St Albans to Harpenden
12 February 2022
Fourteen people started out on this flat, and ostensibly straightforward, walk that follows two disused railway lines and the Hertfordshire and Ver/Colne Valley Ways. It was good to welcome David again – last seen in distant days before the pandemic.
The day was bright, crisp and cold and the group was evidently keen as all bar one arrived on an earlier train. From the station we soon joined the Alban Way – the former railway line from Hatfield to St Albans. Dropping down to the River Ver we ambled past allotments and through scrubby woodland until we arrived at the grandiose Verulamium Park with its lake. Eschewing the attractions of the park we climbed up the eminence to the imposing St Albans Cathedral, arriving just in time to join the first part of a free tour of the history and architecture
We lingered for an early lunch in the Abbott’s Kitchen with four opting instead for the only viable pub on the route. After lunch Andrea and Frances left us to spend more time in the magnificent and fascinating ancient cathedral and enjoy the St Albans’ market. So then there were twelve.
We walked down the attractive and varied Fishpool Street to collect the pubbers; but discovered they had only just been served and were tucking in to some very delicious meals. Unwisely, Sue, who has form getting lost even with a map, gave her map to Terry so that Julia, who had stopped to take a phone call, and the pub group could catch us up at Redbournbury Watermill where we planned to stop for a snack. So then there were seven….
The route proceeded through the Gorehambury Estate. We had been unable to do this part on the recce as the estate was closed for shooting. So, predictably, we got lost, overshooting the turn off by about half a mile. As we turned round we spotted the pub group – who had also missed the turn off due to its mischievously misleading signage – ahead of us resolutely picking their way across the Ver flood plain! With the benefit of the map they – and Howard who had an OS ‘phone download – followed the correct path along the Ver. So then there were six – who the so-called leader led onto and along the nasty A513 – Watling Street.
We eventually rejoined forces – a relieved round dozen again – crossed Watling Street and followed the Hertfordshire Way to the watermill. Here the Ver magically transforms from an insignificant trickle to produce a deep and wide ford and enough water to power a working mill. We rested, boosted our calories and carried on to reach the Nickey Line – the ill fated coal rail track between Hemel Hempstead and Harpenden.
By this time it was worryingly nearly four o’clock and not only were we still a generous two miles from Harpenden but also approaching the section of the walk where Sue and Daphne had got LOST on the recce.
This time, with the map firmly and regularly scrutinised by Sue and Terry, we found the correct path off the Nickey line and all twelve of us set off across the fields, past Rothamsted research station, to gain the streets of Harpenden and the station just as dark fell. The walk, advertised as 10 miles, was pronounced by those with step counting apps to be at least twelve miles. We were all suitably tired but proud of ourselves.
Sue H (photos Ginny and Sue H)