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Life Line

Walking: St. Albans to Berkhamstead

After two weeks away from the trails, this Saturday I set out for another walk to clear my head. I walked from St. Albans to Berkhamstead via Hemel Hampstead, again following some of the SlowWays UK routes.

St. Albans' Cathedral

Leaving the station at St. Albans I walked along its shopping streets for a while, before going past its magnificent cathedral and into Verulamium Park, named after St. Albans' Roman name. There are still some Roman things to see, such as mosaics and remnants of the old city walls, by which I left the park on the Western side, but not after having admired the many snow drops that lined the path.

Park Wood

On the other side of King Harry Lane sits a newish development which I had to cross through narrowish public footpaths to be able to go up a hill through farmland to the A414, which I crossed with a bridge. On the other side sits Park Wood, with many (incorrect) signs saying "private land, no access". The council recently has established a few new public foot paths in the wood, which would have allowed me to take a little short cut. I did not find out about it after I had already crossed it and ended up on a narrow lane.

I did follow the new footpaths for a bit to avoid the lane, but after not much distance my only option was to actually follow the lane. There wasn't much room in the verge, but there was not a lot of traffic, which could have made walking along here dangerous. A blind summit was a little on the scarier side.

From Potters Crouch to Bedmond my route went along more lanes, and to be honest, this was the least nice part of the walk. Unfortunately the extensive network of public footpaths in England does not always help with the directions you're trying to walk in.

Top of the Hill

On the other side of Church Hill in Bedmond, my route continued along the edge of a field, followed by a public footpath sign pointing straight across a newly ploughed field. I always feel a little bad about crossing these, but it was my only way through, and I saw other people walking on a different footpath across the same field. By looking through my camera's zoom lens, I found the exit point on the other side of the field, and went for it in a (mostly) straight line. I hope that the next walked can follow in my footsteps.

After crossing a lane, a stile, a field and another stile, my route was suddenly blocked by a field of horses. OpenStreetMap did not actually contain that specific public footpath, and although I have now added it, I did decide to take a small detour around it. I don't like messing with horses.

I followed a path first along the edge of the farmland, where I suddenly came eye to eye with a Muntjac deer. I was too slow to get my camera out to take a photo of this tiny creature, as it trundled through the brambles to a safer space.

Grand Union Canal

After going around Abbot's Hill school's vast estate, I ended up along the Grand Union Canal which I followed until the big Sainsbury's on the other side. For some odd reason, the people who drew the SlowWays route made you leave the tranquil canal for a few busy roads, and up a steep path through a tiny bit of lovely woodland, to end up on a dangerous crossing across the A414 where it joins the A41. There were some great views from here, but I do not think it was worth it, and I would have preferred to follow the Grand Union Canal all the way to Hemel Hempstead's station. I will be proposing an alternative route, which also adds the shortcut through the aforementioned Park Wood, and avoids the field of horses.

The second part of my walk, all the way to Berkhamstead was very straightforward. I just has to follow the canal! I walked the length of the Grand Union Canal, from London to Birmingham, a few years ago, but that was in summer and autumn. Now it is just about spring, with the trees still fairly bare, and no little birds to be seen. The path wasn't very muddy luckily, and although it was lovely to walk along the canal again, it was fairly monotonous. I do always like watching boats go through the locks though, but it was too chilly to linger too much.


I left the canal at the Port of Berkhampsted to take the train home into London, where I enjoyed a lovely pint to celebrate yet another successful walk.


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