Harpenden to St Albans walk

A Hertfordshire Town and a Hertfordshire City linked by commons, parks, a country estate and a new woodland forest.

History

This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Post # Weather
Sun, 24-Jul-22 Sunday Walk: Harpenden to St Albans 1 sunny with a refreshing breeze
Sun, 06-Mar-22 Sunday Walk: Harpenden to St Albans 12 bright and dry
Sat, 06-Nov-21 Saturday Walk - Harpenden to St Albans (plus Fireworks?) 8 overcast and a bit chilly in the breeze
Wed, 30-Jun-21 Wednesday Walk: Harpenden to St Albans. 4 cloudy
Wed, 16-Sep-20 Wednesday walk Harpenden to St Albans - a Hertfordshire Town and a Hertfordshire City linked by commons, parkland and a new woodland forest 11 muggy at start sunny and hot later
Sat, 04-Jul-20 Saturday Walk - Hertfordshire Varied Landscapes - Harpenden to St. Albans [New Walk] 7 dry cool breezy
Sun, 24-Jul-22
Sunday Walk: Harpenden to St Albans

Difficulty 3/10 17.6 km (10.9 miles)
Through commons, a newly created Woodland Trust forest (Heartwood),and into Sandridge for lunch, then a quaint country estate (Childwickbury) and finally ye olde St Albans, with its Abbey, Roman remains and, most importantly, the ‘oldest’ pub in England.
Lunch
There are 3 pubs in Sandridge.
The 17th century Queens Head (tel 01727 855069) in Church End . Booking ahead is advisable. The churchyard beside it would suit picnickers.
The Green Man (tel 01727 854845) at 31 High Street.
The 400 year old Rose & Crown (tel 01727 859739) at 24 High Street A country pub with a beer garden. It specialises in cask ales.
Tea
The suggested tea place is the Cathedral Cafeteria, just inside the Cathedral, which is open daily until 4 pm .
An alternative is Abigails (tel: 01727-8560039) in the Village Arcade in the Cathedral precincts, which is open daily until 5 pm. But..…..before you climb to the cathedral, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks (tel: 017227 865830), is one of several pubs claiming to be the oldest in England. It hit the rocks during the pandemic but has miraculously re-opened. Good for beer.
Trains You want a return to Harpenden.
Get the Thameslink Bedford train at St Pancras at 10:21 arriving Harpenden at 10:51.(Sarf Londoners can catch it at East Croydon 9:48 or Blackfriars 10:12. Norf Londoners can too at West Hampstead 10:29).
There are about 5 trains an hour returning from St Albans City.
There is also one train an hour from St Albans Abbey station (xx:29 changing at Watford) but this requires a separate ticket.
St Alban's Abbey (the Cathedral) is worth a look. Open till 5. If you're really lucky, one of the volunteer guides might give you a spiel. There are two medieval shrines - to St Alban and St Amphibalus See if you can find a modern addition to the latter. (A head wearing a face-mask was added to remember the pandemic).
Verulanium Museum is closed Sundays but there are sections of the Roman wall in the park. And ducks. t=swc.351

  • 24-Jul-22

    Mr Tiger arrived at Harpenden and waited a while for the others..And waited. There were no others. Mr Tiger was the only 1

    Wiping away the tears, he set off, boldly going where others didn't seem to want to go.

    The day was sunny with a refreshing breeze . The walk's terrain offered a mix of sun and shade. Not that this was of particular concern. Not to a sun-seeking basilisk like Mr Tiger.

    The wildflower meadow in Heartwood was going through a white phase. A whole sea of wild carrot..The tame ones wouldn't have stood a chance. Not with those forky bracts. On past the grumpy wooden frog. And into the Queens Arms (it's a pub).

    Guess what Mr Tiger had. That's right, cider.

    A quick look round the church then on.

    Eventually. St Albans was reached. First port of call, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks. Doing a brisk trade. Still doing real ale but maybe not as interesting a range as before. And veering a bit too much towards the pale types. So no dilemma for Mr Tiger. Cider. it was.

