A version of this story was first published in 2019
With a second lockdown well underway in Hertfordshire, residents are getting desperate for some time away from their homes.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been stressful for everyone and there’s no better way to de-stress than going for a nice long walk away from busy towns, roads and people.
Fortunately Hertfordshire is filled with some of the best walking routes through stunning countryside, past slow meandering canals and alongside abandoned railway lines.
With just weeks until Christmas and the weather starting to get colder, you’ll want to make sure that you’re wrapped up warm before heading out.
Walking is also good for the soul, the mind and physical health.
Whether you want to venture outside for some time alone with your thoughts, or want to find a new walking route you haven’t discovered before, these are perfect.
They are also suitable for the avid walker or someone who is just starting out their adventures.
We are lucky to have so many amazing walks in Hertfordshire.
Here are the 11 secluded walks in Herts where you won’t see another soul
1. Ayot Greenway, Welwyn Garden City
The Ayot Greenway is an abandoned railway line in Welwyn Garden City.
The railway, travelling from Welwyn Garden City to Dunstable, opened in 1858 after a strong demand from Luton – the largest town in England still without any railway.
It operated for more than 100 years and was used regularly by commuters until car travel become more popular in the 1950s.
Passenger services ended in 1951 but commercial traffic continued until 1966.
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The Ayot station was burnt down in a fire in 1948 but was never rebuilt and today it forms the car park for the Greenway foot and cycle route 57.
However, parts of it can still be seen like two sets of crossing gate posts at the south end of the station.
To the north of the crossing, foundations for a number of buildings can also be seen as well as a signal box.
The path runs for three miles starting at the White Bridge in Welwyn City, behind the library and Campus West, through Sherrards Wood to the Red Lion pub on the Great North Road, onto a bridge that crosses the A1(M) to a trail just north of Ayot St. Peter at the former station that carries on to Wheathampstead.
2. Along the River Lea
The River Lea flows for 46 miles through Hertfordshire and is one of the largest rivers in London.
It flows through Harpenden, Welwyn Garden City, to Hertford where it changes from a small shallow river to a deep canal at Hertford Castle.
It then goes on to Ware, Stanstead Abbotts, Hoddesdon, Broxbourne, Cheshunt and then through into Essex and London.
As it runs through so much of the county there’s multiple routes you can take.
There are various stages of the river that you can walk.
One particular route, that runs for around 16 miles, starts at Hatfield on a path that runs alongside the A414 road in the grounds of Home Park.
It cuts through a small woodland to the Cecil Saw Mill leading to a bridle way and then to the river.
The path crosses the river at Holwell Bridge and continues through woodland opposite Holwell Court and joins the Cole Green Way.
It continues to Hertford town centre passing the football club and castle and eventually rejoins the river.
It’s at this point where the Lea becomes the canalised River Lea Navigation and goes towards the Broxbourne.
Along the path ,there are multiple locks to see and stunning wildlife the whole way down.
3. The Ebury Way, Rickmansworth to Watford
Another abandoned railway line is the Ebury Way between Rickmansworth and Watford, and it was the shortest of all of Herts’ railway lines. It was only just over three miles long with one stop.
It opened in 1862 and an extension was intended from Rickmansworth to Uxbridge but it was never built.
Similar to other Herts railways, the line lost passengers to a larger one known as the new Metropolitan railway in 1887. It was electrified in 1927 to help boost passenger numbers but still was unable to compete and eventually it closed down in 1951.
Today, Ebury Way, also known as route 61 on the national cycle network, can be walked or cycled along from Rickmansworth to Oxhey Park in Watford.
You can access the route from Skidmore Way in Rickmansworth which will take you slightly along the River Chess before taking you past multiple stunning lakes.
Eventually by following the route you will come out at Oxhey Park.
4. Along the River Chess
The River Chess is a chalk stream that starts in the Chiltern Hills, flowing through Buckinghamshire and then Hertfordshire where it joins the River Colne in Rickmansworth.
Between 2004 and 2006, and in 2011 and 2012, the river suffered from a drought due to below average rainfall over long periods but now it’s a flowing well and is lovely to walk down.
The river is also home to several key species listed in the Government’s UK Biodiversity Action Plan such as the water vole, green sandpiper, grey heron, grey wagtail and the majestic kingfisher.
Starting at Chenies which lies on the border of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, you are able to access the river on Moor Lane just before you reach the left hand turning for Dawes Lane.
