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Stage 9  -  Hertford  to  Cheshunt Station   (11.45 miles)

Start: Grid Reference TL3292213074  Post Code SG13 7GD  StreetMap

If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 9 of this walk, without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a Word Docx by clicking on the link.

ROUTE DESCRIPTION

We start on Mill Road, on the south side of the River Lee Navigation. Just 170 yards north of Hertford East Station. The route is flat along the towpath of the canal. We pass thru' King's Meads, Ware, St Margarets, Stanstead Abbotts, Rye House, Dobb's Weir, Broxbourne and finish on the navigation path near Cheshunt Station. It's a beautiful walk and easy to follow, so enjoy.

A video at YouTube entitled "River Lea Walk from Rye House to Hertford", by John Rogers covers the first 5.7 miles of this route. It's in the opposite direction, but it's well worth a watch. Another, entitled "The Lea Valley Walk: Hertford to Broxbourne", goes in the same direction as us, and covers most of the walk.

From Mill Road follow the Lee Towpath east, signed Riverside Walk, for the next 2.25 miles to Ware.

Hertford Lock is passed after 700 yards and it marks the point where our route leaves the town. The open area to the right of the path after the lock is called King’s Meads. The Meads are a flat area of land between Hertford and Ware covering 96 hectares and managed by the Wildlife Trust. The whole area has a chalk base with hills on either side. In older times the Lee was navigable from London and was probably much wider in this area. This is ancient marshland and a haven for wildlife. Today there are many ditches cut to drain what is really a fold plain. One of these ditches is the start of the "New River". The local council has produced a tasteful glossy leaflet which takes you on a walk through the area. Presently, most of Kings Meads are still not accessible and wildlife thrives here.

The New River is not new and is not really a river. It is a man-made water supply aqueduct, started by Edmund Colthurst in 1604 and completed by Sir Hugh Myddleton in 1613. The river's purpose was to bring drinking water from Hertfordshire to North London. The design was an extraordinary achievement of the time, using gravity for the flow, it drops just 5 inches for every mile. Its original source was at Chadwell Spring, on The Meads near Ware, but was later extended to start as an outlet of The Lee Navigation. The current source is at New Gauge, which we pass at 0.9 miles. A footbridge takes the path over the source, with the Gauge Building (built in 1856) to the right, which controls the water intake from the River Lee. Today the New River still provides up to 48 million gallons (or 8%) of London's daily water supply. In 2003 Thames Water (in partnership with The New River Action Group and others) completed a 28 mile footpath along the New River from its source to New River Head at Stoke Newington.

After another 550 yards the towpath passes under the Kingsmead Viaduct which carries the A10 (The Great Cambridge Road) over the Lee Valley. The viaduct was built in the early 1980s to make it easy for traffic from London to bypass Ware town. As you can see from a second photo, the viaduct is low at this point, but tall enough to allow pleasure boats under it.

400 yards after Kingsmead Viaduct we are joined by the Hertfordshire Way from a footbridge to our LHS - this is an extension of the original path and it stays with us until Rye House. After another 440 yards the towpath passes Ware Lock and 600 yards later passes under a footbridge over the canal and enters the town.

There are some good photos of the route from Hertford to Ware on the luphen.org.uk website.

According to archaeologist Robert Kiln (1920 - 1997),

"Ware is one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Western Europe. It is of regional and national importance and yet none of it is classified as an area of archaeological importance".

In his book, "The Dawn of History in East Herts", he describes how excavations in the area from the Glaxo Wellcome site (just northwest of Ware Lock) to the west of the bridge in the centre of the town, have unearthed proof of settlements going back through Medieval, Saxon, Roman and Iron Age times to a Mesolithic village of about 5000 BC.

Ware's attraction was its position. It was where one of this country's oldest roads crossed the River Lea. The Romans built Ermine Street in the 1st Century to allow their legions to march north. It linked London to Lincoln and eventually York and was about 200 miles long. Its current name derives from Saxon times 'Earninga Straete' meaning road to Earningas People - an Anglo-Saxon tribe who lived in Cambridgeshire and whose lands the road passed through. In later years it became known as "The Old North Road".