    A quick look round the cathedral, then home.

Sun, 06-Mar-22
Sunday Walk: Harpenden to St Albans

17.6 km (10.9 miles), Difficulty 3/10.
Through attractive common land, then a newly created Woodland Trust forest (Heartwood) to Sandridge for lunch. Then on through a pretty country estate (Childwickbury) to the ancient settlement of St Alban’s with its impressive Cathedral (worth a look), and the remains of Roman Verulanium (museum entry £6).
Lunch
There are 3 pubs in Sandridge serving food 12-2.30.
The 17th century Queens Head (tel 01727 855069) at 7 Church End .The menu caters for vegetarians and vegans. Booking ahead is advisable
The Green Man (tel 01727 854845)at 31 High Street.
The 400 year old Rose & Crown (tel 01727 859739) at 24 High Street A country pub with a beer garden. It specialises in cask ales.
The churchyard near the Queens Head would do for picnics.
Tea
The suggested tea place is the Cathedral Cafeteria, just inside the Cathedral, which is open daily until 4 pm.
An alternative is Abigails (tel: 01727-8560039) in the Village Arcade in the Cathedral precincts, which is open daily until 5 pm. Sadly, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, below the cathedral, one of the ‘oldest’ pubs in England, has closed, a victim of Covid restrictions..

Trains
You want a return to Harpenden.
Get the Bedford-bound Thameslink at St Pancras at 10:05. You can also catch it at East Croydon 9:33, London Bridge 9:49, Blackfriars 9:56. Arrives Harpenden 10.35.
There are about 5 trains an hour returning from St Albans City.
There is also one train an hour from St Albans Abbey (xx:29) changing at Watford and requiring a different ticket.
Directions: here.
T=swc.351

  • 03-Mar-22

    Just wondering whether the lunch stop in Sandridge will be long enough for a pub lunch, or whether walkers should bring a packed lunch? Wouldn't want to bring nothing, and then lose the group after lunch because the pub takes longer than sandwiches in the churchyard

  • 04-Mar-22

    It’s difficult to say. Depends on how busy the pub is - it’s Sunday - and what the others want to do. Usually a large contingent of picnickers on a Sunday. And common for the group to divide into smaller clumps. Why not bring something as backup eg biscuits

  • 04-Mar-22

    Thanks, will do!

  • 09-Mar-22

    I've hung on before writing this up, to see if anyone else felt inclined to do so, seeing as I missed the original meet up (caught an earlier train and joined outside the station) and didn't go to the pub either!

    I was told we were 12 , I didn't think we were quite as many as that but may have missed a couple. The weather was bright and dry all day, and despite the lower temperatures I was as warm as toast throughout, although my companion did notice that neither of us stripped off any layers at any point.

    It seems this walk was easier going than others that day, as although there was more mud than usual on the route, this was easily circumnavigated except if you were being channelled through a gate.

    At point no.9 the signpost to the bridleway was looked for and found lying face down under some branches, possibly due to the recent storms.

    At Sandridge most headed for The Queens Head pub. It was still fairly early and my companion and I were up to walking straight on to St Albans. At Cheapside Farm we saw 2 white ostriches with pale blue eyes, who were quite happy for us to hang out with them for a bit, separated only by the wire fence. In the shed opposite there were plenty of cute lambs jumping about.

    Along the approach to Childwickbury House there was a long avenue of daffodils just starting to come out, which will make a really cheerful sight in the weeks to come. There were some snowdrops and violets in places along the route. At the park in St Albans the lake had flooded its banks, making a long row of birds look like they were perching on water instead of the edge. The paths were still easily walkable.

    My companion opted for tea at the abbey, and just before heading home I popped down Waxhouse Gate to check whether Abigails has now reopened. It has, and was full, although despite the sunshine no-one was outside in the garden - a reminder that, unless maybe you were a walker, it was still a bit too chilly for that.

