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Google map of this walk

Day 13 9/11/05 Aldenham to Shenley (5.5 miles each way)

Parked by Aldenham church.

Today got off to a bad start, as I had the worst drive to the start of a walk that I have had since starting to write these journals. I got stuck in a traffic jam near W*tford (as a Luton Town supporter, that word is a swear word to me!) and then I got lost looking for the A411. I eventually stopped and looked at my maps again, set off and still couldnt find the road I wanted. By good fortune, I suddenly came across the turning to Aldenham that Id been looking for. When I parked I looked at the maps again, convinced that the road numbering had been changed or something - in fact, Id somehow misread A41(T) on my OS map as A411T. No wonder Id been frustrated in my search for the A411! (The worrying thing is I did have my eyes checked just a few months ago!

So Im afraid I wasnt in the best of moods when I set off from Aldenham church, about 40 minutes later than Id planned probably just as well that it was a much shorter walk than usual. From the churchyard, a path led to a lane by its junction with a minor road. I followed the road for a few hundred yards, before a bridleway on the right led across a field for almost half a mile to reach the edge of Letchmore Heath [1]. The Hertfordshire Way effectively went round two sides of a triangle to visit the centre of this attractive village unfortunately it wasnt looking its best on this occasion as the pond had a large wire fence around it, and people with blowers were clearing the leaves off the green into large sacks.

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[1] Letchmore Heath

From Letchmore Heath, a path led through a garden and passed a stable to a paddock and then a field, where it joined a wider track. By the corner of a wood, the Hertfordshire Way turned right across a field. It followed the opposite hedge for a few yards, before entering and crossing a new orchard. It then went through the middle of a large grassy field, over a footbridge to reach the Watling Street (the old roman road, now the A5, which Id already crossed three times between St Albans and Redbourn). Across this, a road led to the Hertsmere JPS intrigued by what this might be, as I passed it I saw a sign saying Jewish Primary School. I followed a farm track for a few yards, and then as I crossed a stile I saw that a security guard had come out of the school and was eying me suspiciously, talking on his radio. I carried on across another large grass field beside a farm, over a dangerously slippery stile, and then followed a track parallel to a railway embankment. After a couple of hundred yards or so, I turned right on a path that went through a tunnel under the railway line, and then followed a hedgerow to emerge by another main road. Across this, I walked through two large linked cattle pastures (no cows, but plenty of evidence of them being there recently!) and then followed a hedge-lined path for about quarter of a mile.

Here I came upon a sign saying that the path ahead was not a public footpath, but the owner permitted access when the gate was open. There was a gate that was chained shut, but the kissing gate next to it was latched but not locked. I wasnt sure whether this meant I could go on or not (there was no mention of it being a permissive path in the guide book, which specifically mentioned the one near Kings Langley yesterday however, I checked on the map later and it was indeed a permissive path). I didnt really have a choice, so I went on (feeling rather sheepish), along a track and through the large stable area of an estate (there were several people here on my way back, and as I wasnt challenged I guess it was OK).

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[2] View from the lane between the stables and Shenley, looking towards the Vale of St Albans

I then followed a lane for about half a mile [2], with a view towards the water tower of the old Shenley Hospital, a large mental hospital for much of the last century. I lived in Shenley for a year when I was a student at the nearby Hatfield Polytechnic, sharing a house with some friends, and recall occasionally meeting patients from the hospital. A good footpath then led through a belt of trees, and then between fences [3,4] through a couple of fields to reach the Radlett to Shenley road. I crossed this to enter Shenley Park, where I turned left to reach the car park, my destination for the day.

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[3] View from near Shenley, looking towards the Vale of St Albans

I have to admit that this was the one time, so far, that I didnt feel too keen about turning round and heading back the way Id come. This was probably trepidation about whether I was trespassing on the permissive path, plus there were a couple of places where the route went uncomfortably close to properties such that I felt rather awkward passing through their gardens. Still, once I got going again the walk was fine and I had no problems. There was nowhere really suitable to stop for my lunch, so I ended up eating my sandwiches back in my car at Aldenham, which I reached just before 2pm.

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[4] Looking towards Shenley

I think that Id have enjoyed this walk more if my map-reading blunder hadnt delayed me so much and put me in a bad mood. It was a perfect day for walking, with clear blue skies and hardly any wind at all. Apart from my silly concerns about walking through private property, it was a perfectly pleasant route. Other than crossing a couple of main roads, it was entirely rural. The views from near Shenley were very attractive, looking out towards St Albans. It was certainly a much nicer walk than Id expected.

Im now halfway through the Hertfordshire Way. In terms of distance, Im about a mile past halfway if you include the alternative route via Hemel Hempstead (which I walked), less than half a mile short of halfway if you exclude that bit. In terms of days, I still think that it will take me 26 days, so this is the halfway mark in terms of days walked. There is, though, a slight chance that I might change my schedule so that I have an extra day to walk. Currently my penultimate walk is scheduled to be about 8.7 miles each way this may be a problem, because I will have to drive almost an hour to the start and as it will then be very close to the shortest day of the year, I might not have time to do it before it gets dark. So Im going to have to look at my schedule again I should be able to rejig things though, without having to insert another day into the plan.

Total Distance: 99.6 miles each way