The Ayots, Brocket Park and the River Lea

Debbie had a rehearsal from 0930 until 1600, so I decided to take advantage by going on a long local walk.  I chose walk 27 from the Pathfinder Guide for Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, which would take me through two of the Ayots, a group of three villages between Wheathampstead and Welwyn Garden City, while taking in some stretches along the River Lea and a ramble through Brocket Park.

I parked in the free car park in Wheathampstead, ate a banana and started off at the 13th-century cruciform church at 0950, making my way down High Street before following a bridleway to the right after crossing the River Lea.  It starts off going through a housing estate before leading on to a track alongside the river, where there are a few anglers out already, and then continues through fields until it reaches a track which goes under a road bridge.  This is checkpoint A in the guide and I reached it at 1002.  I continued gently uphill along a tree-lined track before branching off to the left and walking across a field, seeing how misty it was in the distance, then descending to cross a track and eventually emerging onto a lane by the entrance to Lamerwood Country Club, where they are in the middle of renovations.  The guide seemed to make this section more complicated than it is – a lot of the ground is fenced off for police dog training, so walk straight until you have to take a different path at a junction, turn left, and then follow the track around the edge of Lamer Park, now home to Suffolk lambs, until you reach Lamer Park Farm, which is checkpoint B.  I got to there at 1030 and followed the tree-lined path which was leading to Ayot St Lawrence.  I was mostly walking along woodland paths and tracks and the wet ground meant it was heavy going, although staying at the edges meant it did not get too muddy.  Some steps to the left off the main track took me into a field and I crossed that to a lane, turning right, and then taking a short detour left to see the 18th-century Grecian-style church.  It did not do a lot for me, and I was far more interested to see the ruins of the 13th-century church.  These are in the village itself, which is checkpoint C in the guide, and I reached them at 1054.

I spent a while there taking some photographs, then continued down the lane to Shaw’s Corner, a National Trust property which was the home of George Bernard Shaw from 1906 until his death in 1950.  It was closed for the winter.  I ate some of my protein flapjack and then headed off again down the lane in the Wheathampstead direction, before following a bridleway along an enclosed path and passing Stocking Springs Wood on my left as I got to a road, checkpoint D in the guide, at 1124.  I carried straight over, following the bridleway on the edge of woodland until I reached Hunter’s Bridge at 1142.  This is checkpoint E in the guide and is a disused railway bridge.  I made my way to the top of the slope to the right of the bridge and then turned left to cross the bridge, following a former railway track which is now the Ayot Greenway.  About half a mile up the track I cut back through the hedge and crossed to another track in woodland.  A gentle walk up through the woods brought me to a quiet lane and I walked through the village of Ayot Green before reaching a bridge over the A1(M), checkpoint F, at 1208.

I ate some more of my protein flapjack and turned right before the bridge, then followed a footpath opposite the Waggoners pub, which took me into Brocket Park.  This led through woodland and across a golf course and was a pleasant, if uninspiring, stretch of the walk.  I needed to take a sharp right at a tarmac drive (checkpoint G), and I reached that at 1225, which is where the path intersected with the Lea Valley Walk.  This now followed the left edge of the golf course and brought me to Brocket Hall.  I crossed another part of the golf course and went into the woods, taking a short detour to see the Flint Bridge, and then following a track which ran with the River Lea until it reached the ford at Waterend, next to Waterend House, which was built in 1610.  I turned left across the road at the Lea Valley Walk sign (checkpoint H, at 1250) and followed that track along the River Lea and across fields, passing a group of walkers going in the opposite direction (I wonder if they will see this blog, recognise themselves, and make themselves known to me), and I got back to the road bridge at checkpoint A at 1316.  From there I retraced the initial part of the walk to return to my car at 1328.

I enjoyed the walk, because I enjoy woodland walks, and it also had some architecture along the way.  It was 9.5 miles and the guide said it should take 4.5 hours.  I completed it in just over 3.5 hours, so that was good.  I also carried the same equipment in my rucksack as I took over Kinder Scout, so that was good practice for the Fan Dance, and I do feel comfortable carrying some weight in the rucksack for such walks, as well as knowing I have everything I need in case something does go wrong.

You can see my photographs from the walk here.

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