Sat, 06-Nov-21
Saturday Walk - Harpenden to St Albans (plus Fireworks?)
Harpenden to St Albans (plus Fireworks?) T=swc.351
Length: 10.9 miles, 17.6 km
3 out of 10

"There is attractive common land, a forest with countryside views, a country estate, and finally a pleasant approach to St Albans which takes you through the old town past sites of historical interest. The morning highlight is the brand-new forest called Heartwood. It will be interesting to see how this part of the walk changes as the forest grows and develops. The afternoon takes you through the pretty Childwickbury country estate, with views also out to another estate, Gorehambury.

The route through Verulamium Park, might have minor diversions because of the fireworks - see below.

Trains: Get the 0935 Bedford train from London Bridge (St Pancras 0950) arriving Harpenden 1017. This is a Thames link train from Gatwick, so has many options for where you can catch it. Return is from St Albans City with frequent trains. There is a St Albans Abbey station, but that is a different train line into Euston & needs a separate ticket.
Buy a Harpenden return
Lunch: is in Sandridge, with three pubs (The Queens Head has been the choice of previous walkers), a tea room and a churchyard for picnics.
Tea: The Cathedral Cafeteria or The Fighting Cocks pub amongst others.
Fireworks: The St Albans charity display is in Verulamium Park from 6pm with the display at 7.30pm. Tickets at £10, are only from the Cathedral Box Office (closes at 6pm) and only physical tickets are available. Apparently large bags may be searched. My memory of the park layout is not good enough to know if there are possible vantage points outside of the enclosed area.

  • 07-Nov-21

    The scheduled, posted train was cancelled - no surprise there - but eight of us happened to be early at the station and so caught the slightly earlier, stopping service to Luton. Others were seen in the concourse of St Pancras - they either abandoned the walk or caught a later train and "did their own" thing, as they never caught up the eight. If perchance late arrivals did do the walk, please add your own report to this one, and tweak the "n" number of attendees.

    So, for starters, let's say 8 of us set out from Harpenden, only a few minutes behind schedule, on a day which was overcast and a bit chilly in the breeze , absolutely fine when we were on the move, but more than nippy when stopped - as the lunch time sandwichers found out. The morning leg over the grassy Common was lovely, as was the leg through Heartwood Forest. We reached Sandridge Village shortly after 12 noon, and I enjoyed a good lunch in the front bar of Queens Head pub, close to a fire. Two of the sandwichers who had picnicked in the churchyard next door joined me later, to thaw out by the fire whilst enjoying a hot drink. The other five sandwiches set out on the afternoon leg of the walk some twenty minutes or so before those sheltering in the pub.

    There was some nice leaf colour in the woods and along the way and we three pub-stoppers maintained a good pace as we walked towards St Albans, briefly stopping on the way to look inside the small, quaint St Mary's Church in the Childwickbury Estate. On reaching the outskirts of St Albans we headed for the Cathedral via the old town, ticking off the main sights along the way. We queued for a long time in the Cathedral's self-service cafeteria but we enjoyed our tea when we were eventually served. Some of the sandwichers were spotted in the Cathedral but they did not join the three of us. The Cathedral was busy with long lines of people queuing for tickets for the evening fireworks display. I suspect none of the SWC walkers stayed on in town for the fireworks, as the wait would have been long. So after tea the three of us walked through the town - all a buzz and busy - then downhill to St Albans City railway station - for a quick journey home.

    With the leaf colour on offer it was a good time of year to do this walk - and best I know all eight of us enjoyed it.

Wed, 30-Jun-21
Wednesday Walk: Harpenden to St Albans.

