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11 March 2017: Borehamwood

Event designed by Peter O in Jan 2016, led by Martin T in lieu of an unwell Peter O.
Attendance: 23 Homo sapiens (men) and 3 Canis lupus familiaris (dogs).  3 attendees via Meetup.
Distance: 9.2 miles
Time: start  11:10, end 15:46, lunch 38 minutes
Terrain: Pavement, road, field edge, bridleway, footpath, mud.
Elevation: start 93m, high 135m, low 76m
Weather: dry, thinly-overcast, limited sunshine, very warm for winter, 11-14°C
Number of churches on the walk: 5

This was a 9.2 mile circular walk from Borehamwood, N to Shenley, W to Shenley Park and S to Borehamwood.

The walk started at Elstree and Borehamwood station in the town of Borehamwood in Hertfordshire. The route was entirely inside the M25, so felt more like a walk in the London countryside than Herts’ usual offering. It turns out that part of Elstree and Borehamwood was once part of the London Borough of Barnet, being transferred to Hertfordshire County Council in 1993. Much of Borehamwood’s growth was after World War II, built by London County Council to accommodate displaced Londoners. The town is probably most famous for its TV and film industry, though only two studios now remain. Programmes such as EastEnders, Holby City and Big Brother are currently filmed in the town. The main street, Shenley Road, is home to several shops (including a Wimpy, yes they still exist!) and a market, and along the way are several interpretation boards with information about some of the stars who have filmed in the town over the years. The walk took the group past the BBC Elstree Centre, where EastEnders is filmed, and from the street a small part of the set can be seen (including the “underground bridge”), if you know where to look.  The history of the town is best understood in the context of its relationship with Elstree, for which the town council sets out the main headlines.

The route then continued through a series of urban parks - Aberford Park, Leeming Park, Brook Meadow and Haggerston Park, all following a stream called Tykes Water. The latter three parks are all part of the “Tykes Water Experience”, which was created by Dacorum Borough Council as “an enjoyable place for contemplation and relaxation”. The parks were busy today, with locals taking full advantage of the warm, nearly-sunny weather. Along the way, there were glimpses of overspill architecture and street design, placed to conserve the waterway as an amenity, with designs similar to those found in the New Towns of Harlow, Hemel Hempstead, and Stevenage. On leaving Borehamwood, the group climbed a hill to get a view over the town. The area is covered in lots of slippery mud. The route then followed part of the Watling Chase Timberland Trail, a 10.5 mile long-distance path in the Watling Chase Community Forest that links the London LOOP at Elstree and Borehamwood Station to the Alban Way in St Albans, through some nice areas of countryside, mostly uphill, to the village of Shenley.

Lunch took place at the duck pond in Shenley, next to which is the distinctively dome-shaped village lock-up, the backdrop to the group picture. The pond also contains some rather large carp. The village boasts some big posh houses and a couple of churches. After lunch, the route passed through the southern edge of Shenley Park, the former site of a psychiatric hospital, which has since been developed into housing and recreation, and includes a wildflower meadow (not much to see at this time of year), orchard, walled garden and tea rooms. After leaving the park, the route took the group through Gorse Wood and onto a road giving views over Shenley Park. Due to some footpaths being closed and rerouted, a small section of the route between Shenley and Borehamwood had to be repeated in reverse, but then diverted away to pass under the railway and back into Borehamwood from the north-western edge. The route zig-zagged through streets to view a final church and architecture and design that is entirely in a new town style (complete with ‘back-to-front’ housing, see picture), before crossing the railway again and following the first part of the Watling Chase Timberland Trail, alongside the railway in a recreation area called Parkfields, then back into the town and returning to the start point.

Words by Peter O, some additional words by Martin T.  Photographs Martin T.

(Get well soon, P!)

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