Roman remains and the large number of burials found at the Glaxo site (north of Ware Lock) suggest a substantial settlement grew up along the road around the river crossing. It was because of these Roman burials this part of the town became known as Buryfield in the 16th Century and before the Great Plague of 1665. Some of the findings revealed a darker side to the Roman occupation, suggesting Ware was an important centre for their slave trade. The course of the old road crosses the Lee Navigation a few yards south-east of Ware Lock.

Many hundreds of years later in the 9th Century a Danish Invasion overran the Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia, with only Wessex still Saxon controlled. In 878 AD, with the agreement of "The Peace of Wedmore" between Guthrum's Danish held territories and "King Alfred the Great's" Saxon kingdom of Wessex, the Lee formed part of the boundary between Danelaw and the Saxons, thus Ware became an important frontier town.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that in 895 AD a large Danish force came 20 miles up the Lee from the Thames and established a fortification. Alfred attacked them but was repelled. However, learning from their own tactics, he built a number of weirs to divert the river and thus leave the Danes and their boats stranded. The place he built these weirs is now believed to be at Ware and this is where the town is thought to get its name from.

After the Norman Invasion of 1066, Ware began to grow. Hugh de Grentmesnil was awarded the Manor of Ware by William the Conqueror for his support during the invasion. In 1078 he built a Benedictine Priory to the north of the High Street in the area of St Mary's Church, as a daughter house of his family's Abbey of St Evroul in Normandy. Like many others, it was suppressed by Henry V in 1414 as it was classified as an "Alien Priory" whose loyalty was only to their parent house in Normandy, France.

A Franciscan Friary was established at Ware in 1338 by Thomas Lord Wake of Liddel. After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII it went into private ownership and many changes were made. During World War I it was used as a hospital and after the war was given to the town. The building is now Grade I listed, has attractive grounds backing onto the river, is called Ware Priory, is owned by the local council and is used for functions.

Ware's town centre was laid out as we know it today by Hugh's great-granddaughter Petronilla de Grandmesnil (wife of Robert de Beaumont, 3rd Earl of Leicester) and her son Robert, 4th Earl of Leicester in the late 12th Century. They diverted the course of the road east along the south side of the river to cross at a new bridge, half a mile downstream from the older one. The new High Street they built was wide enough for shops, a market and a fair. Attractive plots of land were created between the street and the river and were let or sold to free merchants.

Henry III declared the bridge as part of a part of the King's Highway. Royal charters for a market and an annual fair were granted.

Over the years Ware's importance and size grew due to its position on the main road between London and the North and as a crossing point of the Lee. To accommodate the travelers many coaching inns opened in Ware between the 15th and 18th Centuries. Around 1590, as probably a promotional gimmick, "The Great Bed of Ware" was built for one of the local inns. It spent time in different inns in the town and was said it could sleep up to 15 people who often enjoyed a bawdy experience. In literature it is mentioned by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night, playwright Ben Jonson called it "the great bed at Ware" in a play in 1609, and Byron in Don Juan refers to the "Bed of Ware". There is a longer list at "The Great Bed of Ware". My favourite has to be the first mention:

The earliest reference to the Great Bed of Ware is in 1596 when a German prince, Ludwig of Anholt-Kohten , travelled around England, keeping a diary in verse, and came to Ware on l5th July - "At Ware was a bed of dimensions so wide, Four Couples might cosily lie side by side, and thus without touching each other abide."

The malting industry also thrived in the town and from the 17th Century Ware could claim to be the premier malting town in England. Grain grown in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, to its north, was transported by road to Ware to be turned into malt and shipped to London along the River Lee by barge. By the 18th Century "Ware Brown Malt" was such an important commodity it had its own quoted price on the London Corn Exchange.

Ware's success would also prove to be its downfall. The road found it difficult to cope with all the traffic and to ease the flow England's first turnpike was set up just north of the town at Wadesmill in 1663. As a result, travelers sought alternative routes and with less business many of the inns closed.

In order to attract more customers, the inns which had gardens running down to the river built Gazebos on the river and they moved The Great Bed of Ware from inn to inn. However, through the years most of the inns closed and are now restaurants, shops or private dwellings, yet many of the coach entrances still survive as part of the buildings. Ware still has the best concentrations of river Gazebos in the country - these can be seen across the river as we follow the towpath through the town. Today the Great Bed of Ware is on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (see video). Some of the old inns still survive, but Ware is no longer as it was once described by poet William Vallens in the 16th Century - "the guested town of Ware".

