On Friday (March 6th 2009) I repeated a walk I first did about a month ago. Starting at Studham Common the 17-mile circular route took me to the hamlet of Briden’s Camp and then on to the edge of the large village of Redbourn, returning via Trowley Bottom, Cheverell’s Green and Roe End. The start of the walk follows Walk 2 of my Chiltern Chain Walk, and most of the return from Redbourn is the same as my Kensworth-Redbourn walk. But the majority of this route I’d only walked that once before.
I started walking from the car park on Studham Common at about 9.35am – it was a cold but beautiful morning, with clear blue skies and still a touch of frost in a few shaded places. As I walked along the top of the common, there was a good view back over the common to Studham itself, and ahead and to my right I could see the bridleway from Roe End that would be my return route, with Dedmansey Wood beyond.
In the corner of the common I turned right, following a hedgerow on my left beside a field showing the first green shoots of some arable crop. Further on I passed Great Bradwin’s Wood on my left. At the end of the wood I went through a gate and followed a fence through a small empty paddock, then continued along a gravel drive to reach a road. Opposite me were the village social club, a Scout hut, and some playing fields. I followed the road to the left, soon bearing right at a fork.
After about quarter of a mile, I turned left onto another footpath. Again I was following the left edge of an arable field. In the field corner the path turned right, and shortly afterwards switched to the left of the hedgerow. There was now a huge flat arable field on my left, as I followed the broad hedgerow for several hundred yards to the next field corner. I remembered seeing Bluebells in the hedgerow when I walked the Chiltern Chain Walk last Spring.
I then had a bit of a problem. The path goes through a hedge gap near the field corner, and follows the hedge to the left. There was now a new metal farm gate across the gap, with no footpath sign. I went through the gate and turned left, discovering that there was also a new barbed-wire fence alongside the hedge. I followed the hedge and wire fence, which soon turned left and equally soon then turned right. At this point, the footpath goes through a hedge gap and then turns right along the far side of the hedge. But the new barbed-wire fence blocked the gap (a wooden post with footpath waymarks lay discarded on the ground), so I had no option but to follow the right side of the hedge, rejoining the official route of the footpath by going over a gate in the next field corner.
The path continued through a field that is usually a sheep pasture, then goes through a kissing-gate to join a farm track. A few yards along this, I left the route of the Chiltern Chain Walk by turning left. This path crossed a large empty l-shaped pasture, heading for the corner of a wood. It continued through the pasture, with the wood on my right. Over a stile in the corner I turned right, still with the wood on my right. I turned left in the corner of a large ploughed field, then took a footpath going right which took me through a small field of rough grass and on to a road heading into Gaddesden Row.
I followed the road a few yards to the left, towards the village, then turned right onto another field path. This ran through a few more arable fields, crossing the Hertfordshire Way at one point, then ran between wooden fences separating several paddocks. I crossed a narrow hedge-lined lane, the footpath continuing on a headland between fields with a large white water tower over to my left. I crossed another empty field and took a short permissive path (that avoided the official path route through a small meadow next to a house) to reach a drive.
I went over a stile on the far side, briefly joining the route of the Chiltern Way, and followed the right edge of a meadow – I had a distant view of some Partridges ahead of me here. The path then went half-right across the parkland of a large house called Golden Parsonage – I passed some large trees here that I think are some type of Walnut. When the path reached the drive from the house, the Chiltern Way followed it towards Water End, but I turned half-left onto a hedge-side path. After a hundred yards or so, I turned right onto a footpath running along a wide grassy ride between hedgerows with many mature trees. As I did so, I noticed two Hares in the field on my left which had been disturbed by a tractor. One ran almost straight towards, and crossed the path a few yards in front of me – I managed to get a poor quality photo, the best I’ve managed of a Hare so far.
There were several horse jumps or fences along the grassy ride. I spotted another Hare in the field on my right, and another crossed the ride ahead of me (I think it was the second one fleeing from the tractor). I spotted another Partridge, but was again unable to see if it was a Grey or (more probably) Red-legged Partridge. The path then switched to the left of the hedgerow on my left, following it for several hundred yards beside an arable field on my left to reach the drive to a large farm complex. I followed the drive to the left to reach a lane.
I turned right and followed the lane carefully as it entered the small hamlet of Briden’s Camp (no, sorry, I’ve not been able to find the origins of this intriguing name!). I passed the pub and a few cottages on my left, and after the last building took a path on the left. This soon turned half right, and there were now some attractive views to my right, across the Gade Valley and towards Nettleden in a side valley on the far side. The path passed a bit of woodland and turned left, downhill between the wood and a small young plantation.
At the bottom of the small dip, the path turned right alongside a hedge on my right (the map showed the path on the other side of the hedge, but the waymarks showed the path on this side and there was a clear path here). There was a nice view ahead into the Gade Valley heading towards Hemel Hempstead, but it was difficult to photograph as I was looking into the sun. The path ran gently downhill for several hundred yards, to reach a path junction in the next field corner.
Here I turned left, following a bridleway uphill for some distance beside a neatly-trimmed hedge on my right. There were increasingly fine views looking back, again across the Gade Valley and towards Nettleden, so I used this as an excuse to stop a couple of times on the long steady climb. There was a short awkward muddy section near the top of the hill, then the bridleway switched to the right of the hedgerow which was now a fine line of mature trees. I found this section particularly pleasant, following the hedgerow with nice views over arable fields ahead and to my right. I passed a pond in the hedge, and spotted a black fungus on an oak log (I later had the fungus identified on ‘Wild About Britain’ as probably King Alfred’s Cakes, also known as Cramp Balls).
