Walk over and under the M25 is that crazy? Nobody associates the M25 with great walking territory. However, Hunton Bridge, just north of Watford, is the start of a loop route that everyone will enjoy. Despite the noisy motorway for a brief section there is much to appreciate on this trail. By following this path you’ll encounter.
- four ancient woods
- the rolling Chiltern Hills
- Hertfordshire farms
- a forgotten hamlet
- a fake Tudor Mansion
- the prettiest section of the Grand Union canal
Watch the video below and see why you’ll want to walk over and under the M25.
Begin the walk at Hunton Bridge
Park outside St Pauls Church Langlebury on the A41. Consecrated in 1846, this parish church has a large memorial cross. William Jones Lloyd, who held the title of Sherriff of Hertfordshire, built the church while living in the nearby Langlebury Mansion.
Cross the busy A41 at the traffic lights and descend to the Grand Union Canal. Turn left along the canal heading away from Watford and towards the M25.
As you approach the M25 and pass underneath you’ll see an large amount of scaffolding. I don’t know what’s going on but there are an awful lot of men working on the project.
Kings Langley and open countryside
Use the map to decide at which point to leave the canal and turn up towards Kings Langley.
When you arrive at the main road cross over and enter the farm. Broadfield Farm is noted for its raw milk.
Pass through the farm following the path and the countryside opens up before you.
Eventually you cross over the A41.
This is only a momentary distraction from the wide open countryside. Cross the bridge and you soon return to lovely views all around you.
The path then narrows as you approach Top Common.
Chipperfield Common and Commonwood
The route leads you to Chipperfield Common. The Blackwell family gifted the common to the local council in 1936. The 117 acre common had been used for grazing by the local population but has since reverted to woodland.
Skirt round one of the 5 ponds situated on the common. There is a previously published circular walk centred on Chipperfield which includes part of the common.
Exit the common and head towards Common Wood via more open countryside.
You’ll see many stables on the route and this is just one of them.
The route climbs and you arrive at the sleepy hamlet of Commonwood where you’ll find some attractive houses.
Walk along the quiet lane and arrive at a green where you’ll see what looks like a tudor mansion. In fact Commonwood House dates back to only 1932.
A set of apartments make up the house which was built with reclaimed materials.
Quickly return to the woods and follow the route through Commonwood Common.
When you emerge on the other side of the woods cross the little lane and take the path opposite which rises with stables on the right.
At the top of the hill a narrow path leads you into the historic village of Sarratt. Follow the road straight in front of you and then the Green at Sarratt will appear.
The story of Sarratt dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. King Offa gave the parish to the Abbey of St. Albans. Until the 18th century the hamlet of Sarratt consisted of a cluster of homes around the church. The area of Sarratt Green ¾ mile away began to grow at this point and from a population of 450 in 1831 it now has 2,600 inhabitants.
The route to the M25
Pass the Green on your right and continue straight on. Just after the church there is a footpath sign on your left. Take this and step out into open fields again.
This path crosses the field diagonally and then follows a hedge beside the quiet road leading to the bridge across the M25.
Finally the dreaded M25 appears before you. You will undoubtedly have heard the noise already. Cross the road and take the side path across the bridge.
The motorway continues to be busy despite lockdown. On the other side of the bridge turn immediately left and continue along the side of the M25. This is not the most pleasant part of the walk. It’s not long before the path veers away from the motorway.
Chandlers Cross is a very small hamlet on the edge of Harrocks Wood. As you enter the hamlet a very odd looking house greets you.
Opposite what was the Clarendon pub and is now a Prime Steak and Rib house stands a listed building, The Mission Church.
The Chapel tells us a story about our past. Twice a week a congregation of 70 souls would gather here. This continued well into the 20th century demonstrating the importance of religion to local communities.
There is a bench at the crossroads. Perhaps a good place to rest.
Harrocks and Whippendell Woods
After your break at the crossroads re-join the route and enter Harrocks Wood. The Woodland Trust, which manages the wood describes it as “a peaceful escape from busy Watford”. During our walk through the wood we could hear the sound of woodpeckers, but unfortunately couldn’t see them.
The journey continues on to Whippendell Wood where some scenes from the early Star Wars franchise were filmed. Like Harrocks Wood it is an area of Special Scientific Interest.
After a steep rise in the woods you enter Lime Avenue, a broad path that crosses the West Herts Golf Course.
At the end of the avenue descend back to the Grand Union canal for the final leg of the tour.
The Grand Union Canal
The journey back to Hunton Bridge along the towpath is one of the prettiest sections of the Grand Union.
On this part of the canal that winds its way between the River Gade you pass by The Grove Mill. Recent archaeologic excavations have revealed that this site was occupied in the stone, bronze and iron ages. The current mill dates back to the 19th century, but a mill has existed on this site since the days of William the Conqueror.
The canal path also skirts the Grove Estate. The Grove is now a luxury hotel with two golf courses. In the past St Albans Abbey owned the manor of Cassio. The current Grove mansion has 16th century origins and then rebuilt in around 1720 with further modifications in the following centuries. The Earls of Clarendon owned the property and had lavish weekend parties throughout the 19th century. The family sold The Grove in 1922. The house had a mixed fortune until purchased by the Midland & Scottish Railway Co. as its secret headquarters during the war. After the war the property slowly deteriorated until Ralph Trustees Ltd purchased it in 1996 and turned it into a luxury hotel and spa.
Continue to Hunton Bridge where you leave the canal and return to your car. I hope you have found the the walk over & under the M25 much better than it sounds.
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