The Great Bed of Ware came home to Ware Museum in April 2012, on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum for a year. Ware now also has a "Great Bed Heritage Trail". This features plaques on six sites in Ware High Street, which were associated with the Great Bed.

The last maltings in Ware was closed in January 1994. This brought to an end a 600 year history of malting in the town. What was once a busy town on one of England's greatest roads is now bypassed by motorways and dual carriage-way, and transport by barge to London is no more economical. On approaching Ware, the A10 (T) diverts around the town and over the King's Meads to take traffic away - The A1 (M) and M11 motorways going north from London are only a few miles to the west and east of the town. So why would one want to visit the place, apart from to see the history it has, the importance it once held or just for a walk along the river.

Another Ware attraction worth a mention is Scott’s Grotto in Scotts Road (see video). It was built by poet John Scott in the late 18th Century and restored in 1990 by the Ware Society. It is a Grade 1 listed building and is open every Saturday and Bank Holiday Monday from April to the end of September between 2.00pm and 4.30pm.

Most of what I have covered above is also shown in a short video entitled "The History of Ware, Hertfordshire" at YouTube. 

The towpath eventually leads to Amwell End. To the left is the bridge over the Lee leading to Ware High Street. Go straight on across the road and back onto the Lee Towpath.

As the path leaves Ware, it also enters the Lee Valley Regional Park and stays along the bank of the Lee Navigation. After 420 yards the old course of the river can be seen disappearing off to the left over a weir (at 2.5 miles). The park follows the River Lee for 26 miles from Ware to the River Thames, at East India Dock Basin in Bow. It covers an area of 10,000 acres, is the largest open space in the London area and is managed by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority. 

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The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority was formed by Royal Assent on 1st January 1967. It came into existence after an Act of Parliament. However, the reason we have this huge park (or green lung) running from Hertfordshire into the centre of London dates back many millions of years.

For most of the journey down the Lee the park is less than a mile wide - at times it is only the width of the navigation and the towpath.

To look at why the park came about we need to go back to between 145 and 65 million years ago (the Cretaceous Period) when a tropical sea covered this land. A chalk layer was formed by deposits on the sea bed. It now forms the bedrock on which the London Basin sits on.

At the end of the Cretaceous Period the original Thames Basin came into existence. The waters drained deposits of the tropical dry lands - rock sediment, dead trees, undergrowth, bones and much more - into the sea forming thick clay deposits on top of the chalk. The sea was shallow and still covered most of what is now southern England. This decomposition of the forests, wildlife, protruding rock and other ground continued to be taken down by the rivers and deposited on the sea bed for many millions of years.

Between 40 and 20 million years ago movements in the earth's crust in Europe, with landmasses coming together caused dramatic changes. The most significant was the formation of the Alps. It also rose up most of southern Europe above sea-level to form new areas of dry land, including what are now the lowlands of the southern British Isles. At this point Britain was possibly joined with mainland Europe.

From 64 to 2 million years ago these deposits went on to form the clay under London on top of the much older chalk layer. The chalk is permeable (can absorb water), whereas the clay is impermeable and blocks the water. This explains in places like the Chiltern Hills and the North Downs, where the chalk has been pushed up to form hills, that sometimes the rivers can seem to dry up, but really disappear underground and into the chalk, yet reappearing at times back along the surface where the chalk layer is shallow.

Up to about 480, 000 years ago the River Thames flowed north of its current route, through the Vale of St Albans and onto the sea through Essex. The ice sheets gradually came down and during this ice-age reached as far south as Bricket Wood (next to where the M25 motorway is now). They pushed the Thames southward, originally through the River Lee Valley and later forced it further southwards along its current course.

This was not the first ice-age and would not be the last. Through the ice-ages the ice glaciers, as they moved south, would weather mountains, scooping up the rocks and rounding their peaks. They would carry vast quantities of rocks and earth with them on their journey. Their eroding power would smooth mountains and flatten land as they slowly moved over them in a sandpapering effect. The rocks they carried would abraise against other and be broken down to small pebbles and sand. However, as the glaciers melted, they would drop their loads and the melt waters would form rivers carrying much of the smaller particles with them, depositing these along the way. The scale of it all was huge.

