If all sections of the Hertfordshire Way are as varied and picturesque as the section from Tring to Hemel Hempstead then we are in for a treat for the rest of our birthday pilgrimage.
The clouds were low and the morning grey and chilly as we set forth from Tring Station retracing our steps towards Ashridge. Quite soon we entered the quiet peacefulness of the beech and oak woodlands. The ground was carpeted with bluebells just coming into bloom – two weeks later and we no doubt would have been overwhelmed by the hazy aroma of the fragile watery scent of what has at one time been voted the Nation’s favourite flower.
Generally signposts for the Hertfordshire Way came at appropriate intervals and the way was not difficult to follow. As it twisted and turned up through the groves several deer scuttled away as they heard us passing. One signpost was however broken but our guidebook and the map directed us well in the early part of the walk.
Eventually we crossed the B4056 and trudged across Berkhamsted Common, several times encountering horse riders. I for one, do not know this area very well and was surprised at how large the expanse of woods and common area is. The common is mostly owned by the National Trust and is such a peaceful place to saunter.
The Hertfordshire Way guidebook is at present being reprinted and this section is one of those which have been slightly altered. Friends of the Hertfordshire Way were kind enough to post me the draft copy of the new section of the walk which we followed. This differs from the original version once on Berkhamsted Common. The new instructions were easy to follow. The new Ordnance Survey map of the area which I had purchased just two weeks previously does, however, still show the old route, so care needs to be taken in this respect.
Our conversation touched on how amazing it was that two women who had been friends since the 1970s were still in contact and that now rather than talking about espadrilles, “Queen” and how to get a boyfriend with a car, we were happily discussing how grateful we were for the lives we had been given and what a miracle it was that we were still in contact to talk about our grandchildren.
After eventually emerging from the woods we passed close by grazing horses and parallel to some training jumps.
The Hertfordshire Way soon runs along to the Eleventh Century Berkhamsted Castle. The remains of this motte-and-bailey construction were the perfect place to eat our sandwiches and chocolate biscuits (again?!)
There is a house in the castle grounds and we wondered about the history of it. The castle is administered by English Heritage and maybe the house also owned by them. What an interesting place to live.
The walk today was only about nine miles and it may suit others to take a slight detour here into Berkhamsted itself and wander around its shops and maybe grab something to eat in the town. We chose to continue on with the walk down to the canal. What a delightful walk this was proving to be – the beauty of the bluebell woods, the seclusion of Berkhamsted Common and the history of the castle were now followed by a nice easy stroll along to the castles and roses of the canal.
I have a “dream” to live on a narrowboat, with a small patch of land by the side – similar to my “dream” of living in a gypsy caravan or small bothy high up on a mountain side. The lure of simplicity always draws me – in a small space I would not be able to acquire many possessions and my head tells me life would be less complicated. These fantasies will always remain dreams, I am not practical enough by myself to live in such a way (and anyway I would miss the lovely T!), but I indulge myself in a reverie from time to time. One of my favourite songs is from “My Fair lady” – “All I want is a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air, and some enormous chair…. oh wouldn’t it be luverly!”) . Warmth, a chair and chocolate being the necessities (with plenty of books).
So we passed the “Port of Berkhamsted”, stopped for a refreshing drink at one of the several pubs which line the canal and continued one of our favourite activities: Admiring other’s back gardens, watching people mess around on boats and delighting in the wildlife.
On reaching Sharpes Lane Bridge (number 146) it was a short saunter along to Hemel Hempstead Station where a remarkably clean red Hyundai awaited.
Although we are walking the whole of the Hertfordshire Way in an anticlockwise direction over the next two years – it would be easy to hop on the train at Hemel and return to the starting point at Tring Station if one’s own transport was not available at both ends. This was a truly delightful walk with a “bit of everything” – my favourite type of walk. Many thanks and congratulations to the careful planners of the route.
(Yep, I get everywhere!)
Here is an Index to our pilgrimage along the Hertfordshire way.
For an index of all local walks in Beds, Herts and Bucks please click here.
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