Walk 2907 - printer friendly version
Hemel Hempstead Circular Walk
Author - Donald Morton
Length - 6.5 miles / 10.6 km
Ascent - 500 feet / 152 metres
Grade - easy
Start - OS grid reference TL043059
Lat 51.742107 + Long -0.49078129
Postcode HP3 9BQ (approx. location only)
This Hertfordshire walk starts from Hemel Hempstead Station (grid ref. TL043059). The alternative, if a car is being used, is to park behind Bovingdon church (grid ref. TL017038) and start the walk from this point in the loop.
Coming out of Hemel Hempstead station cross the road, via the pedestrian lights, and go down Fishery Road towards Fishery Inn which can be seen ahead by the Grand Union Canal. (You are walking across Boxmoor Trust land: the nucleus of this was given to the 87 inhabitants of Hemel Hempstead and Bovingdon in 1594 to safeguard their grazing and fishing rights in the Bulbourne and Gade valleys; over 450 acres are now looked after for the benefit of local inhabitants and on the remainder of the walk you will come across signs proclaiming Trust activity; you may also see some of the Belted Galway cattle or Norfolk Horn sheep which are now grazed on the meadows.)
Turn left along the canal and walk to bridge 148. Turn left here and, leaving the canal, walk under two bridges - rail and the new A41. This valley has always been a main route into London: it was a major drove route for cattle coming from Wales and the Midlands for the London markets; the London - Tring turnpike, eventually the old A41, and the Grand Union Canal arrived in the 18th Century followed by the London and Birmingham Railway in 1838. The new A41 has partly left the valley, but not just here, and all these routes still exist in some form - you have just crossed, gone under, or walked along all of them.
Emerging from the tunnels, continue to the main road and turn left to the next set of lights. Cross the road and walk up Felden Lane until on the right you see a sign for Felden Lodge, Headquarters of the Boys Brigade. You have now joined the Chiltern Way. Walk down the tarmac drive and just before the entrance gates turn left onto a bridleway. After a few yards, turn right through a 19th Century iron kissing gate in a 19th Century iron estate-fence. Go half right across the pasture aiming to the right of a house. Go through the kissing gate, along an enclosed path, over a stile, along a field edge - hedge on right - to a lane. Turn right along the lane until a right angled bend. Here, go straight on through a kissing gate and along a field break; after a hedge gap bear right across an arable field to the edge of woods.
Here, turn left along the field edge with the woods and then gardens on the right. Go through a gate, along an enclosed path and through a metal gate: turn right along the field edge - woods and hedges on right - and follow it left and straight on to a metal kissing gate in the field corner. From here you can see Bovingdon church, the target as you leave the Chiltern Way to go diagonally right over two fields. When you come out onto a lane a diversion left will quickly bring you to a couple of pubs for refreshment but the walk goes straight on with the church yard on the left. When the lane bends left there is space for cars to be parked by the church wall (grid ref. TL017038): if this is full, car parking in the village the other side of the church is presently unrestricted.
Where the lane bends left, turn up a public byway on the right past Church Lane House. This is the Hertfordshire Way but it is not Church Lane: its name is Stoney Lane, the old road between Bovingdon and Hemel Hempstead and although it starts as tarmac, it soon starts to live up to its name; in places signs of its original flint construction are visible. Eventually, houses appear on the right and shortly afterwards, opposite "Huntsmoor" you turn left down an unmade road flanked by houses. This gives onto the B4505.
Cross with care and turn right. Just past "Little Hay Cottage" fork left down a bridleway through woods. After a little way at a path junction fork left; this comes out a road going through a golf course. Turn right on the road, go past the club house, follow the road left and then right. At this point the tarmac ends and the path goes straight on, more or less; hug the right hand bushes and very quickly pass two prefab dwellings on the right. These look as if they were left over from the RAF Bovingdon airfield. (Maybe not, but during WWII the airfield stretched from here back towards Bovingdon village and beyond and was a USAF bomber base, home to 8th Air Force HQ, 92 Bombardment Group and 11th Combat Crew Replacement Unit. The USAF returned from 1951 to 1962 with Dakotas.)
Where-ever there is a choice of paths going forward, keep the golf course on the left with views over the Bulbourne valley, and choose the right hand fork until you come to a finger post. Here fork left, over a fairway, past a copse on the left and straight on aiming for a yellow barn like building in the valley. Cross the bridge over the A41 and follow a cinder path which turns right, becomes grass and goes down to the A4251 (Grid Ref TL023063). Cross the road with care, turn right and after about 1/4 mile turn left down Winkwell. After a short stretch of very narrow lane you come to a swing bridge over the Grand Union Canal by the Three Horse Shoes (part dating back to1535). Before the bridge, turn right along the canal tow path - watch out for a history information board and also for the variety of water birds. The tow path brings you back to bridge 148, where the circular part of the walk started. To return to Hemel Hempstead Station carry on along the tow path to the Fishery Inn and turn right off the tow path to the Station.