It was the retreat of the ice and the flow of the rivers which came from this that was to leave the lowland areas through which these waters flowed, rich in gravel and sand. The Thames corridor and the Lee Valley were the two of the major beneficiaries.

Today the London basin consists mainly of underlying bedrock of chalk. In many places above this, especially in the lowlands, lies a layer of clay and above the clay, mainly along the flood plains of river valleys, a rich layer of gravel and sand.

Much of the lowland along the Thames and Lee valleys were not suitable to build settlements because of their susceptibility to flood. It meant these areas were left untouched. However, the rivers did provide natural communications links. The Romans built roads along them; the Vikings used them to row their boats upstream to pillage many inland settlements including Chertsey Abbey and Ware. Their flow was a source of energy to power water mills back to Roman Times - many Roman villas were built on the lower slopes of their valleys. Later, at the end of the 11th Century, the Domesday Book records a huge number of mills feeding of the flow of the Thames and its tributaries. 

With the growth of the population and the onset of the Industrial Revolution the clay, the sand and the gravel were all in great demand. The clay was used to make the bricks, the gravel in the building of roads and the sand in all forms of construction. Hence the large open pits along the flood plains to extract these minerals. The Thames and Lee valleys took a hammering. Massive pits were dug along both valley floors. During the excavations of these pits remains of many prehistoric animals were found and today adorn museums and company headquarters. When exhausted of their gravel, sand and clay the huge holes were left to fill up with water, leaving the large amount of lakes we see today. The Lee Valley Park area was left with a great concentration of lakes but with gaps between them to give access to carry away the gravel and clay to be used in construction. The Thames Valley lakes start at Hampton Court and extend westwards and can be seen along our route to Little Marlow - they probably extend further west. However, with the Lee almost all the extractions and resulting lakes are no more than a mile wide, the Thames ones go much wider. Some of the huge resulting pits have been built up around the edges to form large reservoirs used to supply Greater London with fresh water. These are greatly evident along the lower Lee Valley and Thames going west from Hampton Court through Staines and Windsor.

The potential of the River Lee was first recognised by Izaak Walton (1593 - 1683) in his book "Compleat Angler", published in 1653.  In the book he could see how the Lee Valley could benefit man as a playground and even described the Lee as his "lovely river".

This potential was not acted on until many hundred years later. However, in the meantime the New River and the Lee Navigation were constructed. These took water away from the river and made the valley less susceptible to flooding. Mill streams powered the industries which grew up. They diverted more water away and gravel pits and reservoirs came into being and would contain some of the waters. For many years the Lee Valley was one of the areas which contributed to the great industrial growth in Britain. In more recent times with less use of waterways for transport and with cheaper imports from abroad, the Lee became less important as an industrial area. However, what remained was a landscape which was to provide a new industry; a natural area for wildlife and recreation.

It is not surprising that before the Second World War it was suggested the River Lee be rescued, cleansed of its industrial past and used to create a great playground for Londoners to enjoy. With the onset of the war, all plans were shelved, but in 1944, Sir Patrick Abercrombie in his Greater London Plan revived the idea by suggesting that:

"the valley gives the opportunity for a great piece of constructive, preservative and regenerative planning. ... every piece of open land should be welded into a great regional reservation".

However, this was not acted on until 1963 when it was brought to the fore again by the local councils. After much debate, planning, a bill in Parliament and backing from The Duke of Edinburgh, on 1st January 1967 the Lee Valley Regional Park came into existence. 

Today most of the land within the park is owned by either The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority or the local councils. There are some parts which are privately owned but still part of the park and have access to the public.

At my first time of writing the, the Lower Lee Valley at Stratford the largest construction project in the UK is underway in building the Olympic Park for the 2012 London Games. This is the only site where such a huge regeneration project could be undertaken so close to the centre of a large city such as London. We owe this to the what has went before, as described above, through nature over tens of millions of years and man just in the last few thousand - maybe it was all planned?

In 2017 Lee Valley created a short video entitled "Lee Valley Regional Park at 50: From Wasteland to Playground". You can watch it at YouTube.

In re-writing this in June 2020 you can read how the 2012 London Olympic Games went at Wikipedia. The Opening Ceremony was impressive and you can watch it HERE.

