London Walks - 5 & 6

Chess Valley Walk, Buckinghamshire

This delightful well waymarked walk takes you beside a pretty river, through woodland and over fields full of flowers in summer. Families will enjoy this route. It is easy to reach from the M25 and from Chorleywood rail station. For much of the way the outward route runs close to the River Chess. The return is made through deciduous woodlands and over quiet meadows.

The Walk

1 From the cemetery parking area, walk on towards woodland, with tennis courts to your left. Where the road ends, turn right to take the signposted footpath ‘Chess valley walk’. Here, there are several paths, but you need the one that continues left of all the others, which passes through deciduous trees. After just over a quarter of a mile, the path comes to a junction of paths, where you turn left. Continue on to an open grassy area close beside the River Chess, a favourite place for family picnics. A few steps on, cross the footbridge, on your right, over the pretty stream and, continue on the boardwalk. Carry on to pass under poplar trees then wind slightly left with a meadow to the right and a hedgerow to the left.

2 Cross a lane and go on ahead to stride a lovely grassy way, through fields. At Sarratt the relatively warm water of the River Chess creates ideal conditions for growing watercress. Once a common crop along the river, but now grown only at Sarratt. Water from the river is diverted into a series of growing compartments (beds). The cress takes root in the shallow beds, taking minerals from the calcium-rich water. The flow is added to by spring water from deep in the aquifer, which is at a constant temperature of about 10 degrees centigrade. In years when the air temperature remains high enough the warm water allows cultivation right through the winter. The beds support some interesting wild life including the secretive water rail that benefits from the warm water in winter.

3 At Sarratt Bottom, ignore another right turn and walk ahead along a hedged lane. Where the lane turns right, bear left to walk a reinforced track through fine meadows. Here chalk streams fed by mineral-rich springs leave the ground. In winter these meadows, close by the river, are flooded, the water level being controlled by a system of ditches and sluices. This helps to warm and fertilise the soil promoting the early growth of grass in spring. Then go on to pass a ford, on your left, which you ignore, and stroll on along a boardwalk, with the willow-lined river to your left and pastures to the right. Continue on the fenced way and then more boardwalk. Follow the path as it winds slightly right to pass through a belt of dense deciduous woodland. Stroll on through meadowland to come to another quiet lane.

4 Look for the continuing signposted way, on the other side of the lane, to stride on through meadowland at Chenies Bottom. Ignore a footpath going off right and then another leading off left and walk on to a wider road. Cross and gently ascend the pasture, ahead, to a track. From here look down on the now much wider River Chess. Join the track and descend left to cross the river by footbridge. Continue ahead to come to the side of a busy road. Cross, with care, to take the signposted gate, opposite, and climb gently uphill and into woodland. Go on a few steps to wind left along a wide ride, under tall forest trees. Continue on to the next road. Walk on a short distance, right, cross and then enter more deciduous woodland, which is mainly lime, signed ‘cycleway’. Eventually emerge from the trees to walk a long track through fields to a stile into more woodland. Follow the track as it winds a little right and then continue on a walled way into Chenies village. Pass the church on your left and walk ahead towards the fine Elizabethan Manor House.

5 Turn left and continue down the road to go through the centre of the tiny village green. Take the signposted way, opposite, along a narrow hedge-lined lane. Go on along the continuing access track towards a farm and, as you near the house, look for the waymark directing you down a fenced way, on the right, off the main path. Stroll on to wind round the outside of a wood and then walk left. Pass through a gap then follow the waymark directing you diagonally, right, across a vast field to a stile in the corner.

6 Climb, almost immediately, the next stile and turn right with the hedge beside you in the direction of Sarratt Mill House. Cross the road and walk on along the footpath to arrive at the footbridge taken on you outward route. Do not cross but walk on along the grassy path, remembering to turn right through the woodland, taken at the outset of your walk. At the metalled way, bear left at the signpost to return to the car park.

Information

Start/finish Outside Chorleywood Cemetery, grid ref 033968. To reach this, leave the M25 by junction 18 and drive west along the A404 for just over half-a-mile. The unmarked turning for parking is on the right. The parking area is marked with a ‘P’ on the OS map.