Length: 17.6 km (10.9 miles)
Difficulty 3/10
A green and pleasant walk, first through common land, then a newly-created Woodland Trust forest (Heartwood), a pretty country estate (Childwickbury) and finally the ancient settlement of St Albans. There you’ll find lots of old stuff: the abbey (worth a look), Roman remains (also worth a look), and most importantly, the ‘oldest pub in England’.
Lunch
There are 3 pubs in Sandridge normally serving food 12-2.30. (Covid restrictions may impact. Consider bringing a picnic and water).
The 17th century Queens Head (tel 01727 855069) at 7 Church End .Vegetarian and vegan options. Booking ahead is advisable. The nearby churchyard would make a convenient picnic stop.
The Green Man (tel 01727 854845) at 31 High Street.
The 400 year old Rose & Crown (tel 01727 859739) at 24 High Street A country pub with a beer garden, specialising in cask ales.
The Heartwood Tearooms appear to be closed till next year.
Tea
The suggested tea place is the Cathedral Cafeteria, just inside the Cathedral, which is open daily until 4 pm .
An alternative is Abigails (tel: 01727-8560039) in the Village Arcade in the Cathedral precincts, which is open daily until 5 pm.
Lovers of fine ale (yay! me! me!) might like to visit Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub (tel: 017227 865830), below the Cathedral. It is one of several pubs claiming to be the oldest public house in England.

Trains
You want a Thameslink return to Harpenden, arriving there 11:01.
You can get on at St Pancras at 10:36. Direction Bedford.
South Londoners can catch this train at East Croydon 10:03, Norwood Jct 10:08, London Bridge 10:21, Blackfriars 10:27.
There are frequent return trains (4 an hour) from St Albans City.

(The notes suggest St Albans Abbey station as an alternative finish but there only seems to be one train today, the 16:13 changing at Watford. It requires a different ticket).

Directions: here
Covid-19 Compliance: Please note the current guidance on this website and observe social distancing. Please sign up for this walk in advance if you can, using the London Walkers User Group site. (This saves time collecting contact details). Otherwise bring a piece of paper with your email address on it (in your neatest handwriting). It will be put in an envelope and accessed if needed for contact tracing. To report a Covid case after this walk, use covid@lwug.co.uk /
t=swc.351

  • 30-Jun-21

    4 today. A cloudy day that started cool but got warmer. A walk nicer than it sounds, with greenery, open views, forest, woodland and wild flower meadows. The only teensy drawback is the unashamedly urban trek to City station at the end. When we got to Sandridge, the 3 picnickers were surprised to find walkers already draped over every seat, gravestone and crypt. The South Bank Ramblers had coincidentally chosen the same walk. The devils! As there were 19 of them, we decided not to pick a fight. There was even some conviviality. Also, they were complimentary about the walk.

    The Queens Head, where we retired for drinks alongside our one diner, was friendly and attentive. The food was said to be good.

    St Mary’s church and churchyard was very pretty.

    We didn’t stop for tea. We raced through St Albans with a cursory nod at the old stuff. Whisked past the Fighting Cocks despite my yearning.

    Did I mention the ostriches? Or maybe they were emu. Long necks anyway.

    The carved fox has gone. Just its tail left.

Wed, 16-Sep-20
Wednesday walk Harpenden to St Albans - a Hertfordshire Town and a Hertfordshire City linked by commons, parkland and a new woodland forest
SWC 351 - Harpenden to St Albans

Length: 18.65 km (11.6 miles)
Toughness: 3 out of 10

Car drivers: Harpenden is one stop up the line from St Albans City station. Probably easier to park in Harpenden, close to the railway station.

For those comfortable using public transport during Covid times, your recommended train is:
Thameslink service, from Brighton to Bedford, with stops at:

East Croydon: 09-51 hrs
London Bridge: 10-05 hrs
St Pancras: 10-21 hrs
St Albans City: 10-41 hrs
Harpenden: 10-47 hrs

Return: St Albans City to St Pancras and beyond: up to 8 fast trains an hour, plus stopping trains
St Albans City back to Harpenden (for car drivers): 8 an hour

St Albans Abbey to Euston, changing at Watford Junction: 16-54, 17-45 and 18-32 hrs

Rail ticket: Buy a day return to Harpenden. Note: if you opt to return from St Albans Abbey station (with its much nicer approach walk) you will need separate single tickets for your two rail journeys today.