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For the next few miles the river and towpath are peaceful and secluded. All you are likely to come across is the odd walker, cyclist, angler or pleasure craft. 0.8 miles after Ware is Hardmead Lock and a mile later is Stanstead Lock. (at 4.1 miles). Almost immediately after Stanstead Lock the old River Lee rejoins the Lee Navigation. Just before the lock the path crosses the "Meridian Line" for the first of four times, three of these are in the Lee Valley Park. As far as I know there is no sign along the towpath to mark the line. However, shortly after the lock the towpath crosses under Stanstead Abbots Bridge, and along the road above and to the west, 100 yards past St. Margaret's railway station and next to the bridge over the "New River", is a black post marking the position of the line.

Next to the old stone Stanstead Abbots Bridge is the Jolly Fisherman pub a McMullen's house and beside it is a modern sculpture made of stone. The road in the opposite direction, over the river, soon leads to the historic village of Stanstead Abbots.

As we pass the bridge the Hertfordshire Way rejoins us for the next 1.35 miles as far as Rye House.

Continue along the towpath, and after 925 yards under the A414 viaduct, then after another 0.75 miles, under Rye Road and past Rye House (at 5.72 miles).

Just a few yards to the right, along Rye Road, is Rye House Station. You may decide to cut short your walk here, but I'll go on for another 5.72 miles to Cheshunt. 

Rye House Gatehouse is just across the river and can be reached by crossing the Rye Road Bridge. The gatehouse dates from 1443 and is all that remains of a large manor house built by Sir Andrew Ogard. It is the oldest surviving example of a brick building in Hertfordshire. In recent years it has been restored by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority, is now open to the public and contains an exhibition on the history of the manor. The gatehouse and moat are now listed as a Scheduled Monument. If you have the time, this is well worth the short diversion.

Rye House was where in 1683 the "Rye House Plot" was planned. The aim was to murder Charles II and his brother James, Duke of York (later King James II), on their way back from Newmarket Races to London. Luckily for the king and duke, they had to set off early for London because their lodgings caught fire. As a consequence, the plot failed. Richard Rumbold, owner of Rye House, was implicated along with Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl Shaftesbury and leader of the opposition to Charles' rule. Others included  Lord William Russell, son of the 5th Earl of Bedford, Algernon Sydney, Arthur Capell, 1st Earl of Essex and James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth and illegitimate son of Charles II. Of the conspirators, Russell and Sydney were executed, the Duke of Monmouth and Earl Shaftesbury were forced into exile, and Essex committed suicide. Richard Rumbold (aka Hannibal Rumbold) was executed in Edinburgh on 26th June 1685 after another failed plot - this time to kill James II in Scotland. It was instigated by himself and Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll. At his execution Rumbold made a "speech on the scaffold" which was to go down in history. An excerpt from the speech is below.

".. this is a deluded generation, veiled in ignorance, that though popery and slavery be riding in upon them, do not perceive it; though I am sure that there was no man born marked by God above another; for none comes into the world with a saddle on his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him..."

This speech must have been debated by the forefathers of the USA at the Philadelphia Convention (25th May 1787 - 17th September 1787) in drawing up the American Constitution. Section 33 of the constitution entitled "The Liberty of a People is the gift of God and Nature" seems to take much from the speech and even a quote. Part of the same quote was used by Thomas Jefferson in his last letter. You can read Rombold's full speech here.

At 6.1 miles we pass under a metal bridge. It carries the train line from London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport and Cambridge.

After passing under the rail bridge, in front and to our right the large building with the three towers is the gas turbine driven Rye House Power Station. It was completed in 1993, was built on the site of an older coal power station, and can supply enough power for over 1 million people - basically all of Hertfordshire. On passing the power station Fieldes Weir Lock is to the left and just before the lock the River Stort Navigation can be seen joining the Lee from the left. From here it's just less than a mile to Dobb's Weir.

On approaching Dobbs Weir at just over 7 miles (the river widens), follow the towpath left over a long footbridge next to the weir and through a small grassy area to reach the road. Turn left over a bridge then turn right and back down to the canal path with a public car park to your left. 

On one side of the bridge is the weir feeding into the Dobb's Weir Basin and back into the old path of the River Lee; on the other side is the Lee Navigation and across it is the Fish and Eels Pub. 

