal 9.1 miles – 2nd May

In short: a reprise of last year’s bluebell pilgrimage – utterly spectacular – it should be available on prescription it’s such a fabulous walk. Gorgeous woodland, stunning swathes of bluebells and a delightful stretch of canal towpath. Functional but basic public toilets in the park at the start; sweet tucked away cafe with all facilities near the canal for a (past) halfway pitstop. 3 hrs 25 mins walking + 20 mins pitstop.

Tuesday morning walking this week and by happy chance we land on the most beautiful weather – lovely clear blue sky, at least at the outset, and just warm enough for vest tops without being so hot as to give us a headache! We decide we have enough time to do justice to the lovely walk we did last year at the height of the bluebell season and so we head back to Whippendell Woods, parking at the large free car park in Cassiobury Park, nearest postcode WD18 7LG.

We take the path out of the car park heading towards the building work taking place beside the children’s playground ahead – it appears a ‘Hub’ facility is being built and on the face of it it looks like it’s going to be quite splendid. In the meantime however we make use of the rather rundown but functioning public toilets in a small building in the park.

We then head out of the park past the refreshment hut to cross first the river Gade and then the canal.

On entering Whippendell Woods on the far side of the canal we turn right onto Footpath 30, initially running parallel to the canal towpath but soon curving left through the woods and widening out to form a lovely avenue of lime trees.

We walk along this beautiful path, carefully crossing a golf course at one point, and getting our first glimpses of the fabulous bluebells as we go. At a junction of paths we take the path straight ahead – remembering it as being especially lovely from last year. It heads downhill initially and we are immediately transported.

It is truly impossible to resist taking photos – the sight and smell are fabulous but try as we might we just can’t capture the sheer scale of this amazing vision.

We (carefully) enter the woodland to try multiple times to get the perfect photo – unbelievably on this stunning morning we pretty much have the whole woods to ourselves!

We drag ourselves away from this massed ranks of bluebells and continue straight along this path until we come to an information board just before a gate out onto a lane. We check our bearings and turn sharp(ish) left here along a path running more or less parallel to the lane.

We ignore all paths and bridleways off left here, stop umpteen more times to admire beautiful trees, fabulous views across vast fields on our right beyond the lane and bluebell vistas.

Finally we arrive at a junction with a path off left signposted to Cassiobury Park which we take.

The path climbs for a while and then brings us out at a pair of golf fairways which we cross with great care. Shortly after we cross a third. We continue straight on until finally we descend to the canal towpath where we turn left.

We now set off for a good long leg stretcher along this beautiful towpath – past a river branching left…

…serene slow-moving water…

…gloriously positioned locks…

…a scenic watermill on the far side…

…and beautiful bridge…

…after beautiful bridge…

We even have a comic interlude when a fellow walker points out a wheeless car perched alongside a narrow boat like a motorcycle sidecar!

Soon enough we pass under the M25/A41 spur and after rounding a marshy area we pass under the A41 and find ourselves walking parallel to the main road over on our left with the gardens and backs of mostly lovely houses over on the far side of the canal.

At the next bridge we pass under and then ascend to road level where we turn left, cross the canal and walk along to the Kings Head pub – round the back of which is the Coach House coffee shop. Here we stop, make use of the smart toilets and enjoy a scone or toasted teacake, according to taste, with a delicious and most welcome coffee.

After a restful and rejuvenating pitstop we retrace our steps to the canal and return along the towpath – with some lovely heron spotting along the way:

And the odd cheeky rabbit…(look closely!)…

Another heron – very intent on his job…

And after a very pleasant straightforward walk of an hour or so we are back at Watford Lock and cross to re-enter Cassiobury Park.

We walk back across the park to the car absolutely raving about what a fabulous walk we have had – we really must make it an annual pilgrimage!

 

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