Kings Langley – Garston – Aldenham – Letchmore Heath – Elstree
Trains for Kings Langley run from London Euston via Watford Junction twice an hour on weekdays and once an hour on Sundays. Watford Junction is also served by London Overground, but not by the Metropolitan line.
Trains run from Elstree towards St Pancras twice an hour. London buses run from Elstree towards Barnet and Edgware (both on the Northern Line). Ticket tip: use Oyster pay-as-you-go to Watford Junction and from Elstree, buying a separate single ticket from Watford to Kings Langley.
This is a pretty short walk and it is difficult to shorten it in a sensible manner.
Markings: You need a map. You are following the Hertfordshire Way but it is not marked reliably on the ground.
Conditions: About 2 m on pavement. Numerous muddy sections. No significant hills.
Landscape: Fields and meadows with a few small woods. Suburban in places with traffic noise in the background, so that this walk reminds a bit of the atmosphere on the London Loop.
Attractions: Numerous mansions, but most are difficult to see.
Length of walk: 4 1/2 hours for the walk itself, 5 hours including the station link in Elstree.
Exit the station, crossing the road and taking the public footpath nearly directly opposite. This goes down to the river, passing a small industrial area and turning right at the bottom of the incline. The footpath then continues along the canal to a footbridge. Cross the footbridge and continue along the towpath in the same direction (northwards), passing Kings Langley lock. After a few hundred yards, the towpath reaches a road bridge over the canal; turn right here and go up the road to the main road. Cross this main road and continue ahead along the minor road, crossing the railway tracks using the road tunnel. The road turns quite steep as it climbs between houses; there is a side road first left and then right along the road in order to get further from the traffic. The side road on the right side ends at a farm track; turn right into this track. This is actually the Hertfordshire Way, but there are very few markings on this path within built areas.
The track goes downhill into a valley and climbs on the other side towards the hill crest. This will give you good views towards the village and the large Ovaltine factory. The factory was actually closed in 2002 and converted into luxury flats. The front of the building is listed and has been kept standing; I haven’t seen it because I would have had to walk a bit along the busy main road, but it might have been interesting as pictures on Internet show a typical Art Déco façade.
Once you are on the ridge, turn left into an other track. This continues along the ridge for a while, turns a bit right, then a bit left as it passes fields. It crosses a public footpath, but this can be ignored. You do need to leave the track a little later and there is a clear signpost pointing left and ahead across a field towards the Bedmond sports grounds.
You can cross the sports grounds to the road, turning right to go into the village, and you continue until you reach the T-crossroads with a more important road. Turn right here towards Abbots Langley, then soon afterwards left into Bell Lane, a minor road. This peters out after passing Ninnings Farm at the corner of a wood. The Hertfordshire Way tiptoes around the farm grounds, entering the wood and then turning right to reach meadows. The footpath crosses the meadow among the apple trees, going gently downhill.
Continue in the same direction until you reach Tenements Farm with conspicuous buildings covered in black weatherboard. You are expected to walk around the farm on the left side, using a footpath across a horse pasture. This is a horribly muddy meadow churned by heavy horse hooves. Once you have extricated yourself from the mud at the other end, a stile lets you cross to a footbridge over the M25 motorway. I suspect that the original footpath probably crossed the farm yard, avoiding the mud, but privacy and safety considerations might have led to the change of routing.
After the footbridge, you walk along a farm track turning slowly left and downhill and finally merging with a lovely country lane. Unfortunately, this road (Chequers Lane) is a popular shortcut with speedy traffic including many white vans. You walk left along Chequers Lane until you pass a few houses and turn right here across the hedges into a public footpath. There is a signpost but it is half hidden by the hedge growth. There are actually two public footpaths starting from here and you take the left one, crossing a meadow and reaching sports grounds used by Garston Manor school, a specialised school for children with learning disabilities. Continue towards the fence in front of you and walk along the fence, keeping it to your left, until you reach the next road. The fence then proves to be the enclosure for a cemetery. If you are not in a terrible hurry, walk into the cemetery to the back of the car park where there is a lovely peace garden. The cemetery is actually very well kept with trees and lawns.
Leaving the cemetery, continue along the road until you reach the main road. You should be able to cross it quite easily as traffic is moderate; walk then right along the main road for a few yards until you can turn left again into Bucknalls Lane. This is a pleasant suburban street passing lovely houses. The road later turns into a wide track across Bricket Wood Common. The track crosses a railway line (the side line from St Albans to Watford Junction). If you need to end the walk here, you can use a public footpath right along the tracks in order to reach Garston station.
Continuing the walk, you can ignore all sorts of more or less conspicuous side tracks and paths crossing your way. The track does feel a little less well kept after a while but remains easy to follow straight ahead, passing a very pleasant clearing where I took advantage of the nice location to have lunch. The track later crosses a minor road and is paved when it leaves the wood because it is also used as the access road to Munden House, a beautiful 18th century property owned by Lord Knutsford.
Of course, you are not supposed to come close to the house. There is a perfectly marked footpath on your right across the meadows and this is what you are supposed to take. The meadow is lush and kept in excellent shape by a large flock of sheep so that the footpath is not very clear. The easiest direction is to walk towards the right end of the copse of wood in front of you. When you come closer and see the valley bottom, you can easily point out the footbridge. Before going down to the bridge, you might want to look back at the meadow as this will give you a glimpse of Munden House.