A pathway just off the road leads you over a footbridge where you’re able to freely walk up and down the river.
Around this area, along the river there a footbridges that you can cross that will take you back over to the road if need be.
Continuing south, open fields will begin to surround you next to the river.
The pathway will soon veer left away from the river but if you keep following the path, and cross New Road, you will eventually come back to it.
5. Wadesmill East Loop, Thundridge
A lovely walk around the countryside, featuring a medieval church en route that is well worth exploring.
Some of the going can get a little messy, but as long as you have a good pair of wellies, this shouldn’t prove too much of a problem.
The five-and-a-half mile route begins and ends in Wadesmill, where you can enjoy a well-deserved pint in warm comfort after you finish the walk in one of the two village pubs (when they reopen following the lockdown!)
Park in Wadesmill village centre and cross the river Rib on to Church Lane, before walking under the A10.
Head east via the Thundridge bridleway 54, walking past the Church of St Mary and All Saints, until you reach The River Rib.
Continue east down the river and onto Bridleway nine, until you reach Cold Christmas Lane.
Head north to Richmond’s Spring, then through Steere Wood and Sawtrees Wood before following paths back south west from Barwick Ford until you reach Aldekek Spring.
Head through Youngbury estate before reaching the A10 again, and you will return to Wadesmill.
6. Panshanger Park Loop, Hertford
This walk is great for dog walkers, featuring a number of pretty lakes and one of the world’s 180 chalk rivers.
Panshanger Park, near Hertford, features a picnic area and free car park, making it the ideal spot to visit in winter on the weekend.
This route is a breezy three miles, giving you a chance to see most of the best sites the park has to offer.
Park in the car park and head north-west into the woodland, ignoring the gate on your left and, instead, taking the path that heads north.
When you come to a fork, take the right turn and head north through Blakemore Wood.
Follow on the eastern edge of the wood until you reach the northern edge where the path turns left and heads east.
Take the sandy path heading north as it leaves the wood and weaves its way through long grass and flowers until you reach the northern exit of the reserve.
Turn left and, staying in the reserve, walk east along a permissive path that runs to the left of the hedgerow.
Continue as it bends left and heads south to follow the edge of Evergreen Wood.
Still following the edge of the wood the path then turns left again to head south-east before turning right to head south.
It then turns right and heads west, now following the southern edge of Evergreen Wood.
When you arrive at a footpath T-junction turn left and head south to another footpath T-junction. Here you have a good view over to Osprey Lake to the south.
Turn right at this footpath T-junction and continue east. Look out for an amazing old oak tree on the right.
When you reach a metal gate on the left go through and head south until you reach another gate to your right, through to Riverside Lake and the Oak Trail.
Turn left before you get to Riverside Lake and, keeping the lake on your right and the cottage on your left, follow the path as it drops down to a view point and bench by Kings Lake.
Turn left after Kings Lake and follow the path that is closest to the southern edge of Kings Lake.
Head east looking out for a pebble beach on your left where you can paddle in the water of the River Mimram.
When you reach a metal gate, go through and continue along the path until you reach an underpass on the right.
Here you turn left, cross a bridge, and then turn right heading north-east. After the second wooden footbridge look out for a metal gate on your left.
Go through this gate and head diagonally north-east across the field until you reach the car park.
7. Tring Park
Tring Park, located ten minutes from the town’s natural history museum, is a designated Site of Scientific Interest, protected by the Woodland Trust.
In winter it is also a perfect location to go rambling, with the following five mile walk beginning and ending in the town.
Starting on Park Street, take the footpath signposted Tring Park which leads to a footbridge over the A41.
After this follow the footpath sign diagonally left across the open fields and walk towards the woods in front of you.
Go through the gate and head uphill. Eventually you will see the white summer house ahead.
At the house, turn right and follow this path uphill to the point where the Ridgeway Path comes in from the left.
Continue onto King Charles’ Ride, which is an avenue of lime trees for more than a mile. You’ll soon be blessed with views of Tring and the countryside.
As you keep walking, you will eventually come across a wooden structure that looks like a gateway which leads to an area with timber sculptures that children can enjoy.
After this, stay on the Ridgeway Path to the end of the wood then turn left onto the road.
Next, turn right at the first junction through the hamlet of Hastoe. Then cross the road junction and turn right down the track by the white house.