Rule of Six

As of Monday, 14 September, we are required by law to limit the size of our groups or bubbles to a maximum of six. Thus before we start walking we will separate into groups of six or less, and groups will set out a suitable distance apart. During the course of the day the groups must stay apart and not converge or meet up. We must all share contact details with the members of our group of six. Responsibility for compliance with the new law is down to everybody attending the walk today.

******

The two previous attempts to post this new walk from Elsa on a Wednesday were thwarted (1. Not enough daylight, and 2. Coronavirus lockdown) so let's hope it's third time lucky, although the new Rule of Six will not help. Saturday walkers gave this walk its inaugural outing a couple of months ago, but not many showed up. So despite Covid restrictions I hope some Wednesday walkers will attend today to appreciate what is an excellent new walk with variety, views and a stretch through a brand new woodland forest - Heartwood. All is explained in the Prelude to the Directions found here: L=swc.351
Lunch is taken today in the village of Sandridge where you are spoilt for choice - 3 good pubs (all should be open for lunch today) and a popular Tearoom adjacent to the village stores where you can purchase provisions for a picnic.
The afternoon takes you along a leg of the Hertfordshire Way before you walk through the Childwickbury country estate, then down over fields into St Albans. If you have time you can explore some of the sights in this historic city, including the Abbey if still open.
T=swc.351


  • 16-Sep-20

    11 on a day that was muggy at start sunny and hot later

    No worries about dividing into small groups. Thameslink did that for us. Their timetable was in chaos, with delays and cancellations. This was due to something or other. So we arrived in Harpenden in ready-made clumps, the first having caught the 8:43 at 10:01!

    The group I was with, the first, soon tired of me and cast me aside. I was too slow for them. I was a walking pariah, detached from my bubble. The other bubbles overtook and passed like gravitational waves. Fshoom.

    And so we laboured across a golf course and through Heartwood to the Queens Head / picnic ground. The pub was fine, service a bit slow but I wasn’t eating so hey. I watched the others. Huge portions. It was like watching a pie eating competition. I didn’t stay to watch the coffee. I made a head start so they could have more fun overtaking me again. Which they did. The afternoon took us through a large estate and through the old part of St Albans. Directions mostly clear with one or two minor niggles which I’ll put in walk comments. A grand day out. An interesting walk and mercifully flat.

    Those that returned from St Albans City found that the chaos was still going on. Still due to something or other. But we did eventually get home. I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’.

  • 17-Sep-20

    Thanks Ian, for your corrections noted in the Comments section of this walk. I will update the on-line Directions with your suggested changes.

    I believe we all enjoyed Elsa's walk. We were fortunate with the weather if not the travel today. On the return journey - which stopped everywhere - my companions alighted at West Hampstead. At the next stop Kentish Town, and one before my destination St Pancras, we were told due to continued signalling problems we would be held at the station for 20 minutes. Most of the passengers disembarked, but I said "sod it" and stayed put, planning to have a kip. The train moved off 2 minutes later - leaving most of its passengers stranded on the platform. I was denied my kip !

Sat, 04-Jul-20
Saturday Walk - Hertfordshire Varied Landscapes - Harpenden to St. Albans [New Walk]
Length: 17.6 km (10.9 mi), Ascent/Descent: 201/209m
Net Walking Time: ca. 4 ¼ hours, Toughness: 3 out of 10.
Shortcuts possible, see the webpage linked below.

