I thoroughly enjoyed walking the Hertfordshire Way. It went through some very pleasant countryside and through some attractive villages and towns, taking me to places in the county that I’d never been before. The stretch in the south of the county was slightly less attractive than other parts, but this was inevitable in such a densely populated area and the walks here were by no means unpleasant. I did the walk in Autumn and Winter – I am sure it would be even more enjoyable in Spring or Summer.
The sections of the walk that I enjoyed most were probably the two rather long days from Tring to Hemel Hempstead and then from Hemel to King’s Langley (Days 9 and 10), plus the splendid walk through the ancient woods near Broxbourne on Day 16. The last section of the Hertfordshire Way between Bishop’s Stortford and Royston was very pleasant, it was a shame I had to split it into slightly shorter walks than usual. I really enjoyed the walk around historic St Albans on Day 7. Of the villages that I passed through, Much Hadham was the most interesting because of its range of buildings from different periods, with Barkway almost certainly the next best. Anstey also had some interesting features, and Aldbury is an old favourite of mine (although it is a bit of a honeypot). Hertford seemed to be a very nice town, and I’d like to visit it again.
Roman wall and the Abbey, St Albans (Day 7)
As the Hertfordshire Way is a very similar distance to the Chiltern Way, I feel I should compare the two. I always expected that the Hertfordshire way would be the slightly inferior walk, a view reaffirmed by the walkers I met at Whitwell who had done both walks. In fact there really wasn’t that much in it, the Chiltern Way just getting my vote mainly because the Hertfordshire Way had to pass through, or close to, so many built-up areas in the south of the county. There was nowhere on the Hertfordshire Way that matched the stretch of the Chiltern Way between Hambleden and Stonor, and of course the Chiltern Way had Red Kites! But overall, the scenery wasn’t that much different between the two walks, and the Hertfordshire Way certainly made much better use of the wonderful beech woods of Ashridge and Berkhamsted Common (presumably because it was created earlier than the Chiltern Way so had first pick of the routes).
I think I prefer the thinking behind the Chiltern Way, too. Both walks are circular, but on the Chiltern Way you can start and finish at any point you choose, and you can do the walk in either direction, so it is completely flexible. The Hertfordshire Way starts and finishes at Royston, and is only signposted in the anti-clockwise direction so you have to walk it that way (Important note: you can’t rely on the maps if you wanted to walk it in the other direction – it’s not shown on some maps, and on others the old route is shown).
This matter of flexibility applies to the guide books too. The one for the Hertfordshire Way splits the route into 16 ‘Legs’ of 11-15 miles each and so only gives details of available parking at the start and end of each leg. The Chiltern Way guide book splits the walk into many more much smaller sections, each with its own parking details (etc.), which certainly makes life easier for people like me who want to plan our own walks. Overall, I think the Chiltern Way guide book is better than that for the Hertfordshire Way – its route directions are more detailed and it gives more historic and other factual information (this view is supported by the fact that it is contains 50% more pages than the Hertfordshire Way guide, when the walks are of very similar length). Having said that, the Hertfordshire Way guide book was perfectly adequate and I certainly missed fewer turnings on this walk than I did on the Chiltern Way (perhaps I’m getting better!).
I’m certainly not trying to put anyone off walking the Hertfordshire Way, I’m just saying that if you have to choose between one or the other, personally I’d plump for the Chiltern Way. I do, of course, have to admit the possibility of bias here, as I was born and brought up in the Chilterns! In comparing the two, I have been very conscious that I walked the Chiltern Way in the Spring/Summer and the Hertfordshire Way in the Autumn/Winter and have tried to take that into account.