Kensworth-Redbourn walk

Yesterday (Thursday, 9th October 2008) I did a circular walk from Kensworth to Redbourn and back. This is one of my regular local walks, which I have done many times before. It was a fine sunny day so I was able to take plenty of photographs – I will eventually add the walk to my web site, using the text from this blog as a starting point.

There was bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky as I set off about 9.35am. The walk starts off with a fairly dull stretch down almost the entire length of Kensworth, following Common Road for about three-quarters of a mile to just past the village school. It’s nice to get this dullest part of the walk over and done with straight away, which is why until recently I had always done this walk in this clockwise direction – it would be a bit of an anticlimax doing this long stretch of road walking at the end of the walk. I did do the walk in the opposite direction for the first time a few weeks ago, but altered the route to miss out the long walk through Kensworth by going to Church End via Kensworth Lynch and returning home along Hollicks Lane – a longer but more enjoyable option.

Just after passing the school on my right, I turned right on to a footpath across a paddock – I was now on the route of Walk 1 of the Chiltern Chain Walk, which I’d follow as far as Markyate. In the next (much larger) paddock, the path went half-left to the far hedgerow, then turned left along the hedge. Through  a metal kissing-gate in the corner, the path continued across a huge field of stubble, passing to the left of small copse in the middle of the field. There were pleasant views over Lynch End and along the valley carrying the A5 north to Dunstable. I was walking straight towards the sun, as I would be most of the way to Redbourn, so most of my photos had to be taken looking back the way I’d come.

The path had not been reinstated where it next crossed the corner of a ploughed field, but it was a simple matter to follow the field edge round. The path now followed a hedgerow on my left, parallel to the A5 in the Ver valley. At a gap in the hedge, there was a view across the valley to Markyate Cell. The path continued beside the hedge through another field of stubble and then through a couple of sports fields to reach the village of Markyate. Here, as I crossed Buckwood Road, I left the Chiltern Chain Walk but joined the route of the Hertfordshire Way which I’d now follow as far as Flamstead. I passed through a curious feature, a metal gate in a brick arch between raised and walled flower beds on a small green.

Taking the path out of Markyate, I soon came to a fork where I kept right – I used to take the left fork here, which follows a slightly lower but parallel route to Flamstead, but the path I now use is clearer and obviously much better used. It passed allotments on my right as it rose slightly uphill, then turned left alongside a hedge. The path turned right and then left again, and I passed a farmer in a tractor trimming the hedge.Where the hedge turned right again, the path should have continued on across the recently ploughed field, but as the path hadn’t been reinstated I took the easy option of following the farm track all round the edges of the huge field, which only added a couple of hundred yards to the distance.

The path was clear across the next field of stubble, and then I continued across an empty  paddock. Over a stile, I followed a hedgerow a short distance before continuing along a farm drive to reach Friendless Lane (I’ve mentioned before that this is my favourite of all the road names I’ve come across on my walks). I turned right, and soon entered Flamstead, probably the prettiest of the villages in my immediate area.

I made a detour into the churchyard to photograph the church, then continued on through the village, soon following a field path between two parts of the village – here I was briefly following the Chiltern Way. After following a lane for about a hundred yards, I turned right onto a footpath and was soon back out into open countryside.

The path descended gently through a large stubble field into a shallow valley – I always keep a wary eye out for Alligators here, because when I crossed this valley at another point on Day 8 of my Hertfordshire Way walk, I met a little boy fishing for Alligators with his grandfather. There were warning signs on the stiles either side of the small paddock in the valley bottom, but surprisingly, rather than warn about Alligators they were about the guard dogs at the nearby stableyard.

The path continued up the opposite slope, which was slightly steeper, through a large meadow. I went through a kissing-gate in a corner, and continued uphill through another grassy meadow, with a small wood now to my right. By a couple of isolated houses I crossed a stile into a paddock, and turned left to reach the drive to the houses. Following it to the right, I was soon crossing a bridge  over the M1 – the bridge was new, as the old bridge had to be replaced when they recently widened this stretch of the motorway to four lanes.

Across the bridge, I turned right on to path that ran along the embankment parallel to the motorway, with a wood to my left. At the end of the wood, the path turned left, leaving the motorway, and started to follow a headland between a succession of fields. I soon spotted some Chicory growing by the path – this is the only spot I know locally where I see this attractive blue flower. As I followed the headland path, I could see a school on the edge of Redbourn, and soon the path was running along to the right of the school fence.

