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Elizabethan North Mymms Park

From Brookmans Park Station walk across country to North Mymms.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 75ft (23m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Field paths, tracks, lanes, 11 stiles

Landscape Pastoral stream valley, hills, woods and parkland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 182 St Albans & Hatfield

Start/finish TL 241040

Dog friendliness Sheep pasture and ponies

Parking Car park east of Brookmans Park railway station

Public toilets None on route

1 Cross the railway bridge from the Brookmans Park side and follow Station Road downhill as far as the left turn, Bradmore Lane. Here a footpath sign doubles back parallel to Station Road.

2 The path descends to the valley floor, an unkempt hedge on the left and a chain-link fence on the right. Here cross a footbridge and stile, turning right alongside a post-and-net fence; a stream, often dry, is beyond. (You may see ponies grazing amid the sheep.) At the corner of the field go right, over a stile, then, in a few paces, go left over another at the corner of Brick Kiln Wood. Keep on the path, the stream now to the left with views of the Royal Veterinary College beyond. Past the woods and near the end of an arable field, the path goes left to cross the stream-bed, then winds through scrub to another bridge, over the Mimmshall Brook.

3 Across the bridge turn left along a lane. Opposite Hawkshead Lane, with its two-arch bridge over the brook, go right. At the main road turn left for perhaps 60yds (55m), before crossing to the footbridge over the A1(M). Over the footbridge descend and turn sharp right to walk alongside the A1(M) on a metalled track, soon bearing left uphill. Over the crest the track descends past a rendered, octagonal structure, a former well-house. Beyond, the metalled track goes right at an ancient oak while our route goes straight on along a green lane. Continue straight over a footpath crossroads, heading to the right-hand side of oak, sweet chestnut and hornbeam woods. Over a stile walk alongside the woods and, over another stile, turn right on to a metalled track which joins an access drive to North Mymms Park.

4 On your left is a dense, holly hedge that prevents anything more than glimpses of the mansion grounds, here something of an arboretum. At the drive junction go left to the church. Here too is the remnant of the medieval village cleared for the park, the timber-framed Church Cottage and the late 17th-century, former vicarage.

5 To the west of the church tower a kissing gate and stile lead into the park. Heeding the warnings about bulls loose in the fields, head right to cross the drive and get good views of North Mymms Park mansion.

6 Retrace your steps through the churchyard to the drive. Turn right and then left through a gate into pasture, aiming for the footbridge over the A1(M). The path skirts the corner of a cricket pitch and then heads for a stile to the left of an electricity pole. Over this, turn right to cross the motorway.

7 Descend to the road and cross to the Waterend Café, turning left past an engineering company on to a tarmac footpath alongside the road. Shortly past a concrete bridge parapet, descend to a stile on the edge of a copse. Follow the path, which winds through a scrubby copse, until you emerge on the edge of an arable field. Carry on along its edge, the field to your left, bearing right, downhill, to a lane gate. Turn left along the lane to a T-junction. Turn right into Station Road and back to Brookmans Park.

The opening of Brookmans Park Station in 1926 spawned rapid growth of its suburb to the east. The new buildings occupied much of the park to a mansion that had burnt down in 1891 - its stables are now a golf club house. Fortunately the railway line also served as a barrier to westward development and our walk is in this unspoilt area, focusing on North Mymms Park, an Elizabethan mansion, set in wonderful parkland. At its gates, the mainly 14th-century parish church feels more like a private chapel. The most interesting monument is that in the chancel. It was sculpted by the fashionable Peter Scheemakers for Lord Somers, Chancellor to William III. A figure of Justice sits above an unusual marble doorway which once led to his vault.

Built by Sir Ralph Coningsby in the early 1590s, it's a typical Elizabethan great house with vast, stone mullioned and transomed windows and parapetted gables. It was built in red brick with diamond-shaped patterns in blue brick, and with clusters of tall chimneys. The mansion decayed in the 17th century but was restored several times, and then was thoroughly re-Elizabethanised in the 19th century.

Where to eat and drink

There is a choice at the hamlet of Water End, ½ mile (800m) east of St Mary's Church in North Mymms Park. The Waterend Café is open Monday to Friday in the mornings or, a little down Woodgate Road, is the Woodman pub.

What to look for

The Royal Veterinary College owns much of the countryside west of Brookmans Park, including Brick Kiln Wood, in May a riot of bluebells. It is a particularly good example of a managed coppice wood, a type once common in the Chilterns and Hertfordshire. It has oak 'standards' as full size trees, grown for building timber, with 'coppiced' hazel below. The hazel is grown for poles, fencing and firewood, and is still cropped every 10 to 15 years.


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