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Google map of this walk

Day 19 11/01/06 Cuffley to Little Berkhamsted (7.9 miles each way)

Parked in car park at Cuffley.

I really should not have tempted fate by saying in my last entry that I ‘am still on schedule to finish by Christmas’! Unfortunately my bad back has been playing up, and so there has been a seven week gap between my last walk on the Hertfordshire Way and this one. I visited a physiotherapist four times, and have also seen a podiatrist to have some changes made to the special insoles or orthotics that I need to wear (partly to ease my back and knee problems, partly because my left leg is 1.5cm shorter than my right leg – apparently a difference in leg lengths of up to 1cm is quite normal, beyond that some form of treatment is advisable). With a bad back, dodgy knees and one leg shorter than the other, I sometimes think it’s a minor miracle that I can walk at all!

The last seven weeks have been very frustrating, as I have really missed being able to go for a long walk. Under instructions from the physiotherapist, I have been for a short walk most days, gradually building them up from about half an hour to one and a half hours, and have done up to an hour of physiotherapy exercises each day. Once the physiotherapist gave the go ahead, I did a couple of walks of about two and a half hours as a warm up for the longer walks I do on the Hertfordshire Way. It was with a feeling of great relief when I finally set off to do today’s walk.

There was some light rain on and off during my hour’s drive to Cuffley this morning, but it had stopped by the time I got there. The weather forecasters got it right today - the grey clouds gradually disappeared eastward during the morning, and by lunchtime there was an almost perfect blue sky – just a few wispy white clouds about. It warmed up during the day too, so that I took my coat off for the last hour of the walk – most of the time I had had it fully unzipped anyway.

[1] Path through wood near Cuffley

 

My last walk completed the alternative route from Cuffley to Hertford (legs 10A and 10B in the Guide book), so today I returned to Cuffley to start the original route to Hertford (leg 10). From the station, I went under the railway bridge and turned right into Tolmers Road. I followed this residential street for almost a mile (it seemed mainly uphill!) to its end – it was then nice to leave the road walking and follow a very pleasant footpath through a wood, following a wooden rail fence on the right [1]. After a few hundred yards, I reached a road where I turned right. The guide book warned that this road could be dangerously busy and there wasn’t a footpath – it was fine in the morning, but coming back in the afternoon the road was busier and there were a couple of awkward places where there was no verge at all and I had to press myself into the bushes to get out of the way of the oncoming traffic.

 

[2] Looking back along the farm track from Newgate Street

 

After half a mile, the road lead into the village of Newgate Street – a woman motorist asked me for directions, but as I wasn’t a local I couldn’t help her with the road she was looking for although I think I clarified things a bit for her by explaining that Newgate Street was a place, not a road. From Newgate Street I took a lane heading west. When the houses ended, it became a farm track which soon passed a farm where several dogs barked. The track was quite muddy with many large puddles [2], passing between fields of grass and potatoes, with extensive views to the left. After a few hundred yards, it turned to the right and shortly afterwards reached a road by a cottage. I turned left and then almost immediately forked right into Cucumber Lane. The amount of road walking so far was becoming a bit tiresome, but the lane was quiet with nice views of fields and woods over the hedgerows [3] and I only had to follow it for just under half  a mile.

 

[3] View from Cucumber Lane

 

I then turned left onto a bridleway just inside a wood. This soon became just a thin belt of trees [4], maybe 10 yards either side of the path with fields or paddocks visible through the trees.  This very pleasant path eventually became a wide track that passed a few houses and reached a road. A footpath opposite then lead to a farm yard, and a well signposted path led through trees and then downhill between hedges or fences. At a cross road of paths at the valley bottom, the Hertfordshire Way turned left along a very muddy path with a stream on the right. It then followed the edge of a grass field, and passed through a kissing gate to reach a track, where two horse riders passed by. I followed the track to the right for about half a mile, to where a footpath went off to the left.

 

[4] Looking back along the bridleway through the belt of trees

 

At this point, the Hertfordshire Way does a rather peculiar thing. The next section of the route almost formed a rough equilateral triangle, so that after another 20 minutes walking I’d almost come back to the point I’d started from! The footpath followed the side of another grass field to a stile that led to a road by a pub in West End (presumably the odd triangle in the route was to enable walkers to have a pub stop here). The next side of the triangle was to the right, along the road through the village, and then the last side was along a track – the same one I’d just been on a few minutes before! So when after half a mile I came to the footpath junction on the left that I now wanted, I could see 10 yards ahead of me the start of the footpath  (now on my right) that had taken me to the pub. I was sorely tempted to take a short cut here on my way back, but resisted the temptation.

 

The footpath led downhill with a hedge on the left. At the valley bottom I met three ladies walking in the opposite direction who warned me that the path ahead, uphill and through a wood, was muddy and slippery. It wasn’t too bad, although as they had said it was slippier coming downhill as I discovered on my way back. The path led to the cricket ground at the village of Essendon.

 

From School Lane in Essendon, a footpath led beside a school and then across a golf course. The path here was on tarmac, but route finding would have been easier if waymarks hadn’t been partially obscured by bushes. The path then led uphill through trees and then between fields to a farm yard and a track leading to a road. After a few yards, I turned right on a bridle path and then after about 50 yards I turned left onto a path along the left edge of Little Berkhamsted cricket ground [5] (so that was two cricket grounds and a golf course in the last mile or so!). I stopped at the road on the far side of the cricket ground, as that was my destination for today.

 

[5] Little Berkhamsted

On the way back, I stopped at the cricket ground in Essendon and ate my lunch on a bench there – very convenient and well-timed, as it was just a few minutes before one o’clock when I got back there. I knew I then just had a two-hour walk back to Cuffley. The sky was blue with hardly a cloud in it now, quite a contrast to the dark grey clouds that had looked very threatening when I set off. Not having done such a long walk for seven weeks, I expected to find today’s walk a bit tougher than I usually do. This turned out to be the case – I’ve certainly lost some fitness as well as put on some pounds during the last seven weeks. It wasn’t too much of a struggle though, although the last mile of walking along Tolmers Road was a bit wearisome. I certainly felt more tired than usual when I got back to my car (writing this the next day, my leg muscles are a bit sore, the first time they’ve felt tired the day after a walk for a very long time).

This was a very pleasant walk, which was easy to navigate as it was on good clear paths and tracks throughout. I was surprised by how ‘up and down’ it was – there were no massive hills and nothing at all steep, but there were a lot of gentle ascents and descents. There was good variety as well, with a nice amount of woodland paths. The only bad thing was the amount of road walking at the beginning of the walk (and therefore at the end as well), particularly the mile-long stretch along Tolmers Road in Cuffley.

Total Distance: 143.7 miles each way