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The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trail

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The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trail
Author: Claire, Published: 02 Nov 2014 Walk rating : Rating:star1 The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trailstar1 The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trailstar1 The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trailstar1 The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trailstar1 The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trail
Hertfordshire, Berkhamsted
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trail
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trail boot The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trail
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A 3 mile circular pub walk from the Kings Arms in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. The Kings Arms restaurant, bar and rooms provides the perfect place to eat, drink and relax in a stylish setting. The walking route takes in the highlights of historic Berkhamsted, including the town hall and castle remains, as well as exploring a pretty stretch of the Grand Union Canal. There’s a short climb to reach the countryside to the north where you will be rewarded with great views over the town and may even have the chance to meet some donkeys.

The route follows a mixture of pavements/towpath and field/woodland paths, the latter of which can be fairly muddy after rain and in winter. There are several steady ascents and descents throughout. You will need to negotiate some flights of steps and several kissing gates along the way. There are public toilets in the car park at the start of the walk. Dogs are welcome in the castle grounds as long as they are on a lead. Approximate time 1.5 hours.

Berkhamsted is located on the western edge of Hertfordshire, just north of the A41 between the towns of Aylesbury and Hemel Hempstead. The walk starts and finishes from the Kings Arms on the High Street in the centre of the town. There is a convenient car park just opposite, the Water Lane pay and display car park, which costs £1.90 for 3 hours (correct Oct 2014). Approximate post code HP4 3FG. Alternatively, Berkhamsted Station is on the walking route, so you can adjust the walk to arrive by train.

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Walk Sections

Start to Grand Union Canal
Start to Grand Union Canal

Start point: 51.7604 lat, -0.5633 long
End point: 51.7623 lat, -0.5637 long

Leave the Water Lane car park via the vehicle entrance, passing the public toilets on the right and the superstore building on the left. At the end of Water Lane you will come to a T-junction with the High Street. If you look diagonally to the left you will see the Kings Arms, the host for today’s walk. You can enjoy some refreshments here before or after your walk, the choice is yours.

Turn right along the High Street (using the right-hand pavement) passing the Civic Centre across to the left. Keep your eyes peeled for the shop which is No 173 High Street, across to the left, with two bay windows at ground level and one central bay window above. This seemingly inconspicuous shop frontage holds an impressive claim to fame.

173 High Street was thought to be just a Victorian chemist shop and you can still see the painted chemist signs on the frontage. In 2003, during restoration work of this apparent Victorian retailer, timbers dating from 1277 to 1297 were discovered, making this the earliest known urban jettied building in the country. It is thought that the building was probably a service wing to an aisled hall house, possibly the home a wealthy wool merchant.

Keep ahead along the pavement and you will pass the Victorian gothic Town Hall on the right, dating from 1859. As you reach the crossroads with the traffic lights, cross the pedestrian crossing ahead and then turn immediately right to join the left-hand pavement of the side road, Lower Kings Road.

Follow the road passing between more independent retailers and keep ahead over the entrance road for Waitrose on the left. Immediately afterwards, ignore the signed footpath on the left, simply keep ahead along the pavement. Soon you will approach the bridge over the Grand Union Canal. Immediately before this, fork left down the flight of steps to reach the canal towpath.

Grand Union Canal to Billet Lane
Grand Union Canal to Billet Lane

Start point: 51.7623 lat, -0.5637 long
End point: 51.766 lat, -0.5781 long

Turn left along the towpath, passing Broadwater Lock (Number 53) on the right. Continue along the towpath, with the canal on the right. Down to the left, but probably hidden by undergrowth, is the River Bulbourne, a chalk stream that runs for 7 miles from Dudswell to the River Gade. The marshy land alongside the river was used in the 1880s to grow watercress. The industry continued until the 1960s.

Pass under a wooden footbridge and keep ahead along the towpath. The Grand Junction Canal from the Thames at Brentford to Berkhamsted was completed in 1798 and continued all the way to Birmingham in 1805. Berkhamsted became an important centre as it linked the estuaries, ports and industrial centres of the country. Main activities included the transport of coal, grain, building materials and manure. Timber yards, breweries, boat building and chemical works all flourished as a result of the canal. Take time to enjoy the variety of canal boats, barges and wildlife that frequent this stretch of the canal today.

You will pass the site of St John’s Well on the left. The Hospital of St John the Evangelist was founded here in the 12th century. Monks at the hospital used the water from this spring to treat soldiers who had returned from the crusades suffering from leprosy.

You will pass under another footbridge (Number 140A) and then pass a pair of locks, the Gas Locks. These locks mark the point where Berkhamsted Gas Works were once serviced by the canal.

Continue just as far as the next bridge, a road bridge. In front of this you will see the pipe bridge that carries the gas over the canal. Turn left immediately before the bridge and follow the gravel path to reach a T-junction with the road, Billet Lane.

Billet Lane to Footpath 25
Billet Lane to Footpath 25

Start point: 51.766 lat, -0.5781 long
End point: 51.7721 lat, -0.5757 long

Turn sharp right along the pavement and follow this over the canal and then over the railway. As you draw level with gates for the allotments on the right, fork right onto the path that veers slightly away from the main road. Cross over the side road, Princes Close, and keep ahead along the pavement. Cross over the next side road, Bridgewater Road, and turn left along the pavement which leads you up the hill, Bridle Way, signed for Bridgewater School.

