THE NICKEY LINE………. and more


I was looking for a walk that would not be too wet underfoot and as with my recent walk around the St Albans Green Ring, I found a route taking in an old railway line which proved to be a great idea.

The seven mile Nickey line runs between Hemel Hempstead and Harpenden.  It is fairly flat, dry (ish) underfoot and easily followed.  Unless I am undertaking a walking challenge of some kind, like walking the Pilgrims’ Way, I prefer my rambling to be around a circular route and so I joined the Nickey Line half way along at Redbourn, and planned a circular route taking in Harpenden and returning to Redbourn via Beeson End.  The heat of the sun was just beginning to take the chill off this Spring morning as the lovely T parked his car on Redbourn Common, did up his laces and we made our way over the River Red to join the cycle/walk way.

The first part of the route runs parallel to the B487 and A5183 and we could hear the traffic through the trees.  However we soon crossed over Redbourn Lane and entered into the peace of the countryside.  Celandines and violets were in bloom and birds singing in delight from the hedgerows.

One of the first sunny Saturday mornings of the year had bought out many joggers, cyclists and walkers.  It was great to see young families enjoying the beautiful day.



It is still fairly apparent that this routeway used to be an old railway line. There are the remains of the platform and a signal at the Roundwood Stop.   The line was not subject to the Beeching cuts but actually was closed down when the demand for the transport of coal along its route fell.


Upon reaching Harpenden we passed through the back streets, following excellent signage to the Town Centre and stopped for another “lace-up” in the peaceful St Nicholas Churchyard.




The church was open and beautifully decorated and we wondered whether a wedding was planned for later in the day.


Harpenden Town Centre itself was quite busy and we didn’t stop there but there are plenty of places to stop off for refreshments if one wished.

Although not a designated route the next part of my circular walk is easy to follow, although a map would be useful.  We continued in the St Albans direction, passed the Silver cup pub, Rothamsted Experimental Station, what may or may not have been an old alehouse and the pretty Pimlico Cottages.

Across the road from Harpenden Common and the Golf Course we followed the route by taking a long slow climb slightly uphill  .  By this time we were regretting not having stopped off at a café or pub, getting a little tired and thirsty and in need of a rest.  However, the route we followed continuing in the direction of St Albans and parallel to the main St Albans/Harpenden road took us past some amazing properties along West Common.  The daffodils and tulips were blooming in the front gardens and most lawns had had their first carefully manicured cut.  Upon reaching the edge of the built up area we turned right into Beeson End Road and stopped for a “lace-up”.

Quite quickly again we were out in the countryside and in what is probably the best part of the walk we could hear the joyful sound of skylarks overhead. Through the gaps in the hedgerows – blackthorn out, flowers before the leaves –  and across the newly ploughed fields we spied our destination of Redbourn.

What followed next was a long trudge down a lane.  The descend went on for a while and was quite steep and we passed two cyclists on their way up.  We were very impressed at their level of fitness, which far outweighed ours!


At the bottom of the hill we entered the area around Redbournbury Mill .  We were just slightly too late to look around the museum but I’d like to return to do that another time.  Here we turned down the side of the Mill and followed the Hertfordshire Way signs and entered onto a part of the Hertfordshire Way walk I did last year.

I am really fond of water meadows and those here around the River Ver were no exception.  They always remind me of where Angel courted Tess Durbeyfield around the River Frome in Dorset.


The bench overlooking the ford by the mill was useful for a “lace-up” point.  It had a map on it showing the Ver Valley Walk.


Continuing to follow the signposted Hertfordshire Way we crossed over the old Roman Road of Watling Street (A5183) and for the only part of this walk were away from tarmacked or gravel paths.  However, even here, despite the recent rain the terrain underfoot was not too muddy.  I managed to take my obligatory photo of a horse and then we crossed the main road back onto the outskirts of Redbourn and returned to the Common. A trek along the avenue of lime trees running across the common led to the final bench …………………..

………………… and attention to the laces!

This was a super 8 mile circular walk.  There were some climbs uphill and down but they were gentle over a long period.  The route passes cafes and pubs in Redbourn and Harpenden;  it is easily accessible by public transport, easy to follow and has good terrain underfoot.  It also has a lot of benches!

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