The bridleway followed the hedge slightly downhill, then I turned right on another bridleway, again following a mature hedge on my left. The hedge and bridleway soon turned left, heading uphill, then turned right and left again by a field corner. I passed a lady walking a dog as the rather muddy path led me to a lane, with the houses of Cupid Green on the edge of Hemel Hempstead visible a short distance to my right.
I crossed the lane and followed a farm track opposite, which went down into a slight dip and up the other side, passing a small copse and an old chalk pit on my right. As I continued beside a trim hedge on my right, I saw a Buzzard ahead of me over Hay Wood. I turned left in the field corner, then went right, over a stile, following the edge of the wood with a small arable field on my right. In the field corner the path turned left, running through a small belt of trees, soon merging with a parallel bridleway and then joining a farm track between hedges.
At the end of the track, I turned right along the lane between Gaddesden Row and Redbourn. I took great care as the narrow lane twisted round a couple of bends, then I turned left onto a narrower lane. A cyclist passed me here, as I followed the lane steadily uphill. It soon levelled out, and continued on past an isolated farmhouse. After about half a mile of lane walking, I took a path going right – this was an attractive field path, with a good view ahead over fields and a small wood. The path passed to the left of the wood, then veered half-left between large flat arable fields to eventually meet a path junction near Flamsteadbury Farm. A small flock of Yellowhammers flew past me here.
I could have shortened the walk here, by turning left and following the Hertfordshire Way towards Flamstead, but instead turned right, passing the farm complex and crossing a bridge over the M1. I soon turned left and followed a path to the edge of Redbourn, where I again turned left. I followed the path for some distance with the back fences of some of the houses of Redbourn on my right. I then crossed another bridge back over the motorway, and turned left on a fenced path beside some paddocks.
This last section was not particularly interesting (it probably seems odd just crossing the motorway only to come back across it a bit further on), but the point was it enabled me to reach the path beyond the paddocks, which was another highlight of the walk. This initially followed a hedgerow on my left, but soon the hedge was replaced by a wood – the path continued just inside the edge of the wood for several hundred yards, a pleasant change from the mainly field paths so far. Across the large field on my left was the farm track from Flamsteadbury towards Trowley Bottom and Flamstead, the route of the Hertfordshire Way and the way I go on my Kensworth-Redbourn walk.
Beyond the wood, the path continued alongside a hedgeline on my right, which turned left then right in quick succession a couple of times, before eventually reaching a distant field corner. Here I went a few yards to the left on a track between mature hedgerows (it had obviously just been re-engineered with ditches either side, it was flooded and impassable the last time I was here), then took a path on the right. This crossed a small stubble field to a far hedgerow containing some mature trees, where I turned right. Beyond the stubble field the path descended a green valley of horse paddocks, with a nice view ahead to Flamstead, with its church topped by a ‘Hertfordshire Spike’. Sadly, the site of the large puddle at the bottom of the valley where I once met a little boy ‘fishing for Alligators’ had been filled in.
Partway up the opposite slope of the valley, the bridleway turned left, soon running between some old cottages to reach a road junction in the hamlet of Trowley Bottom (which adjoins Flamstead). I took the lane ahead of me to reach a crossroads, where I continued ahead on a bridleway – I was now back on the route of my Kensworth-Redbourn walk, so this was very familiar to me. I spotted a Buzzard ahead of me – last time I walked this way I’d seen a Red Kite. The bridleway followed a valley bottom for some distance and ended at a bend in a lane. Here I stopped and sat on a log for a very late lunch – it was now about 2.20pm, and I’d already had a couple of extra Alpen bars to keep me going. This was probably my latest ever stop for lunch, there just hadn’t really been anywhere else suitable (though I guess I could have detoured slightly to the park benches around the huge green in Redbourn).
Suitably refreshed, I turned right and followed the lane uphill. At the top of the slope, I turned left at a crossroads and set off down Friendless Lane (an old favourite of mine). After a short distance I turned half-left on a path through Friendless Wood, turning right along the far side of the wood. The path continued onwards, parallel to the lane, following a hedgerow and then another small bit of woodland on my right. It then crossed a stubble field, and carried on along a thick garden hedge on my left – there were three horses here in what are usually empty small grass fields. I then rejoined Friendless Lane shortly before it terminated at a junction on the edge of Cheverell’s Green (a hamlet adjoining Markyate).
I continued on the very familiar path from Markyate to Roe End, with attractive views ahead and to my right over rolling hills, dotted with several woods. When I reached Roe End, I turned right along the lane. Where it ended, I took its continuation, an initially muddy track between hedges (I’ve always assumed it’s a bridleway but its actually signposted as a ‘public highway’). The muddy section was soon over and it was as usual a pleasant stretch along the flat and hedge-lined track. I had to remember to follow the track when it eventually turned left, rather than take the path going right (which is my usual way back to Kensworth).
The track continued onwards, soon going a short distance downhill beside a waterworks on the left. At the bottom of the valley I reached a corner of Studham Common (where I once spotted my first Bee Orchid!). I trudged uphill along the left edge of the common, meeting an elderly lady with a very friendly Spaniel, and turned right at the top to return to my car. It was now 3.45pm and, allowing 10 minutes for lunch, I’d walked the 17 miles in about six hours, which wasn’t too bad considering I’d taken 170+ photos.
This was only the second time I’d done this walk, so a large part of it was quite fresh to me, though the start and end were a little over-familiar from other walks. The walk is one of the longer ones I do, which makes it slightly more of a physical challenge. It is a relatively flat route, with only one lengthy bit of uphill and that isn’t very steep. That uphill is the start of a very pleasant section towards Cupid’s Green, where there is little sign of habitation and some very nice views. The path from Redbourn to Trowley Bottom is good too, though it necessitates the less interesting section that crosses the M1 twice in quick succession. Overall it was not the best of walks, but a very enjoyable one nevertheless.