The footpath leaves His Lordship’s grounds via a conspicuous stile. Cross the stile and the field behind it in order to reach the footbridge across the river Colne. There is a second footbridge just afterwards, but there is usually no water underneath as it is the flood channel. Continue then ahead across a meadow towards an imposing building, Well Hall, that has been used as a university building. It is actually a mock-gothic castle from the 19th century and was converted in luxury flats in 2003.
In its heyday, the castle was owned by John Pierpont Morgan, the well-known banker, and later by the US ambassador to Britain during the Second World War. You do not actually walk up to the castle, you stay further right and walk along a series of houses. I wondered initially whether they are actual farm buildings, recreations of such buildings or plain new-built houses in farm style. Actually, all the buildings were set up by a single developer, but they tried to make it look interesting and to build in vernacular manner. English developers often build in the most boring, cheap, standard manner, but this specific development received a well-earned architecture price.
Your route leaves Well Hall through the only access road and you therefore cannot get lost despite the lack of markings. There is a signpost shortly after the gates pointing left to a public footpath and this brings you across a field straight ahead to a row of trees. Turn right along the row of trees and you will reach the houses of Aldenham. Aim for the church on the village green. This is a listed site and it was indeed used as a set in a few period films as a large cinema studio has offices nearby. Aldenham church is medieval but will probably be closed. A few other buildings are worth a look nearby, particularly the village hall built in the 16th century and the vicarage from the 18th century in typically Georgian bricks. The farm behind the church is listed as well and dates back to the 17th century.
To continue the walk, I suggest you cross the cemetery at the apse of the church and walk along the back walls of the farm. This will bring you to a track and then to a road. Continue atraight ahead along the road towards Radlett to the next crossroads. You can ignore Roundbush Lane, the first road branching off, because you should take The Spinney, a sort of side lane. At the end of it, cross Primrose Lane, an other country lane, and walk into the field as marked by the public footpath sign. The path is quite obvious and continues all the way to the first houses of the next village, Letchmore Heath.
Ultimately, the quickest way to cross the village is to turn left along the road, then left into Grange Lane, then left into Common Lane. But the village is worth visiting with a lovely duck pond on the village green. Piggott’s Manor, a former mansion built in the 17th century, sits in a park bordering the village green and you can get a glimpse through the trees. It was built by George Harrison, one of the Beatles, who presented it to the Hare Krishna religious community as he was a member. The community took over the property in 1994 despite very vocal disapproval from the village residents and is actually keeping quiet behind the fences of the property. You can probably walk a bit into the parc of the mansion as there is a shop for religious paraphernalia and a spirituality centre in the building nowadays. Nonetheless, I did not dare. The guru of the community changed the property’s name to “Bhaktivedanta Manor”.
Coming back to Common Lane, you have a choice between walking directly on the pavement or climbing up the embankment on the left side in order to walk along the meadow above the hedge, using a public footpath. The second solution avoids the traffic, but you have to be careful to leave the footpath in due time as the route turns right into a farm access and does not climb all the way along the road. Passing the farm on the public footpath, you continue across fields to a crossing shortly before reaching the wood. You turn right here, following a clear signpost, and walk donwhill towards a copse of wood at the bottom of the vale. You will find a remarkably complex stile here and this leads you a sort of orchard with a neatly laid stone path. Following the path, you will find an other stile at the top of the orchard and this gives access to the road without crossing the yard of Little Kendals Farm.
You are only crossing this road and enter the next meadow, walking towards a rickety footbridge over a brook and then towards the stile giving access to an A-road. Again, it is enough to cross the road and you can walk up the imposing access alley for Kendal Hall, a mansion now used as the seat of a Jewish private school. After passing the row of magnificent trees, ignore the side road left serving the farm and continue across the stile into the next meadow. The public footpath turns ahead and left down the meadow and leaves it at the very bottom where you can join a minor track under trees. This track soon reaches a railway line and continues along the tracks for a while until it reaches the subway. After the subway. it continues along a hedge and soon reaches a footbridge across Radlett Brook.
You should not go all the way to the bridge. Shortly before, you cross a public footpath going left into a meadow and right into an overgrown field. Turn right (southwards) across this field, keeping in sight of the railway tracks as they remain about 200 yards on your right. The path is not very conspicuous in this overgrown field but you will anyway reach wooden fences at the south end of the field. You should be able to find a stile getting you away from the field and you can then turn left along the fences to the A-road. Turn right along the A-road and soon afterwards into a side-road, Organ Hall Road. This road first runs along the A-road but then branches off to the right towards a subway underneath the railway tracks.
Cross the subway and turn left along the tracks along a minor path becoming more obvious over time. The path later passes a footbridge over the tracks and finally has to turn right as it reaches garden fences in Elstree. Turn left into the suburban streets as soon as you find the opening between the houses. This is a particularly pleasant area with front lawns, mature trees shading driveways and substantial houses. You should be on Barham Avenue by now and can walk ahead on this road or take the parallel road called Links Drive. Both roads meet again when they reach the main avenue. Turn left along this avenue and pass the railway bridge to reach Elstree & Borehamwood station directly on your right.
Elstree station is one of only two stations of the whole WAAL to be in Oyster Card territory (zone 6) and you probably noticed at the end of the walk a sign for the London Loop. This long-distance path is shorter than the WAAL and you actually only meet it twice, on walk 6 and walk 18.