How fortunate to have chosen probably the most beautiful day of the year so far to walk this section of the Hertfordshire Way from Markyate to Tring.
This was the 11 mile section of the 170 mile Hertfordshire Way that my friend, A and I are aiming to complete in stages prior to May/June 2019 as a long-distance pilgrimage. We started from where we had left off at the bus stop in Markyate High Street three weeks previously (our section one) and wandered up Buckwood Road towards the countryside. The front gardens of the houses were ablaze with daffodils, early tulips and a couple of superb Magnolia trees.
After passing a lady walking a substantial looking Great Dane, belying his bulk with head held high, tiptoeing along dressage fashion, we reached the outskirts of Roe End Farm. Several red kites were circling in the clear skies overhead – as usual the photograph I tried to take of them came out as a blank blue canvas!
Shortly beyond the imposing Beechwood Park School we had to retrace our steps several times to find the marked route. Eventually we took our way through a small spinney and around the outskirts of a playing field before reaching a minor road and turning right along a green track (Dean Lane). Again, here we got slightly lost as we were too busy talking to notice the steps leading across a footpath to Jockey End. However, time was no problem and the conversation good therapy.
Just as our conversation reached the place of our frequent fantasy – that of living far away from the traffic in the woods (although absurdly we would still like to be near a shop), we came across a shed on Gaddesden Row allotments, bathed in sunshine, surrounded by narcissus – I, for one, could certainly imagine bedding down in here for the night.
We crossed fields and entered into Hoo Wood – what a delight to see the little wood anemones nestling in amongst last year’s leaf fall.
I often feel my favourite walking is through the sometimes claustrophobic, mysterious, sacred paths amongst the woods.
The seclusion of travelling along ancient pathways and holloways brings me great joy as I feel a connection with all those who have trudged along before me.
Then, of course, there is the coast. I am not particularly fond of amusement arcades and burger bars but I love the nostalgia of candyfloss and carousel rides in seaside towns. Walking on sand is hard-going but the grainy, squidyness of it between my bare toes is nature’s own massage. The fresh saline breezes on cliff tops may tangle my hair but deserve the off-quoted phrase of blowing the cobwebs away.
The hardest walking of all for me is along the pebbles of Chesil Beach. Each hundred yards taxing my calf muscles and seeming three times as long.
It occurs to me that one of the reasons I like walking in Dorset so much is the combination of all these types of environments.
Emerging from the woodland we admired the far-ranging views over the Hertfordshire countryside and followed fields down to cross a main road and the River Gade before entering the outskirts of Great Gaddesden.
We soon reached what we thought was a very strange stile. Neither of us are particularly tall and it was absolutely impossible for our legs to reach over the top bit. We had to climb it rather like a ladder. Only upon reaching the other side did we notice an engraving with the word “lift” – we could have made our lives so much easier! (The lady with the well-groomed hands posed for the picture!)
Ever onwards, after passing close by a tranquilly-located Buddhist Centre we thought we were about to get lost again. This time the fault was not our ever on-going conversation about the panther supposedly roaming the Hertfordshire countryside, but signposting. Just past the Buddhist Centre (Grid reference 01 11 – Landranger 166) there is a sign on the right pointing down to the main A4146. This in in conflict with both the guidebook and the map markings for the Hertfordshire Way. We ignored it, continued straight ahead and eventually turned left quite proud of ourselves that we had found the right way.
The Hertfordshire Way then wandered across several fields and the terrain underfoot was flinty. I love both the look and feel of flints and we both wanted to take some home with us but our daypacks were laden with our lunch.
Eventually we lightened our load and our sandwiches and chocolate fingers were eaten in a small, superbly located children’s play ground in the village of Little Gaddesden just a few feet away from the boundaries of Ashridge.
As always Ashridge was beautiful. We wandered up to the house – which to me looked like a combination of a castle, stately home and chapel and then skirted the golf course. After hardly passing a soul all day we were now amongst many people taking advantage of the beautiful Spring weather.
After queueing at a small van for a cup of tea we soon left behind the traffic around the estate and were back amongst the woodlands.
The path led downhill to the picturesque Aldbury, complete with its village stocks and duckpond. We had been aiming to walk all the way to Tring Station but because of the couple of times we had got lost and the long queue in Ashridge for refreshments we were a bit behind schedule. Fortuitously just as we arrived in Aldbury a dirty red Hyundai was spotted – the lovely T, our driver back had come looking for us. We can add the short section to Tring Station on to the next walk without a problem. Let us hope that the weather is as glorious that day.
To subscribe to my blog with details of my local walking adventures in Beds, Herts and Bucks and also my trudging of long distance trails such as the Pilgrims’ Way and also The Ridgeway National Trail, please click here and add your e mail address in the box at the foot of the page.
My forthcoming book “The Woman Who Walked Through Fear” will be published shortly.