Entering the large village of Redbourn I continued ahead, soon passing an infants school on my right.  The first few times I used to carry on into the centre of the village, but now I shorten the walk slightly by taking the third turning on the right (just past the school) which leads to the huge village green. Here I turned right and followed the edge of the green and  soon passed the cricket pitch. The first game of cricket in Redbourn was way back in 1666, and though the current club only dates from 1823 organised games had been played on the common eighty years earlier, making it one of the oldest village cricket clubs in the country.

I turned left to leave Redbourn along Flamsteadbury Lane. This passed between ploughed or stubble fields and then crossed back over the motorway on another new bridge. The lane ended at Flamsteadbury, a large farm/stable complex, but I continued ahead on a farm track.  The track ran for almost a mile between huge ploughed fields, without passing so much as a hedgerow. A couple of cyclists went by just as I started this stretch.

Eventually I reached the end of the track at a corner of a lane, where I continued ahead towards Trowley Bottom. There were several mature trees lining the first part of the lane, and I saw a very pale Buzzard fly out of one of them – soon I saw five of them soaring high in the clear blue sky. The lane soon headed downhill, enclosed now by tall hedges, and soon came to a junction where I turned right. A Jay flew out of the hedge on my right as I walked the hundred yards or so into Trowley Bottom, an attractive hamlet adjoining Flamstead.

I immediately turned left at a junction, passing some attractive cottages as I reached a minor crossroads. Here I left the hamlet as I took a bridleway going on ahead, following a valley bottom. After a short while I crossed the Chiltern Way at a path crossroads. I heard another Buzzard over a wood on the slight hillside to my left. The bridleway ended at another lane corner, where I stopped to eat my lunch sitting on a convenient tree trunk (I always stop here on this walk).

I then took the lane going right, going steadily uphill between hedgerows. At the top of the hill I came to a crossroads. Curiously, Friendless Lane was both the road ahead of me (which I’d been on briefly as I’d entered Flamstead) and the road to my left. I now followed it to the left, heading towards Cheverell’s Green on the edge of Markyate. However, after a few hundred yards I turned left off onto a path that runs parallel to the lane. The path initially led through a wood (where I saw Small Balsam growing earlier this year), and then turns right on a field path beside the wood.

A notice board near the corner of the wood showed where the landowner had provided a permissive path, linking this path to the lane visible down in the valley to my left. I stayed straight on, following the path  beside a hedge on my left and then alongside another small wood. The path then crossed yet another stubble field, then ran beside a long and thick garden hedge on my left as I crossed a meadow half-right to rejoin Friendless Lane just before it ended at a minor road on the edge of Cheverell’s Green. Markyate was a short distance downhill to my right.

I picked up a footpath almost opposite, which led through a small meadow of rough grass. I then went through a hedge gap and turned left, following the edge of a huge ploughed field as the hedgerow irregularly curved to my right. There were pleasant views here over rolling hills and valleys, with brown fields interspersed with many woods. Eventually reaching the far field corner, I went though a kissing-gate and continued alongside a hedge through a meadow, with a farm visible over to my right. I then turned right, along Roe End Lane, passing the farm on my right and  a few scattered houses on my left.

The lane ended after about a quarter of a mile, but I continued straight on along a bridleway lined by hedges. This is a particularly pleasant stretch of the walk, with occasional views over the countryside either side. After about half a mile, I turned right through a small area of trees (where I passed a lady walking her two spaniels) and then continued on a path just inside the edge of Byslips Wood. This soon brought me to Byslips Road (a minor road between Studham and Kensworth), where I went a few yards to the left to reach a path staring on the opposite side.

This path is one I use frequently on my walks (there are only a limited number of paths leading in and out of Kensworth!). It led across a huge ploughed field, soon passing a lone tree and then a wood on the right. Beyond the wood, the field was currently being harrowed and there was no sign of the path. So I had no option but to make my own way across, heading for an entrance into a wood on the far side. The path through the wood led to the edge of Holywell, where I turned right and followed the path that bordered the garden fences on my left.

The path took me down to Buckwood Lane, close to the junction with Dovehouse Lane. I followed the latter, which headed gently uphill with the tall hedges either side overarching the lane to almost form a green tunnel. At the top of the hill I reached Shortgrove Manor Farm, where I turned left. The track through a meadow was rather overgrown but then there was a clear path through a much larger field of short grass, with a view towards the houses of Kensworth across the small valley to my right.It was then a short walk along the Whipsnade Road to return to my starting point. I got home about 3pm.

I enjoyed this walk, as I always do (the last time I did this walk in this direction I had to endure three spells of rain or heavy showers, and still enjoyed it!). There is nothing remarkable about the walk, but it passes through some very pleasant undulating countryside and visits some attractive villages and hamlets. There are often good views of open countryside, with many woods visible. On a beautiful day like today, the walk was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

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