After what seemed like weeks of freezing cold, the group assembled at Rickmansworth Tube Station in what felt remarkably like spring sunshine. So it was with a somewhat jaunty air, we headed out of town to follow the River Chess upstream past the Royal Masonic School towards Loudwater. After about 2 miles, we briefly left the valley to cross the M25 and shortly afterwards headed south west to reach Chorleywood Common. The next stage led us across the common to the delightfully named ‘Artichoke Dell’ and our lunch stop at ‘The Black Horse’, a traditional pub with oak beams and a roaring log fire. Victualled and refortified, the group continued across the common to cross the Metropolitan line by a narrow road bridge and descend into Chorleywood Bottom. Almost immediately we began to climb steeply out again, to join the Old Shire Lane circular walk. With lovely views over open countryside this section ended in a footbridge over the M25, before taking us on into the Colne Valley. A short section of road between the flooded gravel pits that typify this area brought us to the towpath of the Grand Union Canal at Springwell Lock. Here we turned to the north east and followed the canal towpath past the ‘Hanging Monkey’ to Batchworth, and a short town walk back to the station.
This linear walk started in the Essex town of Loughton, from where we were able to access the tracks and rides of Epping Forest. Once in the woods, we headed north east past Strawberry Hill Ponds, and followed the Three Forests Way to the Iron Age Hill Fort of Loughton Camp (which according to local legend was once used by Queen Boudicca during the Roman occupation). Shortly afterwards the route took us north west, across the Epping New Road and on to High Beach and the Epping Forest Conservation Centre. Here we walked north east to Woodridden Hill, with a steep slope down into the Lea Valley visible to our left and the noise of the M25 becoming ever more obvious up ahead. We soon reached the motorway, crossing on a foot bridge that had recently been used by wild deer for the same reason. We then reached Upshire and the neighbouring village of Copthall Green where we stopped for lunch in ‘The Good Intent’ ( a café not a pub!). The afternoon section took us through mixed farm land in the area of Copped Hall, where we were fortunate enough to have two different sightings of deer, a herd of about 20 near Copped Hall Green and a smaller group of 4 who attempted to stare us out as we climbed to cross the M25 for a second time at Ladderstile Farm. Once over the motorway we re-entered Epping Forest briefly before crossing Bell Common into the centre of Epping and the Central Line back to London.
After a week of greyness, gales and rain, the group met at Hertford North Station to be greeted by blue skies and sunshine. The fine weather stayed with us all day and made up for the sometimes boggy conditions underfoot, which prompted one walker to ask if we were doubling up as the CEDU3A swimming group. After skirting the suburbs of Hertford, our route took us through Hertingfordbury,where we joined the disused railway track known as the Cole Green Way to head towards Welwyn. After a mile or so, we joined the Hertfordshire Chain and headed south-west through fields and woodland. At the appropriately named Waterhall Farm we followed a short stretch of the River Lea, before continuing south-west to the village of Little Berkhamsted, where lunch awaited at the Five Horseshoes. This marked the most southerly point of the walk, as we now headed north east along theHertfordshire Way and climbing through Bayford Woods to reach the pretty village of the same name. By now we were literally on the home straight, as we followed the railway line north into the Hertfordsuburbs, before crossing the historic centre of Hertford to return to the station and the train back to North London.
Our Christmas walk began at Kew Gardens station where, after the snow and rain of earlier in the week, the morning was crisp, sunny and bright. Skirting the Kew Gardens boundary wall, we headed over Kew Bridge to pick up the Thames Path on the north bank of the river. There followed a varied and interesting walk along the Brentford waterside, with its house boats and old wharfs and warehouses, before we reached the Grand Union Canal for a short section along the tow path. Leaving the canal behind us, we entered Syon Park passing the frontage of Syon House (London base of the Duke of Northumberland) before heading back towards the riverside at Isleworth. Another 15 minutes brought us to Richmond Lock, where we crossed the river and continued on into Richmond for our Christmas lunch at the ‘Slug and Lettuce’. Much better than it sounds, the service was not only first rate, but we also received free Santa hats! The afternoon section of the walk stayed on the Surrey bank of the Thames. The elegant riverside of Richmond soon gave way to the water meadows around Ham, and once past Eel Pie Island and the Ham Lands Nature Reserve, the end of the tidal Thames at Teddington Lock.By now we could see Kingston in the distance, and we were entertained by the many coxed fours out on the river as we headed towards the town. Eventually the Thames Path led us beneath Kingston Bridge, and we ended our walk by heading to the Christmas market for the opportunity of a warming cup of mulled wine.
Having assembled in Chesham, we left town via The Chiltern Link path, and headed north-west along ‘Herbert’s Hole’. After overnight rain the ‘Hole’ was rather muddy but somehow, we all managed to stay more or less upright. In fact after an hour’s walking we were able to turn off the ‘Link’, and follow a minor road south towards an area of woodland. The path through the trees (still in their autumn colours), led us to the very busy A413, which we crossed safely before continuing south into the delightful village of Little Missenden. This is where we stopped for lunch at the ‘Crown Inn’, a delightful country pub with a good reputation. Pleasingly it didn’t let us down, not only was the food good, but the service was also first rate. We shall return!
Unfortunately we couldn’t stay in the ‘Crown’ all day, so it was back on with our boots for the afternoon walk. This section followed the Misbourne valley, which ran south east into a landscaped park complete with water features belonging to the Shardeloes estate. By now we were close to Amersham Old Town and were soon walking along the High Street with its fine collection of listed buildings (150 apparently!). In the centre of the old town, our final stretch of walking was revealed, a steep climb of 50 metres through Parsonage Wood to reach our train home. A walk with a gentle sting in its tail!
Our inaugural group walk started bang on time, as we headed south from Totteridge underground station along the Dollis Valley Greenwalk. After crossing Dollis Brook we cut through some 1930’s suburbia to reach Totteridge Green and the illusion of a rural idyll at least for a while. Following a brief road walk, we turned southwest through The Darlands, where, with overgrown parkland to our left and pasture land to our right, it really felt like we were in the countryside. After going through a very muddy field corner (nobody fell over!) we exited through a kissing gate to pass Folly Farm. The walk now went uphill across cricket fields to the Ridgeway and then on into Mill Hill Village and our lunch stop at ‘The Three Hammers’.
Despite having pre-ordered our lunch, service was painfully slow, so we were well rested when we emerged into the drizzle to complete the walk. After descending Highwood Hill, we re-entered pasture land to climb back towards Totteridge, where a walk through the Totteridge Fields Nature Reserve reunited us with the Dollis Brook. At this point we joined the London Loop heading towards Underhill where we followed the Greenwalk back to the tube station.
A successful first outing, even if we never did find Arsène Wenger’s house!