A walk from Tewin to the Mimram valley and up to Bramfield, returning via the exquisite Queen Hoo Hall.
Distance 6 miles (9.7km)
Minimum time 2hrs 45min
Ascent/gradient 225ft (69m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Bridleways, field paths through water-meadows, lanes, 2 stiles
Landscape Rolling chalkland, woodland and water-meadows
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 182 St Albans & Hatfield
Start/finish TL 271156
Dog friendliness Cattle graze water-meadows; Tewin Hill has horse paddocks on both sides connected with livery stables
Parking On roadside around Lower Green, Tewin, opposite Tewin Memorial Hall
Public toilets None on route
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1 From Lower Green turn left into School Lane, then right at a footpath sign to Digswell. Across some arable fields a track merges from the right. Ignore a footpath crossroads, going next left into a lane. Turn left at a junction and shortly go right to the isolated St Peter's Church.
2 From the churchyard descend to the valley floor and turn right. The path bears right and then you turn left on to a track. Where it veers left carry straight on, along a field edge to merge with a lane. Keep on this lane to the River Mimram bridge.
3 Across the bridge climb a stile on the left to a permissive path in water-meadows alongside the Mimram. At a single-arch bridge cross the river and leave the water-meadows via a kissing gate.(NB: If the permissive path by the water-meadows between points 3 and 4 is closed, walk for a few paces and turn left along the grassy verge of the B1000 for 0.25 miles (400m) and turn left at a footpath sign.)
4 Go straight across the farmland to enter a scrub belt, becoming parkland to Marden Hill. Cross a lime avenue (look left to the mansion) then follow a drive to the road.
5 Across the road walk alongside some oak woods. Where the track curves right go straight over a stile into paddocks and out via a kissing gate. Cross more cultivated ground to reach a track. Follow this past the derelict barn of Westend Farm to the hornbeams of Park Wood and turn right along its edge.
6 The path jinks out to pass Bramfieldbury (not visible), then cuts across fields to its access lane. Follow this into Bramfield and turn right to the church.
7 From Bramfield churchyard turn right into the recreation ground and then left to retrace your steps past the Grandison Arms to the valley floor. Here turn right, signposted 'Beal's Wood'. Cross arable ground to the corner of the wood. The path goes through the woods with occasional waymarker posts. At a track junction briefly join it, then pass a T-junction before bearing right to skirt a pheasant enclosure. On reaching more tracks the route takes the second right, on to a wide track. At a pole barrier go right and emerge from the woods on to a track across more cultivated land.
8 Pass the superb 1580s Queen Hoo Hall. At the lane turn left and follow a winding lane down Tewin Hill into Tewin.
9 At the main road turn right. Pass the Plume of Feathers pub to Upper Green, and go left to walk along the edge of the green to a footpath behind scrub. Pass a pond to a metalled green lane and follow this, eventually curving left back to Lower Green.
Tewin, on a ridge to the north of the River Mimram, probably had its origins in pagan Anglo-Saxon times before ad 600 - the 'Tew' element in the name relates to Tiw, a pagan god (PWalk 22). The village has two greens but the bulk of development has taken place around the Lower Green. The Upper Green is now mainly a sports field and this village can trace over 200 years of cricketing history. Like most Hertfordshire villages, there was no piped water in Tewin until well into the 20th century. On Lower Green you'll find an old well-house, which was converted into a bus shelter in the 1950s.
Around Lower Green are estate cottages with the 'C' of the landowner Earl Cowper above their dates. One group was built in 1903 and a large memorial hall dates from about 1920. The parish church is out on its own at the end of the ridge with pasture descending to the Mimram valley. To the west of the church stood Tewin House. This was rebuilt around 1717 by General Joseph Sabine, a veteran of the Duke of Marlborough's campaigns against the French who later became Governor of Gibraltar. George I is said to have visited twice, simply to admire the hallway. Sabine died in 1739 and in the church you'll find a superb monument to him, dressed in the costume of a Roman general. Tewin House was pulled down by the 5th Earl Cowper in 1807. It is claimed he salvaged nearly one million bricks from the site and now only stretches of the garden wall survive. The Earl married the daughter of Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. After the Earl's death, she married again, this time to the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston. Further east, another house took advantage of this picturesque landscape at Marden Hill. Here a 1650s mansion was pulled down in the 1780s and a new one built. This in turn was altered by the great Sir John Soane in 1819.
En route to Bramfield you pass along the edge of Park Wood, certainly a hunting park by 1294. Bramfieldbury, built around 1500, is on its southern margin (hidden behind dense hedges). Like Tewin, Bramfield has many Victorian estate buildings. The shop and post office are in a thatched cottage, which was once the village school. On the green is another well-house, this one was converted into a bus shelter in 1953. But it's after Bramfield that you encounter the greatest building on this route. Queen Hoo Hall is a near perfect late-Elizabethan brick house standing on the ridge ahead with splendid views south. It was built by John Smyth between 1584 and 1589, probably as a hunting lodge. By the end of the 19th century it had become two labourers cottages, but was restored in 1903, and it's worth walking many miles to see such a perfect small mansion.
Both Tewin's pubs serve food. On Lower Green the Rose and Crown has been an ale-house since at least 1713. On Upper Green is the Plume of Feathers. Bramfield has the Grandison Arms. Snacks can be bought at the Bramfield Post Office and Village Stores.
Tewin Water is not a lake, but a mainly late 18th-century house that now functions as a school. It had an occupant whose story is told in Maria Edgworth's 1801 novel, Castle Rackrent. Married three times already, Lady Cathcart was kidnapped and imprisoned in Ireland for 20 years by her fourth husband. Upon his death she returned to Tewin Water and died in 1789, aged 98.
Off Tewin's Upper Green you'll find the Tewin Orchard. This 70 year old traditional fruit orchard was renewed as part of the village's millennium celebrations. Associated with the site is a 10 acre (4.1ha) nature reserve which teems with wildlife including bats and badgers. Entrance is free and it is open all year round. There is even a hide you can book for evening watching sessions.