The weir is the only one which can still control the flow of the Lea. The whole area is very popular with anglers and was a huge draw for canoeists and other water sports until they were banned in 2003. The area next to the river at Dobbs Weir is very scenic and is a popular picnic area. It forms part of an island, but you don't get the impression that you are on an island as a road cuts it in two. However, thanks to StreetMap you can see this for yourself.

Originally, I had this as the end of a stage in the walk as there is so much here. It has free car parking, a lovely English pub with a beer garden onto the river, a cafe, a campsite, an old single lane bridge over the canal and so much activity going on all around the area. I did change the start and end points of some stages due to logistical reasons, but you may choose to start and finish your walk wherever you please, and if you intend to camp, you may choose to stop here. This short aerial video of Dobb's Weir is worth a watch.

The campsite was closed for a few years, but re-opened in 2012, probably because the world's largest sports event was happening nearby. Anyway, I'm pleased it did, see its official website. You can watch a promotional video about the campsite at the link to YouTube.

Many years ago, and before the bridge was built, a ford crossed the river here. From this time there are stories of horses, carts and their loads often being lost during times of flood - thanks God it's less hazardous now.

The Fish and Eels dates back to the 19th Century when it was owned by the local Christie's Brewery. The current owner is Vintage Inns. A previous landlord was the notorious Reverend Samuel Thackery. After losing his chaplaincy, he changed profession to inn keeping, and would on occasions preach sermons to his customers from the bar. Vintage Inns seem to be very selective about the pubs they acquire - our route passes many on its way around London. Most are set in pleasant surroundings, next to rivers or in quite country areas. Others passed on route include the Thames Court Hotel at Shepperton Lock, The Crown at Broxbourne, The Magpie at Little Warley, The Thatched House at Upminster, The Lion at Farningham and The Rose & Crown at Dunton Green. I have been known to frequent them on the odd occasion and always found them pleasant, traditional and good value.

Continue to follow the Lee Valley Path southwards along the eastern edge of the canal. Dobbs Weir Lock is passed after 350 yards. To the left are the Nazeing Meads Boating Lakes and Broxbourne Sailing Club.

Shortly after Dobbs Weir Lock the path widens out to a lane for over half a mile and is not always traffic free. There are also many potholes which could do with some repairs.

Carthagena Weir is passed at 8 miles, and Carthagena Lock soon after, as is the Prime Meridian Line crossed for the second time on the route. 300 yards later the towpath crosses under the Broxbourne to Nazeing road bridge (Nazeing New Road) and continues to Broxbourne.

450 yards later and just before Broxbourne, to the right across the river, was the Lee Valley Leisure Pool. This closed in 2008 and was later demolished. At present it seems to be a riverside park and car park. It was on a island, and another part of the island had been cleared up and has the "Almost Wild Campsite" - at the link to YouTube it sounds great.  Soon after this the path comes out onto the Old Nazeing Road next to The Crown Pub.

The Crown Inn is once again owned by Vintage Inns as was the Fish and Eels at Dobbs Weir. The pub itself dates back to the 18th Century when it was the Crown Hotel. It became popular with Victorian day-trippers and anglers. Local companies encourage their employees to participate in sports in fields next to The Crown and used it after the games. The hotel got knocked down in the 1930s and was replaced by the current pub.

On passing The Crown Pub, turn right along Old Nazeing Road and over the bridge to the west bank of the River Lee.

Immediately over, turn left to continuing south along the towpath, and soon over a footbridge which crosses the Broxbourne Mill Stream. The railway is just to the right. 

Immediately over the footbridge a path, under the railway, to the right leads to Mill Lane. There has been a mill here since before Domesday and it is the only one in the area listed in the book. The first recorded owners were the Knights of St John of Jerusalem who held it up until the Reformation 1544 when Henry VIII stripped the monasteries of their assets (We'll meet these guys again, later on our walk around London). Ownership was granted to local miller John Cook and it then passed through many hands. In the early 1890s Charles Webster, on his death, passed ownership to his daughter. Soon afterwards the mill closed down. In 1910 a Dutch Engineer took over the mill and turned the millhouse into a small engineering works and after restoring the mill wheel used it to generate power for the business. In the autumn of 1949, the mill burnt down and stood neglected until 1973 when Lee Valley Regional Park Authority bought the site. They started restoration in 1977 and by 2001 the mill wheel was turning again. The area is now called Broxbourne Old Mill and Meadows. Facilities include parking, toilets, a picnic area, the Old Mill Retreat Cafe, holiday chalets, bike hire between April and October, day fishing tickets and a model railway club at weekends. You can read more about the Broxbourne Mill at Wikipedia.

