We were delighted earlier this year when Thames Water commissioned us to create iFootpath walking guides to cover the length of the New River. It transpired to be a fascinating journey through history, tranquil countryside and various neighbourhoods within Hertfordshire and north London.
The New River has an unhelpful name, being neither new nor a river! It is in fact a water supply aqueduct (like a drinking water canal), completed in 1613, to bring drinking water from natural springs in Hertfordshire to London. Before this time, London’s water supply was limited to the Thames, local streams and wells which were often contaminated. Following earlier financially failed attempts to begin the works to bring Hertfordshire’s spring water to London, Sir Hugh Myddelton, a goldsmith and merchant adventurer, was given the authority in 1609 to construct the New River. An incredible engineering feat for its time, today the New River remains an essential part of London’s water supply, providing 8% of the city’s water consumption.
Thames Water has worked with partners to create a 28 mile long-distance path that follows the course of the New River. We’ve created six walking guides to enable walkers to immerse themselves in the world of the New River, splitting the long-distance path into manageable portions. We’ve designed each of the portions to start at (or at least near to) rail stations to make travelling to and from the linear walks as easy as possible.
Along the way there’s plenty to enjoy as your journey passes through both rural and urban landscapes. You’ll see the workings of the New River with its gauge and sluice buildings, reservoirs and beautifully ornate brick pumping stations. There are various monuments to the river’s creators to discover plus lakes, woodlands, parks and gardens. The final portion of the walk culminates at the New River Head visitor centre where you can read all the fascinating history of the river and its role in transforming the lives and health of London’s inner city residents.
28 September 2014