Distance 7.5 miles/12km

Time 4 hours

Height gained Very little

Terrain: Level walking on good tracks and footpaths, many well signed

Refreshments Plenty of choice in Chorleywood and Rickmansworth. There is occasionally an ice-cream van on the side of the cricket pitch opposite the turn off for the cemetery.

Toilets None on the walk.

Map: OS Explorer 172

Public transport From Chorley Wood train station, walk north up Common Road and then turn right for a short distance. The cemetery start is along a turning on the left side of the road.

Public transport: Chiltern Line from London’s Marylebone station.


Lee Valley Park, Outer London

This is a lovely walk where you might hear a cuckoo calling from across the wild, watery expanse of the Lee Valley Park. It is hard to believe the nature reserve is on the edge of suburban London. The park’s bucolic charms attract not only fishermen, birdwatchers and many walkers but also the shy bittern.

The Walk

1 Leave the car park at the opposite end to the entrance. Go through wooden gates and turn right onto the towpath of the River Lee Navigation canal. Although the sounds of passing trains drift across, intermittently, from the parallel railway, the escape from neighbouring Cheshunt is complete as a coot on its nest screams at a couple of geese leading their goslings along the edge of the canal. Continue on until you reach Waltham Common Lock.

2 Cross to the other side of the canal by the lock gate, pass the brick built lock-keeper’s house and take the path, Powdermill Cut, to the left - this once led to a gunpowder factory sited in the nearby wood. As you stride on the first expanse of water appears, stretching away to your left. Continue on to pass, on your right, the Plover Hide, where bird watchers focus their binoculars and telescopes on migrant birds. On your left is an old gun emplacement, now a bat roost. Then you come to a clearing, where you turn left to join a delightful path accompanied by a stream. The path ‘wriggles’, back and forth, beside Hooks Marsh Lake. When you glimpse, on your right, a metal bridge across Hooks Marsh Lake, this signals that this lovely part of the walk - the most deserted - is about to change direction.

3 At the T-junction turn right, heading towards the bridge, which you cross. The structure provides a great chance to rise above poplars and willows and to gain a wider view of the lakes, ponds, streams and rivers which make up the park. Look towards Seventy Acres Lake. At first glance the surface appears to be broken by areas of soil poking through - as if the level of the water had dropped because of drought. In fact these stretches of soil are an attempt by the park authorities to extend the size and number of reedbeds to enhance the lake and provide more habitats not only for the bittern but for other wildlife. Descend from the bridge and walk on to Hooks Marsh car park.

4 Continue through the car park, keeping to the left, to pick up a path at the other end. This continues between the meandering river, where swans nest among the reeds, and Seventy Acres Lake. Go through a wooden gate, keeping a second metal bridge away to your right, to continue on the path, which now runs along a ridge between the lake and the river. Soon, on your left, you pass the bittern watchpoint. Nearby is Fishers Green car park, where there are toilets. Continue on the path and look across to the other side of the river where huge willows lean over the water, obliterating any view of the bank.

5 As you near the north end of Seventy Acres Lake, bear left away from the river. Follow the lake edge to cross a narrow wooden footbridge across a marshy stretch of land and continue where the path makes a 180 degrees turn to join the towpath of the River Lee navigation. Stride on the straight path, with a fine line of poplars on your right. Enjoy the wild fowl on the lake, now to your left. Follow the path through shrubs and bushes on your right, which leads to some shallow steps up to Cheshunt Lock, which you cross. Head on beside the canal to the entrance to the car park.

Information:

Start/finish Pindar car park, grid ref 369023, Cheshunt. To reach this drive along Windmill Lane, Cheshunt, and head for the car park under the “Welcome to Lee Valley Park” sign.

Distance 3.5 miles/5.8km

Time 2-3 hours

Height gained: Level walking

Terrain: Easy to walk gravel paths. Towpath is sometimes waterlogged.

Refreshments Several pubs close to station. Snacks often obtained in Fishers Green car park. Or, perhaps, take your own picnic and use the tables along the route.

Toilets: Fishers Green car park.

Map: OS Explorer 174

Public transport: Catch the train from Liverpool Street to Cheshunt Station.


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