Berkhamsted Circular walk
A short easy walk to the South-East of Berkhamsted, along the Grand Union Canal and across fields to Ashley Green for lunch, returning via Hockeridge Wood.
13.3 kms, 8¼ miles
OS Landranger Map: No 165 (Aylesbury and Leighton Buzzard). OS Explorer Maps 181 (Chiltern Hills North) and 182 (St Albans and Hatfield). Most of the walk is in the bottom right hand corner of Explorer 181!
Berkhamsted station (SP993082) is in Hertfordshire.
2 out of 10.
This easy walk explores the area to the East and South of Berkhamsted, which is not covered by other SWC walks. It is easier going and perhaps less inspiring than alternatives in the Tring/ Berkhamsted area, but it might make a good winter choice. Navigation is easy; you follow the Grand Union Canal out of Berkhamsted then a series of wide bridleways to Bottom Farm, where the short cut branches off. Continue through fields, taking care on the approach to Ashley Green. You then cross Hockeridge Woods, followed by school playing fields leading to the town centre.
The final section describes a short cut, which omits Sections 3 and 4, giving a short walk of 9.3 kms (5¾ miles). There is no lunch option on this walk, which could be done as a half day walk, with lunch in Berkhamsted, either at the start (perhaps at one of the three canal side pubs) or at the end (possibly at The Crown).
For a longer walk, consider starting at Tring station and following TOBCW Book 2, Walk 5c, the Shorter walk from Tring to Berkhamsted, which would add 9.4 kms (5¾ miles) to the distance. You could then have lunch by the canal at Berkhamsted and continue with either the full version of this walk (22.7 kms, 14¼ miles) or the short cut (18.7 kms, 11¾ miles).
Red Eagle bus 354 runs approximately hourly (except Sundays) from Chesham to Berkhamsted on the A416 and could be caught either from Ashley Green or just after Christmas Tree Place (which avoids an unpleasant main road section). In 2022 the last bus from Ashley Green was at 17.45 (weekdays) and 16.19 (Saturdays).
Three direct trains an hour run between London Euston and Berkhamsted (journey time approximately 30-35 minutes). There is also one train an hour from Clapham Junction via Shepherd's Bush from Monday to Saturday (journey time approximately 55 minutes from Clapham Junction); on Sunday you have to change at Watford Junction.
Tring is one stop further from London. Not all the Berkhamsted trains stop there.
|Points of interest||
Berkhamsted is an historic market town in Hertfordshire, with a population today of some 18,500. The town’s main historic claim to fame is its link to the Norman Conquest in 1066. After the Battle of Hastings, the Anglo-Saxon leadership surrendered to the Norman encampment in Berkhamsted. During the 13th and 14th centuries the town thrived as a wool centre. It then went into decline and was only revived by the building of the canal. Berkhamsted was the childhood home of writer Graham Greene, whose father was the headmaster of Berkhamsted School.
Berkhamsted Castle (01375) 858486, next to the railway station, is a classic Norman motte and bailey castle, built by Robert, Count of Mortain, the half brother of William the Conqueror. Thomas a Becket, Henry II's chancellor and later martyred when archbishop of Canterbury, lived here from 1155 to 1165. There is not much to see, just a few ruined walls, but entrance is free, and if you have just missed a train at Berkhamsted, it is worth a quick look. The castle is open until 4pm in winter and 6pm in summer.
The Grand Union Canal was formally the Grand Junction Canal and the section through Hertfordshire was dug in 1798. It was for a brief time the major transport artery linking London and Birmingham, which played its part in facilitating the industrial revolution before speedier modes superseded it. The centre of Berkhamsted’s canal trade and boat building activity was Castle Wharf, on the opposite side from the towpath in the early stages of this walk.
The River Bulbourne is a chalk stream which rises at Cow Roast (near the canal between Tring and Berkhamsted) and runs alongside the canal for seven miles before joining the River Gade at the appropriately named Two Waters. It used to support a vibrant watercress industry and remnants of the watercress beds remain today. Chalk streams are a rare habitat which support many plants and animals, including water vole.
