Walk 1372 - printer friendly version
Ayot St Lawrence circular Walk
Author - Barry Mackie
Length - 6.0 miles / 9.8 km
Ascent - 300 feet / 91 metres
Grade - easy
Start - OS grid reference TL194168
Lat 51.837054 + Long -0.268435
Postcode AL6 9BU (approx. location only)
Nestled deep in the Hertfordshire countryside, Ayot St Lawrence is a tiny village with plenty of interest for the visiting walker. Two churches, a pub and if you want to, check times first, the opportunity to have a look round what was once the home to George Bernard Shaw, one of our greatest playwrights. This is an easy walk out into the countryside, which when added to the other attractions, will make this a very nice half day out. All of the countryside section is waymarked, with the first section to the southern-most part of the Ayot Greenway following The Hertfordshire Way, which is the longest path in the county.
Roadside parking is available adjacent to, or near the ruins of The Ayot St Lawrence Old Church (Grid ref TL194168), which is easily visible from the road. Whilst its main gate is usually padlocked, a notice nearby gives contact numbers if you would like to have a closer look at the church and churchyard. There is also a steel plaque just inside the grounds that gives some details of the church's chequered history.
Facing the church, turn left (west) and go a few yards to the corner of the road to pick up the footpath marked as the Hertfordshire Way. This directs you across the field in west-northwesterly direction towards a rather surprising sight; an extremely elegant white building with tall pillars across its frontage. Fortunately the route takes you straight past the entrance gate to the right side of this building and it is definitely well worth going in to have a look round. This is a Greek Revivalist Church and a helpful note by the tall blue main doors offers a welcome and an invite if the doors are unlocked. They were for us and what a nice sight it was inside, with a magnificent altar and ceiling immediately catching the eye. Just inside the entrance is a small table with various pamphlets for sale; we bought a picture postcard of the church!
Retrace your steps and leave by the same gate and go (left) round the back of the church on the unmade drive to reach the road. Turn right for a few metres, then left and onto the path still waymarked as the Hertfordshire Way. Now moving out into the countryside, head in a south westerly direction along the side of the field to reach the woods (Harepark Spring). Here the path veers sharply to the right and stays parallel to, and just inside the edge of the woods. At the end of the woods take the left fork of the two paths between the fields separated by two post and wire fences. Following this line between the fences you will come to the unmade road next to the entrance at the southern end of Lamer House (Grid ref TL181160).
Bear left (south) here for approximately 500 metres. Then go left through the high pedestrian gateway to enter the grounds of Lamar Park Country Club. Follow the path in an easterly direction through the wooded area, with the golf course to either side of you. Having passed the clubhouse on your right, ignore the first right fork in the path and take the second at grid ref TL186152. Continue on to reach grid ref TL189151 where the path veers sharply to the right. Now leaving Lamar Park, head in a southerly direction alongside the field, to reach and cross the Codicote Road.
Keep going straight along the wide track down the slope to reach the disused railway line clearly marked as the Ayot Greenway. Turn left here (East), along the Greenway and if you want to stop for a break then there is the occasional bench alongside the track and there is also a small unattended picnic area to your right side as you reach Robinson's Wood. Approximately 20 metres before you reach Sparrowhall Bridge (Grid ref TL205141) go left and alongside the Greenway for a short distance to reach the farm track at the top of the bridge. Head north on this track over fields and up the gentle slope to skirt round the edge of Threegrove Wood. Then go right alongside the hedgerow and left at Dowdell's Wood to reach the Codicote Road again.
Cross the road and almost immediately just to the right and parallel to the path there is an alternative route through Stocking Spring Nature Reserve, a small woodland of coppiced hornbeam trees. At the far end of the reserve you can continue on this narrow, but reasonably smooth track for a while, which might be much easier on your feet than the bridleway alongside, which is prone to cutting up just here by horses hooves. The path brings you out at the bends in the road (Grid ref TL194165). Turn right here and walk up the road to reach Shaw's Corner, with the entrance to the house and gardens on the left. This was the home of the playwright George Bernard Shaw, who lived here from 1901 until his death in 1950. Access to the house and grounds is available (see footnote). Leaving here, continue up the road to the Brocket Arms pub and then back to the starting point of this walk.
How to get to Ayot St Lawrence The village is accessed by minor roads including single track with passing places. One way is to take the B197 on the west side of Welwyn Garden City and then follow the signs to Ayot Green, then Ayot St Peter and finally Ayot St Lawrence.
Note. Shaw's Corner is owned and managed by the National Trust and is open to the general public. Opening times are - House 17th March-28th October 1.00 pm - 5.00 pm not Mondays or Tuesdays (except Bank Holidays) Garden - as house, but 12.00 - 5.30 pm with last entry 4.30 pm. A visitor's car park is close by, within the grounds.