Hemel Hempstead- Watford canal walk

My friend Stu would be proud of me! Yesterday (Saturday 13th September 2008) I did my second canal walk of the week! Again, the reason was the recent wet weather – I figured it would be more enjoyable to walk on the towpaths of a canal (which are usually at least partly hard-surfaced) than to plough through endless mud on regular footpaths. Although this was another ‘there and back walk’, for the first time in ages it was a walk where the entire route was new to me.

I parked in Hemel Hempstead (well, Boxmoor to be precise) and set off walking at 10pm. I walked about quarter of a mile to the canal bridge close to the railway station. I’d reached this point on the Grand Union Canal when I walked the Hertfordshire Way, and after Monday’s walk I’d completed the section of the canal from Leighton Buzzard to here (on various walks). So I turned left, and followed the towpath eastwards, entering what was new territory for me. As I progressed through Hemel Hempstead, I passed numerous dog walkers and anglers. After a while I went over an old narrow brick bridge (painted white) as the towpath switched to the left of the canal, the first of six such switches.

Where there had once been warehouses alongside the canal, there were now modern blocks of flats built in a style that reflected the shape and size of the old warehouses. There were a large number of such blocks round three sides of the marina at Apsley, where there was also an impressive modern footbridge over the canal. The walking was pleasant and undemanding, but there was little of note along the canal. The water itself always added something of interest to the scene, and there were usually thick hedgerows screening the towpath from the industrial and residential areas I passed.

I passed King’s Langley on my right and then Abbott’s Langley on the left, without really noticing either of them. I actually looked out for a road bridge close to the station in the latter town, which I’d crossed on the Hertfordshie Way, but I went past it without recognising it (and did the same on the way back!). A bit further on I passed under the M25. Soon there was a large open green area to my right, once the parkland around  a large country house called The Grove but now a golf course. I crossed another old narrow brick bridge here, and then went under a very ornate bridge that carried a road towards the old house.

By one of the numerous locks I passed I saw a wagtail briefly – I spotted the yellow on it, but was unable to tell whether it was a Yellow Wagtail or a Grey Wagtail. I thought it looked green on top rather than grey, making it a Yellow Wagtail, but the waterside location made a Grey Wagtail possibly more likely. I managed to get a reasonable photo of a Heron at the same lock.

I carried on along the towpath until I’d passed a sequence of road and rail bridges on the edge of Watford. This was as far as I’d planned to go, as the following section was all through a heavly buil-up area. It worked out really well, as it had taken me 2.5 hours to get there which was exactly the length of time I’d wanted to go before turning round.

I stopped and sat beside a lock to eat my lunch about 1pm. After lunch, I felt a little low on energy for a while and felt that my pace had fallen, but in fact the walk back only took 5-10 minutes longer than the outward journey. I got back to my car just after 3.15pm.

It had been a grey and gloomy morning, but just after I turned round the sun came out and it was a very pleasant warm and sunny afternoon. I enjoyed the walk – perhaps I’m losing my long-held prejudice against canal walks! The weather forecast for the next few days is for ‘sunny intervals’, so perhaps I’ll finally be able to photograph one of my local walks and put it on my web site.

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