Ashley Green is dominated by the village green which lies central to the village and features a pudding stone, King’s Pond and a replica Well Head constructed in 1995 by village volunteers on its original site. The playground lies in the Glebe meadow adjacent to the Memorial Hall at the southern end of the Green. St. John the Evangelist Church is nearby.
Hockeridge Woods comprises (with the neighbouring Pancake Woods) 180 acres of woodland, owned and maintained by The Royal Forestry Society. There was a thriving timber industry here throughout the 19th and well in to the 20th century. Timber from the woods was taken for decorations to mark King George VI’s coronation in 1936, but the forest was clear felled for timber to help the war effort, and then was designated as land on which future building would occur. In 1952 Mary Wellesley (descended from the Duke of Wellington), purchased the woods and replanted with many ‘fashionable’ trees including conifers, and also many non-native species which are still seen today, including Giant and Coast redwoods, Tulip tree, Southern beech and Red oak. In 1986 she gifted the woods to the RFS.
There are three canal side pubs early on the walk (200 to 500 metres from the start), which might be suitable if (a) you are doing the long walk, starting at Tring, or (b) you plan to take the short cut, with a late start.
The suggested lunch stop for the main walk, reached after 9.2 kilometres (not on the short cut).
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
Mar-22 Mike Powell
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
- Berkhamsted to Sharpes Lane 3.3 kms
- Trains from London normally arrive at Berkhamsted on platform 3. Go down the steps and turn left to depart the station through the subway. From the station exit, turn right and cross Lower Kings Road ahead. In 25 metres turn left on the pavement, with the Grand Union Canal below on your right. In 60 metres at the first bridge (Castle Street), do not cross the canal but descend the slope to the right. In 25 metres turn left on the towpath and go under the bridge in 20 metres.
- In 50 metres you pass the Crystal Palace pub. In 250 metres you pass a lock and go under Ravens Lane and a colourful bridge (number 142). In 30 metres you pass The Boat. In 150 metres you pass the Rising Sun and another lock. In 180 metres you go under bridge 142A. In 450 metres go up the slope to bridge 143 (Bank Mill) and cross the canal. Turn right and in 10 metres right again under the bridge to continue with the canal on your left. The rail line is further to the left with open countryside beyond.
- In 320 metres you pass Top Side Lock. In 160 metres go under bridge 144 (Bullbeggars Lane). The River Bulbourne runs close by on your right. In 280 metres you pass Bottom Side Lock. In 180 metres you go under power lines. There are old water cress beds to the right and the river runs alongside you. In 250 metes you pass another lock. In 350 metres you pass under bridge 145 (Little Heath Lane).
- In 450 metres leave the canal at bridge 146 and in 15 metres continue on Sharpes Lane.
- Sharpes Lane to Bottom Farm 2.5 kms
- In 100 metres the lane crosses a stream and in 90 metres you reach the busy A251 (London Road) and turn right on the pavement. In 150 metres cross the main road and continue uphill on Sugar Lane opposite. In 200 metres you reach the aptly named Lane’s End, the last house on the right. Continue on a wide muddy track, passing a green signpost in 20 metres. After a gentle climb the path levels out in 150 metres and continues undulating between fields with the noisy A41 to your left.
- In 500 metres you pass an unmarked private cross paths. In 140 metres you pass a convenient seat and continue gently downhill, with the A41 close by now. In 350 metres go under wires. In 200 metres, before power lines, turn left at a green sign reading ‘Lower Farm and Bottom Farm ½’. In 80 metres go through the subway under the A41. In 40 metres you enter a field, with a yellow arrow pointing you due South. In 60 metres you pass the corner of a hedge and continue with the hedge on your left. In 140 metres turn right (West) at a 3 armed signpost, reading ‘Bottom Farm 400 yards’.
- Continue with a hedge on your left. In 120 metres you pass back under the wires. In 200 metres you reach The Granary (part of Bottom Farm) at a T-junction with a 3 armed signpost.
- To the right the sign reads ‘Public Bridleway: Swing Gate Lane’. This is the route taken by the short cut (see the final section below).
