Chesham to Rickmansworth (Chess Valley walk)
Walk Route Description
The Chess Valley in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) extends for ten miles between Chesham in Buckinghamshire and Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire. Each town has a tube station on the north western end of the Metropolitan Line on the London Underground which enables this linear walk to be done using public transport. Two other intermediate tube stations, Chorleywood and Chalfont & Latimer, offer public footpath access to the Chess Valley if intending to walk part of the route only.
Although the route follows the chalk stream of the River Chess in a general sense, for long periods the river is not seen as the path crosses fields or passes through woodland. The scenery can be divided into three broad categories, plain and ordinary with either restricted or no views, pleasant if unspectacular and scenic. The walk features a number of points of interest from a historical and naturalistic point of view. Suitable footwear should be worn as paths are frequently muddy and the route is generally well signposted. Despite the Metropolitan Line being no more than a couple of kilometres away from the route, only the occasional glimpse of a train in the distance serves as a reminder that it is there.
Exit Chesham tube station and follow the road ahead. Take Station Road on the left which leads downhill to the town centre with shops either side, the High Street. Turn left, passing the Clock Tower, to reach Red Lion Street at a T junction. Cross at the traffic lights and follow the road ahead but leave this road shortly by taking a path on the left alongside a stream on your right. This path leads to Water Meades Gardens and cuts out part of the main road. Cross the main road and walk along the pavement as far as the roundabout and turn left down Moor Road with the chalk stream now appearing on your left. At a T junction, cross the next road to reach a sports field. The Chess Valley route is sign-posted at this point as it follows to the left of the sports field and through trees with the stream again on the left. Soon the main road of Waterside on the left is left behind as a path goes over a bridge across the stream to the right and winds its way through an industrial area before emerging through a gate into the open where a left turn across a field leads to Watercress Cottage on the right and Hollow Way Lane.
This is one of a few points on the Chess Valley route where the stream not only runs alongside the route but you can see it at first hand with its clear waters and water cress growing in it. Follow Hollow Way Lane ahead as it leads to a T junction at a busy main road. Cross with care and bear left to cross Broadwater Bridge and reach a small parking area on the right. One path leads straight ahead uphill but the Chess Valley route is waymarked to the right. One of the colourful information boards on the walk is seen at this path junction and it illustrates some of the inhabitants of the river including different types of fish and grass snakes. The next stretch across a field leads to one of the muddiest bits of the walk at Blackwell Farm which does not particularly feel like a public right of way, however, this section is soon passed and the route follows a tarmac road briefly before going along a bridleway across fields.
Next the path goes uphill for a change, on the edge of Frith Wood. Look out for a gate on the right that continues the route bordering a field. This way is a permissive route that leads away from the CV route temporarily, overlooking Latimer Park on the right and passing Latimer House on the left. At the foot of the sloping field on the right is a former Roman villa next to a widening of the river that has the appearance of a long, narrow lake. The village of Latimer is reached next with an optional digression to look around the village. Chalfont and Latimer station can be reached by public footpath from here, an option to shorten the route. The CV route continues across the main road and next comes a potentially awkward section as soon as you pass through the gate on the other side of the road. The ground here can be particularly wet and muddy and the best option is to try to walk round it. Once past this section, the path goes across fields before going through a gate near to Chenies Bottom. Ignore the alternative path to the left but continue ahead as the route runs alongside the river as Mill Farm is passed, and another colourful information board explains about the flora and fauna as well as the history of the Frogmore Meadow Nature Reserve.
The route leads away from the river again as a muddy stretch of path, fenced on both sides, leads across fields and then through woods to reach the Cress Farm, the last working one in the Chess Valley. Next follows a quiet country lane as the route leads away from the river again and trends generally south east instead of east. The path passes Sarratt Bottom, home to the rarely seen water vole, where you may see strip lynchets, and crosses New Road which has off-road parking for a few cars and a sign warns car drivers to take their valuables with them if they don't want them to also "go walkies".
It is around this point that the monotonous drone of traffic from the M25 starts to become apparent as you draw nearer to it. This is a less pleasant section of the CV walk, though it can be avoided altogether if doing a shorter version of it to or from Chorleywood tube station and the path that leads to/from this station is passed shortly before the M25, but just before that, the route crosses a footbridge with some pleasant closer views of the river.
At a T junction, a left turn crosses a road bridge, with pavements, over the busy M25, Solesbridge Lane. Turn right on the other side to locate a narrow path between the motorway and a fence on the left. When this section has been passed, the route assumes a more rural aspect again with the way ahead easy to follow, although views are sometimes restricted where the path is fenced on each side. Rickmansworth is about 2 miles from the M25, and the CV route crosses a couple of minor roads and, when a footbridge appears over the river on the left, the path runs alongside the chalk stream in the latter stages, before finally leaving it to border a sports field. Then it passes through a residential area and finally through a park before a footbridge leads to Rickmansworth tube station.
Please maintain social distancing - keep at least 2 metres away from other walkers. Travel restrictions for exercise in Wales and Scotland will be lifted in early July.
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Recommended Books & eBooks
Walking in the Chilterns
A guidebook to 35 walks in the Chiltern Hills of southern England. These chalk hills and ancient woodlands stretch from Reading and the Thames valley through Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire to Luton. Walking in the Chilterns - an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - for walkers of all abilities, with walks from 4 to 12 miles long.