This small area is quite unique as within 300 yards of the path you have three water channels - Lee Navigation, River Lea and New River. There are riverside parks, lots of walks, some old houses, the parish church, the railway, boating clubs and more.

The Parish Church of St Augustine on Churchfields is Grade 1 listed, is just a stone's throw away from Mill Lane and overlooks the New River. It was completely rebuilt in the early / middle 15th Century but still retains its 12th Century marble font. The interior has numerous monuments and brasses. In its large riverside graveyard there are five listed tombs. For more information see Wikipedia and the Church website.

The section of the Lea Valley from Broxbourne to Waltham Abbey is called the River Lee Country Park and covers an area of over 1,000 acres. The link has lots of information about the history and wildlife of the park and there are a few great leaflets you can download.

To the right, at 9.5 miles, an exit from the towpath leads to a secluded picnic area and park at Wormley. Our original route (first in 1995) took us through Wormley, across a railway level crossing and along a Wharf Road to here, where we would turn right to join the Lee towpath. When we changed to the current route in 2005 it added a few extra miles between Hatfield and Wormley, but this was a huge improvement as it takes in all of the Alban Way, Mill Green Mill, Commons Woods at Welwyn, the Cole Green Way, historical Hertford, Ware and much more of the River Lee towpath. It meant going from mostly on-road from Old Hatfield to here, to now almost all off-road and through beautiful countryside.

For the nest 3.15 miles, to where the towpath passes under the A121 (Highbridge Street at Waltham Abbey), the route passes four locks: Aqueduct Lock, Cheshunt Lock (on this stage), Waltham Common Lock and Waltham Town Lock (on the next stage). On both sides there are many old gravel pits which have filled up with water and are now lakes used for boating, fishing and other water sports. They are separated by areas of open space, and marsh full with wildlife and are joined up by many different courses of the river and individual streams. There are farms, market garden nurseries with fields of greenhouses, electricity stations, woods and meadows. Although not many can be seen from the towpath, the east side of the Lea Valley has a huge concentration of greenhouses.

Many clubhouses sit on the shores of the lakes with small lanes leading to them. However, the Lee Valley stays wide with no built-up area encroaching on it until we reach Waltham Abbey.

Aqueduct Lock, (at 10.1 miles), takes its name from the aqueduct just above the lock which carries the Lee Navigation over the Small River Lee - a minor tributary of the River Lee.

Cheshunt Lock, is at 10.9 miles and 300 yards later, a concrete footbridge over the Navigation marks the crossing point of two paths dissecting each other at right angles and going off between lakes to form what looks like a crucifix from the air. The footbridge over the Navigation leads to two other footbridges between lakes, then past a parking area and across another bridge over the Horsemill Stream to yet another over the Cornmill Stream. There are diversions to the south and north off this path along narrow islands leading elsewhere through marshes and between lakes. The same is true of most of the area in this part of the Lea Valley. It really shows the complexity of it all and gives an indication of how much nature and wildlife there is to enjoy. Immediately south of the parking area is Waltham Abbey Woods. The woods are bounded to the west by the Horsemill Stream (also part of the River Lee Flood Relief Channel at this point) and dissected by the Old River Lee and the Cornmill Stream. We are now right in the heart of the River Lee Country Park. It extends away from both sides of the path and is all within the Lee Valley Park (not to confuse both) and is managed by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority.

At 11.42 miles, the canal bends slightly to the left, and shortly after this, to the right of the path, is a River Lee Country Park sign. This is where we finish the stage.

On the RHS a footpath leads to a small car park with public toilets and a picnic area. A few yards later is the entrance to the Lee Valley YHA and the Herts Young Mariners Base. 100 yards further along Windmill Lane is Cheshunt railway station - it's only 300 yards away (see map). Nearby was the Headquarters of Tesco Stores on Delamare Road up until 2015, but in a shock move they relocated to Welwyn Garden City.

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