Take the Thameslink train from Gatwick Airport to Bedford via East Croydon (10.03), Norwood Junction, London Bridge (10.21) and all Central London stations incl. St. Pancras (10.36), arriving Harpenden 11.01.
Return trains from St Albans City: 9 per hour, from 21-35 mins journey time, fast ones on xx.13, xx.27, xx.43 and xx.57. Buy a Harpenden return.
The walk links a wealthy Hertfordshire town with a historic Hertfordshire city, and is green and pleasant throughout. There is attractive common land, a forest with countryside views, a country estate, and finally a pleasant approach to St Albans which takes you through the old town past sites of historical interest.
The morning highlight is the brand-new forest called Heartwood.
The afternoon takes you through the pretty Childwickbury country estate, with views also out to another estate, Gorehambury. A further highlight is then the city of St Albans, where you pass old pubs, quaint houses, the Roman museum and remains, the Abbey and its gate, and finally the clock tower and museum of St Albans.
Covid-compatibility: not sure, haven’t walked this.
Lunch: Three Pubs in Sandridge (8.3 km): The Queen’s Head (open all day), The Green Man (food to 14.30) and The Rose & Crown (food to 14.30).
Tea: plenty of options in St. Albans, see the pdf for details.
For walk directions, map, height profile and gpx/kml files click here. T=swc.351
Personal Note: in a first for one of my Saturday’s Postings, I post a walk of less than 20 km length. That is because I won’t be on the walk and am fulfilling a request by our man in Northamptonshire, Mike P. He has kindly volunteered to take over track-and-trace duties on the day. Please furnish him with your email address at the start of the walk for that purpose.
  • Anonymous
    29-Jun-20

    Sounds great. Thank you.

  • Mike P
    30-Jun-20

    Yep, I'm in charge! Can we meet immediately outside the station building so as to divide in to groups of up to 6 (if necessary) and give email addresses. This is the first day when pubs are open again, but I'm guessing that some will still prefer to take a picnic and that the groups may further divide. This is OK, so long as people pay attention to any groups coming in to view ahead.

  • 03-Jul-20

    My apologies for the late notification, but an updated version of the directions has been posted on this website as of 17-15 hrs today. This is the inaugural posting of this new walk, and given some walkers who did a test drive of this walk became lost in the woods at point 13 in the directions, the walk author kindly walk checked the directions on Thursday 02 July, and made a few changes to the original. If you do not have time to print off the whole document, the key changes you might like to note are at points 13 and 14, in Pluckley Wood. Other changes are minor and of less importance.

    Enjoy your walk on Saturday.

  • Mike P
    05-Jul-20

    7 turned up and the majority were willing to responsibly exchange contact details as required. There was plenty of space on the trains, though at Harpenden there were still signs saying 'don't use trains for leisure purposes'. It was cool and breezy, we never quite spotted the sun, but at least it stayed dry. We did well to para 11 (I'd printed the directions before latest revisions), but failed to find the metal gate. We were back on course in para 15. Nobody braved the pubs (one was closed and the others didn't look too busy), we had lunch at Sandridge church. Overall it was an enjoyable walk. Went a bit awry on the approach to St Albans (too many people in the way), but I found a turn of pace and managed to just catch my hourly train (2.55).

  • 05-Jul-20

    7

    dry cool breezy

  • 05-Jul-20

    Hi Mike. Very sad to hear that one (or more than one) individual (and a SWC regular at that) could not get themselves to comply with the few rules the Walk Posters have set for people attending the walks in these circumstances. It is clearly stated at the top of This Week's Walks and also in the explanatory walk post about the Resumption of a Walks Programme that (and why) we insist on subgroups no larger than 6 and on walkers giving contact details at the start, so it is utterly disappointing (to put it very mildly) that someone would come to the group walks knowing they won't abide by those rules. Just to confirm: no walk poster has any problem with people breaking the rules and laws while they go about the countryside under their own steam or in email-arranged groups of walkers not under the SWC name, but on SWC business we demand people stick to the rules as they are (as does any other walking club that has taken up operations again, may that be The Ramblers, CLOG, MeetUp or any other club I know of). It it also not right that the group would refuse to split into two subgroups.

    All in, I am sorry to have put you into that situation and it won't happen again, as as an immediate result of these rebels' activities I will not post another walk that I am not 100% sure to be on myself, so that I can then deal with scenarios like this appropriately, and I can't see any other walk poster doing so either.

    To repeat: the SWC does not want to be seen to be breaking the rules and laws as laid down by Government and does not want to be seen to quietly enable or tolerate people to be breaking those rules and laws while on a SWC walk.