Upper Lea Valley & Someries Castle

This is walk 20 from the Pathfinder Guide to Hetfordshire and Bedfordshire, but be warned that much appears to have changed on the route since the guide was written.

We drove from St Albans to Peter’s Green and parked round the corner further on from the Bright Star pub near a water tower.  We then walked back to the Bright Star pub and began our walk at 1135.  It was planned to be six and a half miles, but ended up being longer than that.  We walked along the road towards Chiltern Green before turning left along a path signposted as being the Chiltern Way.  This took us under trees and then over fields and under a threatening sky.  There was rain in the air but it was holding off, and it was cool without being too cold.  I was able to walk in just my short sleeved Rab base layer.  I think we took the wrong track because we appeared to just be following tractor marks rather than a path, but the guide kept mentioning kissing gates and there were none.  Anyway, we continued across the fields, with sight of Luton Airport off to our right, until we reached a crossways by a clump of trees, which is also where we spotted the track we probably should have been taking up to this point.  We turned left along the edge of the trees and began to see trains down on the railway line below us.  This is the line which continues on to St Albans so we know it well further on.  We turned right at a footpath post and headed gently downhill through the fields, before turning left at the bottom, then reaching a lane and turning right, which brought us down to the Lower Harpenden Road.  We turned right and almost immediately turned left into Cooters End Lane, which took us over a bridge crossing the River Lea.  Soon after that we passed under the Thrales End Lane railway bridge and turned right to join the Lea Valley Walk.  We walked along the right edge of a field below the railway embankment, and this is where matters started to differ from the guide.  We moved from the right edge of the field because it had been ploughed and walked along the top of a rise in the middle of the field instead, where the ground was firmer.  We were looking for the point where the field edge veers slightly left, at which point we would keep ahead along an enclosed path to a footpath post.  Well, we could see what we presumed was the point where the field edge veers slightly left, and we went to that and kept going ahead, but it was not along an enclosed path, it was along the edge of the next field and there did not appear to be any way to get to the promised woodland path which runs next to the stout metal fence which runs along the boundary of the sewage works.  So we carried on along the edge of the field and came out at the road at the end of the woodland path, though we did have to climb over a metal gate to get there.  We went through the barrier diagonally opposite and down another enclosed woodland path, still with the sewerage works on our right, and here is where it all changed from the guide again.  The guide talks about recrossing the river and stiles and the road, but we just walked across a bridge over the river and the road to get to a woodland path on the other side, along the top of an embankment.

We almost walked on two massive snails and I fear for their safety as quite a few mountain bikes passed us going in their direction.  The guide gives all sorts of directions for navigating the route, but we found ourselves on a tarmac track and only one way to go forward.  I think it is a new cycle route, and it runs between the railway line and the road.  Over the other side of the road is the parkland surrounding Luton Hoo.  So we just kept walking, idly looking for the right turn under a railway bridge which would take us back over the fields.  Too idly, as it turned out, because we had soon reached the A1081, which was too far.  So we turned round and went back to the one railway bridge we had seen.  There was no Lea Valley Walk post, and there was a sign on a fence at the end of the track on the other side of the bridge saying “Private Keep Out No Dogs“, which would not have stopped me except for the barbed wire on top of the fence it was attached to.  I looked at the map and the guide directions many times and this had to be the bridge, so I am not sure about the validity of the fence and the sign.  We walked back to the A1081 and turned right along it until we found some steps which led up an embankment to continue the Upper Lea Valley Walk.  We were now running along the side of Luton Airport, in the fields which were the other side of the fence at the end of the track on the other side of the bridge.  We walked down a slope to reach a footpath post at the corner of a wire fence.  We were back on route again, and now left the Lea Valley Walk by keeping along the left edge of the field below an embankment.  We could not see Luton Airport from down here.  At a waymarked post we continued uphill along the right side of a fence line until we reached the ruins of Someries Castle.  To be honest, seeing these made the detours worthwhile, and they are quite stunning, especially given their age.  They are located next to a farm and we walked between the two before bearing right along a broad track, and at this point it began to rain, just lightly and it did not really get any colder.  The track then became a lane, and I could not help thinking that the sign I then saw advertising “eggs for sale” bore a stark resemblance to the earlier one telling us to “keep out”.  The lane brought us to a T-junction and we turned right, and then right again, before crossing over the road and taking the bridleway on the left.  It was not long before that brought us back to the initial track off the main road for this walk, and back to the car not a moment too soon as the rain suddenly got heavier.  We had ended up walking far longer than the planned six and a half miles and were back at 1525.

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