50 Walks in Hertfordshire

Ware and Hertford

Try this sample walk from the latest edition of 50 Walks in Hertfordshire.

About 50 Walks in Hertfordshire

Walking is one of Britain's favourite leisure activities, and this guide to Hertfordshire features 50 mapped walks from 2 to 10 miles, to suit all abilities.

The book features all the practical detail you need, including:

  • fascinating background reading on the history and wildlife of the area,
  • clear OS-based mapping for ease of use,
  • every route has been colour coded according to difficulty,
  • annotations for local points of interest and places to stop for refreshments,
  • summary of distance, time, gradient, level of difficulty, type of surface and access, landscape, dog friendliness, parking and public toilets.

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Sample walk: Ware and Hertford

  • Distance: 6 miles (9.7km)
  • Minimum Time: 2hrs 45min
  • Ascent: 100 feet (30m)
  • Gradient: 0
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Paths: Town streets, field and riverside paths
  • Landscape: Two townscapes, water-meadows, woods and river cliffs
  • Suggested Map: OS Explorer 194 Hertford & Bishop’s Stortford
  • Start Grid Reference: TL360142
  • Dog Friendliness: On lead in towns and near livestock
  • Parking: Kibes Lane car park, off High Street, Ware
  • Public Toilet: By Castle, Hertford
Background reading

The strategic, if not economic, importance of Hertford can be seen in the remains of its Royal castle. However the town has Anglo-Saxon origins – well before this feudal castle was built in 1067. During the reconquest of the Danelaw by King Edward the Elder (ruled ad 899–924), the son of Alfred the Great, this settlement at a ford across the River Lea became part of written history. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records of ad 913 state:

'In this year, after Martinmas (11 November), King Edward had the more northerly fortress at Hertford built, between the Mimram and the Beane and the Lea. Another part of his forces built the fortress at Hertford meanwhile on the southern bank of the Lea.'

The latter is now Hertingfordbury, 'bury' being from the Anglo-Saxon 'burh' or defended town.

However the northern burh, Hertford, actually on the river, prospered while Hertingfordbury remains a small village. By 1011 the burh had become the centre of an administrative area, the county or shire of Hertfordshire. It also had two marketplaces, a mint for coinage and its own town 'reeve', a high official seen as a forerunner to the mayor. When the Normans conquered England Hertford received its castle, initially a motte-and-bailey type. These were the best days economically as soon nearby Ware on Ermine Street rapidly overtook Hertford. Although Hertford kept its county town status, by 1338 its taxable value was half that of Ware.

The motte of Hertford's castle survives to a height of 22ft (6.7m). There is also some 12th-century curtain walling, but the most impressive surviving structure is the three-storey, brick gatehouse built for Edward IV in the 1460s. The castle's most famous military event was its capture after a 25-day siege in 1216 by Prince Louis, the Dauphin of France.

Our route visits several of Hertford's other sights: Parliament Square, laid out in 1821; James Adam's former Shire Hall of 1769; the Salisbury Arms of 1570; and Christ's Hospital School, which was founded in London by Edward VI for poor children – the juniors moved here in 1683. At Bengeo (before you reach Hertford) you'll find the rare, virtually intact, Norman parish church. It has an attractive 18th-century brick porch, evidence of an anchorite or hermit's cell, and some 13th-century wall paintings.

  1. From the car park walk down East Street, past the entrance to Bluecoat Yard, to merge with High Street. Past the Town Hall and church, the road curves right into Baldock Street. At the roundabout turn left into Watton Road, then straight on along Park Road past GlaxoSmithKline factories. At a fork continue along Park Road.
  2. Cross the A10 bridge to a lane. Go through a metal gate by a waymarker then go left, parallel to the remnants of an avenue lined with lime trees. Cross an arable field and carry straight on, into woodland and cross a private drive, shortly bearing left to descend to the valley.
  3. At a lane go left across a bridge and bear right along a lane, the river to your left. Once across the river bridge go immediately left through a gap by a public footpath sign, heading for the River Lea bridge. Go right, climbing from the valley towards a house in Bengeo.
  4. After visiting Bengeo's Norman St Leonard's Church, continue westwards, downhill. Keep right at a fork to reach ornamental gates, then turn left on to Port Hill, now in Hertford.
  5. Go downhill, then bear left into Cowbridge. Cross the river, pass McMullen's Brewery, and turn right into St Andrew Street. Past the church go left on a footpath. Cross a footbridge, then turn left through a gate by a playground, into Hertford Castle's grounds.
  6. Cross a stream and turn left to walk past the gatehouse and go out between gate-piers. Turn right to Parliament Square. Turn left into Fore Street, then left again into Market Street. Next, turn right past the Duncombe Arms. Go straight on across Bircherley Green, left into Railway Street and along to the station forecourt. Turn left here into Mill Road.
  7. Carry on into Dicker Mill. Go right before the bridge to the tow path. Follow this to Hertford Lock 1.
  8. Go through the gate and head left towards a white-railed bridge. Cross it and go left to the New Gauge building. Through the gate turn right to follow the Lee Navigation under the A10 and on into Ware.
  9. Passing the gazebos, many of which are 18th century, ascend to the modern road bridge and turn left back into town.

To shorten the walk by two miles (3.2km), cross the River Lea bridge at Point 3 and then turn left, heading across the valley towards the River Lee Navigation and the lock bridge by Hertford Lock 1. Once over this go through the gate and head left towards a white-railed bridge. You will now rejoin the main walk at Point 8.

While you're there

Scott's Grotto (open occasionally), within Hertford College, is a fascinating and romantic 'artificial cave'. Passages link small chambers, their walls lined with flints, shells and glass fragments.

Where to eat and drink

Ware and Hertford have pubs, restaurants and cafés. Try the Salisbury Arms Hotel, opposite Shire Hall in Hertford or the 16th-century Old Bull's Head in Baldock Street, Ware.

What to look out for

Ware Museum, opposite St Mary the Virgin Church, is small but varied and includes Roman and Victorian artefacts as well as a World War II air-raid shelter. Run by volunteers, it is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday 11am–4pm, Sunday and bank holidays  2–5pm.

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