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Chess and Colne Meeting

A walk across Chorleywood Common to Rickmansworth.

Distance 7.5 miles (12.1km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 210ft (64m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Field paths, footpaths, canal tow path and some town pavements, no stiles

Landscape Common, river valleys and water-meadows

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 172 Chiltern Hills East

Start/finish TQ 033966

Dog friendliness Great dog-socialising on Chorleywood Common; some pavements and horse paddocks

Parking Car park off A404 Rickmansworth Road on Chorleywood Common

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the car park head along the ride cut through the trees of Chorleywood Common. Ignoring a cross-track, turn left at the next crossroad of rides. Keep straight on, eventually merging with a lane close to the Black Horse pub.

2 Turn right. At a T-junction again turn right, into Berry Lane. Go, under the railway bridge then turn left on to a woodland footpath, signposted 'Mill End'. Shortly take the right fork to climb out of the valley, then alongside the M25, crossing it on a footbridge.

3 Turn right on to a path behind garden fences, then turn left through a barrier to a housing estate. Turn right then, at a T-junction, go left into Chiltern Drive. Next turn right into Coombe Hill Road and then go straight on along a path to a cul-de-sac. Turn right by No 13 then cross another green and a further path between gardens. At a road go right and at the T-junction go left along Church Lane to the main road.

4 Turn left and, past the bus stop, go right at the footpath sign. Over a footbridge turn left, then right, over the River Colne on a bigger bridge. Follow the footpath between large lakes (old gravel pits).

5 Turn left on to the Grand Union Canal tow path and follow this to Rickmansworth. Under the bypass bridge turn left up some steps to the road. Go right to the roundabout, carrying straight on into Church Street.

6 Go straight over Rickmansworth's High Street's crossroads into Northway, which curves left. Turn right into Solomon's Hill between blocks of flats, then right again on to a footpath alongside the railway. Turn left at the road and cross the A412 on the footbridge.

7 Go to the path, waymarked 'Chess Valley Walk', to the left of the Catholic church, to reach the banks of the River Chess. Continue on the west bank to skirt a wood.

8 Beyond some paddocks cross a road, continuing on the Chess Valley Walk. Bear right at a path fork, cross another road and go through more pony paddocks to walk alongside the M25.

9 At the road turn left, over the M25, going right at a footpath sign just before some houses, still on the Chess Valley Walk. Where the tarmac track bears right go left, to the path within the edge of woods. Follow the path uphill. At a T-junction go left into a park and follow the road past the cemetery to the gates and the car park.

Chorleywood Common is one of several commons in West Hertfordshire that survived 19th-century attempts at enclosure. Covering over 200 acres (81ha), it is a haven for dog-walkers (and golfers). The east side of the common has a rather good church - its distinctive spire is a local landmark. The church is an 1869 rebuild by G E Street of an earlier one erected in 1845 when Chorleywood became a separate parish. Beside it is the church school, parts of which date back to 1853.

To the west is 'Metroland' Chorleywood, which grew up around the railway. The station opened in the late 1880s and this walk passes under the Metropolitan Line which runs along the south side of the common. Going back a century, as you approach Rickmansworth you follow the Grand Union Canal. It was originally called the Grand Junction Canal. In 1796 it was opened from London as far as Batchworth Lock.

On the left, between the canal and the winding course of the River Colne, is the Rickmansworth Aquadrome, in a former gravel pit which has been flooded. There are other similarly flooded pits here, such as Stocker's Lake, now forming nature reserves where you can see a wide variety of waterfowl. On the right of the canal a large Tesco's has been built on the site of Frogmoor Wharf. Here, canal boats were built and coal and building materials were traded - at least its stone name-plaque has been preserved.

Rickmansworth has suffered from over-zealous redevelopment through its northern and western relief roads, leading to considerable architectural loss. However, Church Street retains much of its character and several older buildings of note. The early 16th-century, timber-framed Priory (north of the church) was never a priory, of course, but was probably a church house or 'marriage-feast' house. The church itself looks good but is entirely post-medieval. The tower dates from 1630 but the rest is 19th-century. Further up Church Street, the Feathers pub is partly Tudor and the vicarage has late medieval timber-framing. To the west of the church stands the town's best building, The Bury, now divided into apartments. It is Tudor and 17th century, and was the manor house until 1741. North of Rickmansworth our route along the Chess Valley gives views of an apparent Neo-Georgian town set in parkland on the hill to the west - this is the Royal Masonic School, built in the 1930s and replacing the successor manor house, Bury Park Manor House.

Where to eat and drink

In Rickmansworth there is quite a choice for eating and drinking. The most interesting building is the Feathers in Church Street. Out in the country try the Black Horse on the edge of Chorleywood Common.

While you're there

Between suburban Chorleywood and Junction 17 of the M25 is Heronsgate. The pioneering Chartist and socialist Daniel O'Connor founded the settlement, initially named O'Connorville, in 1846. It was an idealistic attempt by his National Land Company to provide smallholdings. Like many utopian dreams it soon went bankrupt. However, many of the cottages survive, now as pricey 'Metroland' dwellings.

What to look for

At Batchworth Lock on the Grand Union Canal in Rickmansworth under Bridge 173 you face two canals. On the right is the Grand Union, on the left is a stretch of the River Chess that was canalised in 1804 for the long-gone Salters Brewery.

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