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Essendon to Bayford Circular

Hertfordshire Walk

County/Area - Hertfordshire

Author - Donald Morton

Length - 10.0 miles / 16.3 km    Ascent - 800 feet / 242 metres

Time - 5 hours 50 minutes    Grade - easy/mod

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Ordnance Survey Landranger 166Sheet Map1:50kBUY
Anquet OS Landranger 166Digital Map1:50kBUY

Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - Essendon to Bayford Circular
Click image to visit gallery of 9 images.

Essendon is a village about 6 miles SW of Hertford, lying on the B158. Parking is possible outside the church (Grid ref. TL274087) which is reached by turning West off the B158 down Church Street or West End Lane.

To start this Hertfordshire walk, return from the church to the B158 and turn right. Walk through the village, pass School Lane on the left (where you join the Hertfordshire Way) and a little further on turn right through a wooden kissing gate to take the footpath which runs down the side of a playing field. Exit next to the pavilion and go straight on down a tree lined path which enters woods proper and descends more steeply to a bridge (marvellously large for the size of stream) where you emerge into a field and climb more gently up along the edge, hedge right. At the top of the field turn left on a broad track again with plenty of tree cover.

As the track starts to rise look for a path which forks left and go through the wooden kissing gate to follow the path, first through woodland then along a field edge, hedge left, before entering woods again. After crossing a bridge walk up hill until reaching a cross track by the remains of an old cast iron kissing gate, clearly at the boundary of an estate. Having turned right here, the path still rises with more remains of 19th century boundary fencing along the route and then through woods. Eventually the path becomes gravel and arrives at a rather run down set of buildings which lie at the edge of the estate of Camfield Place, once home to the late Barbara Cartland.

You have to turn left here past an iron bar gate and down an avenue of young horse chestnuts to reach the B158 (grid ref. TL269067). Cross over and go straight on down Hornbeam Lane signed as Public Bridleway 88. There are a few houses on the first part but after passing two mysterious buildings, apparently abandoned half way through development, it becomes a proper green lane and passes through a wonderful coppiced wood of hornbeams: these trees were valued as fuel since their dense timber gave off a good heat. This old trackway is known as Hornbeam Lane right through to where it joins a tarmac lane, the more quaintly named Cucumber Lane (grid ref. TL281060).

Turn right along this to arrive at Tylers Causeway. This time turn left and very quickly right off the road down Public Restricted Byway 88 past New Park Lodge. This broad gravel track goes all the way to New Park Farm. On the right it provides wide views south over Northaw Great Wood Country Park and to the southeast it must surely be to the North Downs the other side of the Thames. After passing New Park Farm the track turns into a tarmac road at the start lined with opulent architect designed houses: some are pleasant enough, none are outstanding and some are truly hideous thus proving the old adage that money can buy lots of things but not taste - nor apparently even an architect with taste. I hope that I am right that artistic opinion cannot be libellous, and it is only an opinion so not everyone will agree, and I have not identified the hideous houses, so make your own mind up. However, when these gave way to a small number of what probably started life as council houses, the functional unostentatious designs were for me a pleasing relief. It's something to argue about on the short walk down into Newgate Street where you come out near the Crown (grid ref. TL301050).

Turn right and the walk, leaving the Hertfordshire Way, continues past the Coach and Horses and then turns left down a road sign posted to Ponsbourne Park. This soon comes into view overlooking the stream from which it takes its name. It is a comparatively modern house - mid 19th Century - but previous houses date from the 13th Century including one occupied by Sir Thomas Seymour , second husband to Catherine Parr: it is now owned and run as a hotel and management training centre by Tesco. It sits in parkland and once past the hotel complex and the old walled garden and some estate cottages on the right, the lane becomes a gravel track (known as Eastway - odd since it runs North) between the remains of an avenue of forest trees. This was obviously an alternative way in to the big house and this is confirmed by the presence of a lodge house of 1876 as the track reaches a road (grid ref. TL311068).

Turn left and walk down the road with care: it is quite busy but the sight lines are good. Just after passing a nursery on the left turn right on Public Bridleway 8. This goes clearly through Blackfan Wood to arrive at a lane in Bayford. Turn left to arrive at the village green. This has seats if you want to picnic or the Baker Arms pub for refreshment (named after the Baker family who once owned the village and the estate).

On reaching the green turn left and, once more on the Hertfordshire Way, take the road past the Baker Arms. As you go look out for the pretty Lilac Cottage claiming to be "circa 1640": I like the honesty - no absolute claims but in any case before the Commonwealth. The bigger houses in the village tend to be behind high walls and fences and it is not until you have walked past these and out of the village that you can turn right on a footpath (grid ref. TL305078) by a 1957 red brick house. It starts as a wide grass track, turns left over a stile and continues along a field edge, hedge right to a stile into woods. Go down the edge of the woods, cross over a drive and then follow what was obviously at one time a made path down through the woods to a bridge, where you exit the woods. Go diagonally left over the field looking out for (difficult to miss) Stratton's Tower built as an observatory in 1789. In the field corner go over the stile and follow the field edge, hedge left, and then straight on down an enclosed path and over a stile to come out at a lane.

Turn right and then left down public footpath 9 alongside a garden and continue, hedge right, through a kissing gate and straight on, hedge right, to come out at a road next to Little Berkhamsted church. Turn left and opposite The Five Horseshoes turn right (grid ref. TL288076) on public footpath 8 along the edge of a sports field. Exit through a kissing gate and turn right along a track to a lane. Turn left and after about 150 yards turn right up a public bridleway, judging by the white lodge house on the right once an entrance to the Bedwell Park estate. The tarmac becomes gravel and goes straight on through a gate, providing views towards Welwyn Garden City. It descends to a group of buildings and swings left to continue on tarmac through the golf course. Follow the waymark signs left and then right to go round the clubhouse and then go straight on into woods. At a crossing drive bear right up to a road - School Lane - in Essendon. Turn left and at the B158 turn right to retrace your steps back to the church.

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