Keep going until you reach the red brick house where there is a choice of paths, both which end up at West Leith hamlet so you can choose which one to take.
The path on the right is known as the ‘holloway’ which was used for centuries by farmers driving herds of cattles.
Once at the bottom of the wood, go through the gate to West Leith and another former Estate farm.
Follow the road down to a right turning into Duckmore Lane and go under the A41 bridge. Then turn immediately left into the Millennium Wood.
Stay on the path and you will eventually see a waymark pointing to the right which will lead you back to Duckmore Lane where you can turn left.
At the T-junction. turn right and walk along Park Road. You will then come to a fork in the path where you can either turn left into King Street to the Kings Arms Pub, or right along Park Road.
Park Road is more scenic and will take you back to the Natural History Museum.
Both have a junction with Langdon Street which will take you back to the town centre.
8. Cole Green Way, Cole Green
This six-mile line from Hertford to Welwyn was one of Hertfordshire’s earliest to be built in 1858 but closed more than 100 years later in 1962.
Due to the Hertford Loop line being added to the Great Northern line from London, giving faster access to the Hertford North station, this railway was never very popular.
In 1905, in an attempt to attract more passengers, railmotors (lightweight railcars) were introduced as well as two new stops known as Attimore Hall and Hatfield Hyde that could be found between Welwyn junction and Cole Green.
However, none of these were really used and were closed a month later.
The trail today is part of the national cycle network route 61 and starts at the edge of Welwyn Garden City at Cole Green Lane, heading towards the A414 with an underpass that allows you to see the former Cole Green station.
The trail then finished by Hertford Football Club and the viaduct south of Hertford North station.
9. Along the River Bulbourne
This seven-mile river is a relatively small one that can be found in the borough of Dacorum.
It is an example of a chalk stream which flows from chalk-fed groundwater. These are a very rare habitat worldwide.
Like many other rivers in the county, it starts in the Chiltern Hills, runs between Cow Roast and Dudswell, through Berkhamsted and Boxmoor where it joins the River Gade in Apsley.
Starting at the Berkhamsted train station, turn left out of it and head east along Station Road.
Then join the towpath at Castle Street and follow it east.
Cross the bridge and follow the canal for a while on the south side heading east. Here you will be able to enjoy the river away from the busy, noisy town.
You will need to leave the path at bridge 146 and turn right onto Sharpes Lane.
Cross London Road turning right and onto Sugar Lane.
Here you will see a public track that takes you through beautiful green farmland.
After a while you will need to take the walkway under the A41 and follow the field boundary to Bottom Farm.
At Sandpit Green, cross the road and enter the playing fields through the gate and then turn right onto Kings Road.
After passing the entrance to the Waitrose car park turn left onto another footpath.
Take the footbridge that crosses the canal and follow the path back to Lower Kings Road and the train station.
10. Oughtonhead Common, Hitchin
Oughtonhead Common is a lovely area to walk in near Hitchin if you are into wildlife and water features.
You can find a waterfall in the common and enjoy views of the surrounding Chiltern Hills, making it an idyllic spot for ramblers.
The walk starts in Hitchin town centre and picks up the Hitchin Outer Orbital Path.
It’ll take you into the common and once you have passed this you’ll pick up the Icknield Way Path and follow it west to the village of Pirton.
You’ll make your way into the Pegsdon Hills on the border or Herts and Bedfordshire. Here you can enjoy the pretty sites of the chalk hills and wildflower meadows.
After the hills, you’ll pass Tingley Wood and pick up the same trails to return you back to the town centre.
11. The Nickey Line, Hemel Hempstead to Harpenden
The Nickey Line travelled from Hemel Hempstead to Harpenden and it is unclear how it gained this name.
Some believe it was due to the fact people named it after the steep gradients deriving from the word ‘furnicular’. Others include a link to the half length trousers known as ‘knickerbockers’ that were worn by the men who built the line or because the line was considered half size, being only a single track.
Opening in July 1877 the line was built to actually link the straw plait trade in Hemel Hempstead to the hat makers of Luton as well as allowing local people to travel.
However, both passenger and commercial traffic declined due to the introduction of cars and the last passenger train ran in 1947.
The last commercial train lasted considerably longer before shutting down in 1979.
Seven and a half miles of the line are still available for you to walk and cycle down today and it’s maintained by The Friends of the Nickey Line group.
A detailed look of the different walks you can do along the line can be found here.