98 – The Alban Way: St Albans to Hatfield and back 15.1 miles – 31st January

In short: our quest to find longer but relatively dry walks continues… The Alban Way is a disused railway line, a cycle path and also fully accessible for wheelchairs and buggies so very well-surfaced. To join the start, we walked a small section of the Ver-Colne Valley walk which was exceptionally muddy; the rest was fine. Pay & display car park at the start; clean, accessible, public toilets in the park; lovely bakery for coffee & mid-walk pitstop with NO toilets!! 4 hr 40 mins walking + 20 mins pitstop.

We park at the pay and display car park in Verulamium Park next to the museum – £3.80 for the whole day – and make use of the public toilets next to the museum, alongside the car park.

Coming out of the toilets we turn left onto the path into the park, turning left just inside the park towards the large ponds. We pass the water play park and at the far side of the pond we turn right and follow the path between the river on our left and the ponds to our right.

At the far end of the last pond we bear right and then left to continue walking beside the river Ver. At a road we cross and continue straight ahead – this section is really extremely muddy and we have to pick our way carefully. We follow the path past some allotments and out to another road, Cottonmill Lane, which we also cross.

We carry on, following the footpath signs, along the Ver-Colne Valley Walk, past some more allotments till we come to the Alban Way, which here runs above us. Unfortunately for us, some major repair works are going on here and the workmen refuse to let us go up the steps. This means a slight (and muddy-ish) detour – going straight on, then right across a field to steps up onto the Alban Way a bit further back.

At the top of the steps we turn right and head back to the steps we tried to climb and in the direction of Hatfield. We are now on the Alban Way – sometimes pretty, sometimes functional but dead straight and very, very easy walking all the way to Hatfield.

There are some lovely views from time to time – and we pass through great countryside between the two towns – but there are also quite a lot of town outskirts to walk through at both ends.

There are also a couple of cute spots where train enthusiasts have tried to keep the history of the line alive!

As we near Hatfield we approach the A1(M) which we cross at the road bridge opposite the Galleria and then go under an underpass, following the signs to Hatfield. We now walk on for quite some time – longer than anticipated – till we come out at a road, Clarke’s Road, shortly before the railway line. Here we turn right and walk down to the junction and parade of shops at the foot of the road. Here we turn left and go into the lovely Simmons bakery – with its gorgeous display of tasty treats.

After ordering a toasted hot cross bun and cappuccino each, we take a seat and ask for the toilets – only to be told there are NONE!!! How can this be?! Apparently we can ‘try’ the gym across the road – or possibly the council building a couple of hundred yards away!

I know, I know – not exactly the end of the world – but we have just walked almost 8 miles and are definitely not impressed. After scoffing down our drink and snack – which were actually very nice – we shoot off down the road and pop into the council register office to make use of their toilet – it is after all a public building… All fine – we may just have spread a little mud though, sorry about that…

And so we continue with our walk; returning along Ground Lane we rejoin the Alban Way and retrace our steps back to St Alban’s – with only the slight diversion across the A1(M).

On the way back we decide not to attempt the muddy stretch of the Ver-Colne Valley walk and so walk to the very end of the Alban Way which feeds out onto Cottonmill Lane where we turn right. We then turn left onto Prospect Road, crossing the main road, Holywell Hill, at the end of this and entering Verulamium Park via the lane running past the leisure centre.

We follow this lane to the end, carry on along a footpath past the car park and the running track, bearing slightly left through a line of bushes and straight on past a playing field on our left with a view over the ponds and across to the cathedral on our right.

At the end of this path is our car park. A real sense of achievement to have done this distance – and without any obvious ill effects. A decent walk – not the most exciting or beautiful – but nonetheless served it’s purpose today.

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