- For the main route, turn left on a wide track marked ‘Public Bridleway: Whelpley Hill ¾’.
- Bottom Farm to Ashley Green 3.4 kms
- In 60 metres the wide track turns left, but you continue ahead between wooden fences. In 15 metres turn right at a white arrow, on a muddy path with a fence on your right. In 60 metres you reach the corner of the fence and continue with a small copse below on your right, West then South-West as the path curves to the left and gently uphill. The valley is the line of the Bourne Gutter, a tributary of the Bulbourne, but there is rarely so much as a trickle here. In 450 metres you reach the end of the woods and the path ascends more steeply with fields on both sides.
- In 220 metres you emerge in the corner of a large field with a metal field gate to your left. Follow the right edge of the field on a wide track, next to a neat hedge, towards a cream coloured house (240°), with more houses ahead to the left. In 260 metres the track curves to the left, then in 60 metres back to the right. In 70 metres you pass under wires (GR SP995052). In 200 metres go through a wooden gate by a black field gate. Turn right on a road (White Hill) opposite Kenmore Farm. In 60 metres, just before the cream house seen earlier, go up a step on the left and through a wooden gate, at a green public bridleway sign. The path follows the right edge of the field, under wires (225°).
- In 60 metres you go through two double metal field gates and in to the next field. In 50 metres go over two stiles to the right of field gates (everything is in duplicate round here). In 120 metres, just over half way along the field, go through a single metal gate on the right. Unsurprisingly it is followed in 5 metres by a wooden gate. Continue with the field boundary on your left. In 65 metres go through a wooden gate by a field gate and turn right and downhill on a wide muddy track, following a blue arrow on the wall of a farm building (Sale’s Farm), with holly bushes on both sides.
- (!) In 220 metres the wide path turns right, but you continue ahead through a wooden gate, circumventing a large tree with a yellow arrow. The grassy path veers left along a narrow field (West) and downhill towards the end of the line of trees below. In 150 metres you pass a wooden post with a yellow arrow and continue downhill. In 180 metres go over a stile by a wooden gate, to the right of a large painted arrow on a tree.
- (!) Despite the arrow, the way ahead may be far from clear on the ground. The right of way runs North-West, towards a point where the field boundary ahead makes a sharp turn to the left. You may however find more obvious tractor paths leading up across the field at 290°. If you pass to the left of the nearest pylon, be sure to turn right at the top of the field. There may also be another tractor path beginning to the left of a telegraph pole (reached by turning right a short distance along the field boundary, past some permanent metal structures). This would bring you out close to your next destination.
- Whichever way you get there, as you approach the far end of the field in 400 metres, you should see a white arrow on a post. Go through a gap in to the next field, then veer right with the field boundary on your right (though the map indicates that the path runs to the other side of the boundary). In 50 metres there is a tree stump with several arrows. Veer left (due West), keeping the hedge and wooden fence on your right. In 180 metres go through a kissing gate and continue on a narrow path. In 140 metres ignore a gate and path to your right. In 75 metres go through a kissing gate and continue ahead, ignoring the left fork. In 100 metres you emerge on the village green, with Hebuterne House on your left. Turn half right on the grass, passing a red post box in 35 metres. Stay on the grass as the Golden Eagle comes in to view. In 90 metres carefully cross the A416 (Chesham Road) to the pub opposite Snowhill Cottages.
- Ashley Green to Kingshill Way 2.4 kms
- From the pub, turn right in the car park and leave in 50 metres by a kissing gate in the far right corner. Continue with the field boundary on your right (300°). In 200 metres go through a gap in the corner of the field. In 10 metres turn right in the next field, with a hedge to your right. In 70 metres follow the field boundary downhill and to the right (20°).
