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.
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.
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.
Mill Road follow the Lee Towpath
east, signed Riverside Walk, for the next 2.25 miles
to Ware .
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
The Meads are a flat area of land between Hertford and Ware covering 96 hectares
and managed by the
The whole area has a chalk base with hills on either side. In older times the
Lee was navigable from
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.
purpose was to bring drinking water from Hertfordshire to
550 yards the towpath passes
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
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),
is one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in
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.
attraction was its position. It was where one of this country's
oldest roads crossed the River Lea. The
in the 1st Century to allow their legions to march north. It linked
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.
of years later in the 9th Century a
Danish Invasion overran the Saxon
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.
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
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
importance and size grew due to its position on the main road between
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."
industry also thrived in the town and from the 17th Century Ware
could claim to be the premier malting town in
success would also prove to be its downfall. The road found it difficult to cope
with all the traffic and to ease the flow
In order to
attract more customers, the inns which had gardens running down to the river
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
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
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 -
guested town of
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.
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
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,
towpath eventually leads to Amwell End. To the left is the bridge over the Lee
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
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
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
when a tropical
sea covered this land. A
layer was formed by deposits on the sea bed. It now forms the bedrock on which
At the end of
Between 40 and
20 million years ago movements in the earth's
From 64 to 2
million years ago these deposits went on to form the clay under
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
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
Much of the
lowland along the .
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
of the River Lee was first recognised by
1683) in his book "Compleat Angler",
published in 1653. In the book he
could see how the
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
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".
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
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
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.
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
and a mile later is
(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
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
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.
was where in 1683 the
was planned. The aim was to murder
and his brother James, Duke of York (later King
James II), on their way back from
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.
owner of Rye House, was implicated along with
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl
and leader of the opposition to Charles'
rule. Others included Lord William Russell,
son of the 5th Earl of Bedford,
Arthur Capell, 1st Earl of
James Scott, 1st Duke of
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
".. 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..."
must have been debated by the forefathers of the
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.
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
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
Continue to follow the Lee Valley Path southwards along the eastern edge of the
Dobbs Weir Lock
is passed after 350 yards. To the left are the
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.
continuing south along the
towpath, and soon over a
which crosses the Broxbourne Mill Stream. The railway is just to the right.
over the footbridge a path, under the railway, to the right leads to
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.
Parish Church of St Augustine on Churchfields is Grade 1 listed, is just a stone's throw away from
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
sit on the shores of the lakes with small lanes leading to them. However, the
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.
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
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
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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