Event route planned and designed by Martin T in 2014.
Weather: Overcast throughout. Drizzle in first half, dry and brightening in second half.
Attendance: 14; 13 men, 1 woman
Distance: 9.6 miles
Time: start 11:17, end 16:07. Lunch 35 minutes.
Terrain: Pavement/road, woodland track, golf course, grass meadow, field edge, canal towpath
Elevation: start 61m, high 113m, low 45m
Number of sewage works on the route: 1
Number of golf courses on the route: 2
This was a circular route of 9.6mi from Rickmansworth, S and SE to Batchworth Heath, SW to Bishops Wood Country Park, SW to Hill End, S to Harefield, W to the Grand Union Canal, N and NE to Rickmansworth.
This was a walk that has everything we like to include on a Hertfordshire GOC walk: town, village, lots of countryside, woodland, meadows, wide landscape views, rivers, canals, a church, a big country mansion, golf courses, and most importantly, sewage works.
Starting at Rickmansworth station car park, we made our way through part of old Rickmansworth, to the church of St Mary, the oldest part of which dates to 1630, the rest the outcome of two 19th century rebuildings. From here, we passed through a small wooded area alongside the River Colne, and some of us spotted a Grey Heron lurking on the riverbank.
After a bit more Rickmansworth, both old and modern, including crossing the Grand Union Canal at Batchworth Lock Canal Centre, we reached two golf courses - Rickmansworth and Moor Park. Moor Park is remarkable for its mansion house, which dates to 1678, built for James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth.
On leaving the golf courses, we reached Batchworth Heath and joined the London LOOP, making it feel as though we had left the security of our own county, though we had not. Being inside the M25 was scary enough, but now London was being mentioned on waymarkers! Even bus stops now displayed the TFL logo! We entered Bishops Wood Country Park, a series of connected woodlands with lots of walks through them. The part that the LOOP follows appears to be not-so-well maintained, but we made it though, and the woodland was nonetheless very beautiful, especially at this time of year in full greenery.
A quick break at the northern edge of the woods and we were on our way through grass meadows, and then we finally entered Greater London proper, into the London Borough of Hillingdon. For having crossed such a psychological barrier, we expected concrete, skyscrapers, traffic lights, congestion charges and border patrols. Yet, it was quite obvious that we were still in a rural area. We headed past fields of horses and cattle, into the village - village! - of Harefield. There was a funfair going on, but we resisted and made our way back out of the village, past a few banners protesting against the construction of HS2, to Mount Pleasant. From this grassy hill, we could see the Denham Lakes, some wide panoramic views of the Colne Valley Regional Park, and the small area of Hertfordshire that will be affected by HS2. We concluded that the impact on the view from this point would be minor, although it would upset one’s view of the M25, but reserved judgement about the actual impact of construction. The group agreed to repeat the walk after HS2 is built, to see the difference.
We had lunch on this hill, and made our way through Harefield West, including a thoroughly modern and aesthetic housing estate. A nice bit of woodland and meadow followed, which included a view (and smell) of Maple Lodge Sewage Treatment Works. Eventually we reached the Grand Union Canal, where we took a group shot on a bridge, then stopped to watch a canal boat pass through a lock and under the bridge. The process of using a lock for downcanal traffic fascinated the group: the velocity of water leaving the lock, the speed at which the water level fell, the oarsman’s constant attention to ensure the movement of water didn’t throw his boat against the side or gates of the lock, the careful order of opening and closing the sluices/paddles, the apparent weight of the gate. The experience immediately prompted talk of a BBC documentary filmed on a canal boat (“All Aboard! The Canal Trip”).
We followed the canal back into Hertfordshire, then entered Rickmansworth Aerodrome Local Nature Reserve, passing two artificial lakes, Bury Lake and Batchworth Lake, the latter of which caters for water skiing. We re-entered Rickmansworth and finished up at The Fox & Hounds, for refreshments. By sheer luck, today happened to be the pub’s beer festival with accompanying barbecue.
Words by Peter O'Connor and Martin Thornhill.
Pictures by Peter O'Connor.