- In 200 metres enter Hockeridge Wood (not named here) by a post with a yellow arrow. Continue ahead on a clear path, now uphill. In 180 metres ignore a cross-paths by a wooden bench. (!) In 150 metres there is a wooden post with a yellow arrow, indicating a path to the left. You turn right here (if you reach a picnic area in another 120 metres, you have gone too far). To the right of the path there is a Wellingtonia (Giant Redwood) tree (identified by a sign on the tree). Continue downhill on the narrow path. In 200 metres you pass a yellow arrow on a post and the path becomes a wide track, leading more steeply downhill. In 160 metres continue past a cross-paths (this is Hockeridge Bottom) at a green 3-armed signpost reading ‘Chesham Road ¼’, now steeply uphill. In 120 metres go over a stile and continue with a field boundary on your left. In 120 metres follow the path round to the right (100°), still with the field boundary to your left. This is Christmas Tree Place, which has been buying and selling trees since 1991, so expect to see infant Xmas trees even in January. In 200 metres go through a kissing gate and cross the A416 again, then turn left on the verge. Regrettably there is no pavement, but it is easier to walk on this side of the road, though you need to cross back shortly.
- In 60 metres you pass a bus stop. In 250 metres ignore a turning to the right and continue on the pavement. In 80 metres you go over the A41. In 40 metres cross back over the road and go over a stile opposite (immediately after the A41 bridge barrier) with a sign reading ‘footpath 44’ in to woods. The map shows the path turning right by a pond in the woods, but this is not apparent on the ground. For the more obvious route, in 120 metres the narrow path turns to the right (North-East) at the edge of the woods. A cemetery is visible to your left. In 140 metres go through a gate, cross a road (Kingshill Way) and turn left.
- Kingshill Way to Berkhamsted 1.7 kms
- [A : Shortcut rejons] In 5 metres go through another gate on your right, by a green public footpath sign telling you that it is ¾ mile to the town centre. Follow a line of trees between school playing fields (now 40°), at first with a low white fence to your left. In 200 metres you pass to the left of a wooden hut and there is also the occasional wooden seat. In 40 metres you pass the first of several signs on trees.
- In 200 metres go through a gate and continue downhill, now with residential fences on both sides and tall trees to your left. In 150 metres go down steps and in 15 metres continue downhill in a grass meadow by a seat, keeping to the hedge on the left. In 220 metres at the corner of the fence on the left, continue in to public playing fields, keeping to the right edge with allotments beyond. In 150 metres cross a tarmac path and continue on tarmac, between the Gossoms End FC clubhouse and a nursery. In 90 metres the path turns right, then left in 20 metres.
- Continue on Prince Edward Street, with Gobstoppers Theatre on your left. Buenos cafe is on your left in 45 metres. In 40 metres you reach Berkhamsted High Street. Costa Coffee is directly opposite. The Crown Inn and Bel Caffe are to the right and Starbucks, Cafe Nero and Mario’s are all to the left (if heading this way, continue to Kings Road, the next road on the right, which leads you back over the canal and on to the station). Simmons Bakery is beyond Kings Road.
- To complete the walk, cross the High Street and take Water Lane, immediately to the right of Costa Coffee. In 60 metres turn left after the public toilets and cross the car park to the far left corner. In 100 metres, turn left opposite Berkley Court, now heading towards Natural Health Centre. In 110 metres turn right on Kings Road. You go over the canal in 90 metres and the station is across the road in 120 metres. Trains for London normally leave from platform 4.
Short cut from Bottom Farm to Kingshill Way 1.8 kms
- Go under pylons in 90 metres and the track turns sharp left in 80 metres by Swingate House. In 350 metres take a muddy path on the left in to woods, at a green signpost reading ‘Public Byway 53, Sandpit Green’ (if you get as far as a bridge over the A41, you have missed the turning). In 100 metres keep left (290°) on a wide track, soon with a wire fence (and traffic noise) on your right, then with wooden fences on both sides. a
- In 650 metres turn right at a green public byway signpost to go through a subway under the A41 in 15 metres. In 20 metres veer left, parallel with the main road. In 120 metres the track veers right, then in 20 metres you turn left on a drive with the buildings of Ashlyn’s Residential Home to your right. In 250 metres cross the busy Chesham Road and turn left on the pavement, which you follow to the right, in to Kingshill Way. In 120 metres, note the gate and footpath opposite – you rejoin the main route here, at point [A] above.