Yet again, The Hertfordshire Way did not disappoint. Despite a torrential downpour during which I discovered that my cheap waterproof trousers purchased 15 years ago on a market stall in Ryde were much better protection than my new expensive waterproof jacket; despite a late start due to one of us getting lost in the back streets of Hemel Hempstead and despite us having to clamber over two rusty, wonky, unstable six bar gates we had an amazing walk.
My memories of Hemel Hempstead are confined to being told off as a child whilst playing pooh sticks over the River Gade and as a student visiting the then Kodak offices in the 70s to see the first local “word processing” machines which were to revolutionise the secretary’s job. The River Gade, of course still runs through the town – a picturesque reminder of nature amongst the commercial world. The old Kodak building has been converted into luxury flats.
Opposite the Fishery Inn in Boxmoor where we had finished the last leg of the walk I discovered the Fishery Wharf Café. This was a gem of a find. Healthy food and not so healthy cakes, wood fired pizzas, a fine selection of teas and coffees and a view of the passing canal traffic. They have a market here on a Sunday and I saw posters for an outdoor comedy performance and a talk on women on the waterways. It is somewhere marked down on my list of “places to return”
Upon A’s arrival the rain started as we retraced our steps back along the canal path along to The Three Horseshoes pub. The route then leaves the peaceful tow path to emerge onto the busy A4251. This was quickly crossed, however and we were soon back in the backwaters of the unspoilt Hertfordshire Countryside.
Upon reaching Little Hay Golf Course the rain’s ferocity matched the promised Met Office Yellow Weather warning. No golfers were out………………… just two completely drenched happy specimens of fulfilled womanhood. We waved at a man sheltering in a barn eating his Cheesy Wotsits and our conversation turned to how appreciative we were to have reached the age and stage in life which we have. We have gained a completely unexpected freedom of no longer having the younger natural biological urge of feeling that we have to dress up, wear make up and totter around in high heels to attract a man. Rather than regretting our long faded youth we both felt that we were now able to rejoice in a new-found liberty to become our authentic selves. And what fun it is!
After passing a zebra we meandered along lanes high with fast fading cow parsley and entered Bovingdon Churchyard. This was beautifully kept – some areas of well manicured lawn and some left uncut for the benefit of wildlife.
There was an information board near the old pond in the village and we had fun matching up old local landmarks with those buildings still in existence.
Back along fields and footpaths, laughing as we got a newly shorn sheep confused with a pig (yes, we probably both do need to wear our glasses more!) the rain stopped and the damp began to visibly evaporate from us.
At some stage around here we found ourselves in a field of cattle with their calves on the wrong side of a hedgerow but somehow or other we both managed to clamber over two quite unstable six bar gates to get back onto the correct footpath. This led us into the dense canopy of trees in Woodmans Wood and eventually we reached Chipperfield Common.
Neither of us could remember having visited this area before and it was an example of how already undertaking this long-distance walk is introducing us to new areas in the County of our childhood. There was something almost spiritual about the power and majesty of the girth and heights of some of the trees. The early June leaf growth still fresh and unspoilt allowing a million tiny windows where the sunlight could cast pretty shadows on the woodland floor. We saw a signpost to the Spanish sweet chestnut trees. These ancient trees date back to the 1600s and were believed to be specimens bought from Spain in the MiddleAages. They were planted for the “delight of Isabel of Castile”, the wife of Edmund Langley, who lived in the nearby Royal Palace of Kings Langley.
The terrain underfoot made easy walking and we were not tired. I had been concerned before this leg about a knee injury I had picked up but my knee had stopped clicking after the first mile and I felt no discomfort as we reached the eight mile point at the Apostles Pond. This pretty pond has twelve willow trees surrounding it and was once a monastery fishpond.
There are many paths across the common but the directions which we had been given by the Friends of the Hertfordshire Way (in advance of the publication of the new guidebook) led us ably around the place of pleasant childhood dreams – what a wonderful place this would be for youngsters to play.
Eventually leaving the woods we crossed field of buttercups before arriving in Kings Langley. The Red Hyundai driver was waiting faithfully yet again to take us home.
This is an absolutely delightful walk – an interesting canal path, awe-inspiring woods, pretty villages and churchyards, meadows and typical Hertfordshire lanes. There were only a couple of inclines, terrain was good (despite the rain), directions easy to follow and start and end points have mainline stations. Approximately 10 miles from Hemel Hempstead to Kings Langley.
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For further details of all my walks including local walks in Beds and Herts; my trek along the Ridgeway National Trail; wanders in Wessex; and my Gratitude Walk along the Pilgrims Way please click on the appropriate locations. To subscribe to my blog and/or receive details of my forthcoming book “The Woman Who Walked Through Fear” please and add your e mail details at the foot of the page.