Follow the pavement uphill and, just before you reach a bus stop, fork right onto a tarmac path which leads you past the grounds of the school on the right. This section of the Bulbourne Valley is rich in both timber and iron ore and so was a major centre for iron production. Evidence has been found on the site of this school of four shaft furnaces dating back to the 1st century.

Follow the path past the school vehicle gates on the right and keep straight ahead on the fenced footpath. The path leads you past the school playground and then a small fenced woodland on the right. You will reach a signed crossroads of footpaths. Turn right here, passing through a wooden kissing gate, to join the fenced woodland track (signed Footpath 25).

Footpath 25 to Berkhamsted Castle
Footpath 25 to Berkhamsted Castle

Start point: 51.7721 lat, -0.5757 long
End point: 51.7634 lat, -0.5608 long

Follow this level path ahead. As you reach a gap in the fence on the right, take a moment to enjoy the views south across the town of Berkhamsted. From this vantage point you can understand the important geography of the town’s site within the valley. Berkhamsted was an important medieval town, guarding the strategic gap in the Chiltern Hills cut by the River Bulbourne. The main road through became a thriving trade route, indeed the Kings Arms itself is an old coaching inn dating from the 1700s and had the capacity to stable up to 40 horses. Dominating the skyline today is Berkhamsted’s Victorian water tower, a white tower with conical red roof.

Further along you will come to a gate ahead. Pass through this to enter the large open pasture and walk ahead to follow the line of the hedge on the right. Ignore the first footpath off to the right, simply keep straight ahead along the field edge. At the end of the pasture, pass through the metal kissing gate and you may be lucky enough to see the resident donkeys and alpacas in the field on the left.

Keep ahead to join the stone track and ignore the footpath signed off to the left. Follow the gravel driveway passing a very grand barn conversion on the right. This is on the edge of the site of Berkhamsted Place. This manor house was built by Sir Edward Carey, Keeper of the Jewels for Elizabeth I, in c.1580. The house was built with stone taken from the ruins of Berkhamsted Castle (more of that later). Over the years it was home to a range of notable figures, including Prince Charles, later crowned Charles I. In the 1950s the house was converted to flats, and then in 1967 it was finally demolished. Today the site is home to a number of cottages and a farm.

The track leads you past more beautiful properties including Castle Hill Court which dates from 1863. You will emerge to a T-junction with Castle Hill. Turn left for a few paces and then fork right down the wide grass avenue lined with lime trees. This is the remnants of the avenue that once led up the hill from the castle (our next stop) to Berkhamsted Place.

You will emerge out to Castle Hill Avenue. Keep ahead along this road, continuing downhill. At the T-junction at the bottom, turn left along Bridgewater Road and you will come to a mini roundabout with Brownlow Road. Cross over with care and turn right along the pavement. Immediately before the rail bridge, turn left into White Hill and then left again into the entrance for Berkhamsted Castle.

Berkhamsted Castle to End
Berkhamsted Castle to End

Start point: 51.7634 lat, -0.5608 long
End point: 51.7605 lat, -0.5633 long

A few paces into the grounds, turn left up the concrete steps to join the grass path around the outer ramparts. NOTE: There are steep slopes each side here which lead down to the inner and outer moats. Even if these look overgrown they are likely to be holding water so please take care with children and dogs.

Follow this pretty path, taking time to enjoy the views of the castle remains in the centre. It was here in Berkhamsted in December 1066 that William, Duke of Normandy, became William the Conqueror. After his victory at the Battle of Hastings in October, he led his army north and was met by Edgar Aetheling, the heir to the English throne, here in Berkhamsted. The heir surrendered, swore loyalty to William and offered him the crown of England. William’s coronation took place on Christmas Day. William’s half brother built the first fortification on this site and then, under the reign of Henry II (c.1155), the castle was rebuilt in stone by Thomas Becket. The castle has connections with many kings and queens and other notable people including King John, and Geoffrey Chaucer. In the late 1400s the castle became unpopular with the royals and by the mid 1500s it was in ruins. During World War II the site was used to store some of London’s statues, keeping them safe from the air raids. Today, the site is managed by English Heritage.

The ramparts path will lead you all the way round and back down some steps to reach the entrance drive. Turn left to leave the grounds and then right back along White Hill. Cross over the main road ahead (taking extreme care of traffic here) and then turn left along the pavement which leads you under the rail bridge. Turn right to pass in front of Berkhamsted Station on the right.

The road swings left and leads you back over the Grand Union Canal. From this point you will be re-tracing your steps back to the Kings Arms. Keep ahead along the road until you reach the crossroads with traffic lights. Turn left along the High Street and you will come to the Kings Arms on the right for some well deserved refreshments.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2014 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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2 gallery images for "The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trail"

3756_0Richard1414936818 The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trail Image by: RichardJ
Uploaded: 02 Nov 2014
173 High Street was thought to be just a Victorian chemist shop
3756_1Richard1414936818 The Kings Arms Berkhamsted and Canal Trail Image by: RichardJ
Uploaded: 02 Nov 2014
Avenue of lime trees that once led to the castle. Taken in October 2014.


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