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The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal

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The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal
Author: peachwalker, Published: 26 Mar 2018 Walk Rating:star1 The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshirestar1 The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshirestar1 The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshirestar1 The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshirestar1 The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire, Berkhamsted
Walk Type: River or lakeside
The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal
Length: 4 miles,  Difficulty: boot The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire boot The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire boot The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
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0001_sunny The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, HertfordshireToday's weather
25 °C, Clear/sunny, Wind: 4 mph ESE
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0002_sunny_intervals The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire 0002_sunny_intervals The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire 0001_sunny The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire 0001_sunny The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire 0001_sunny The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

A 4 mile (can be shortened to 3 miles) circular pub walk from The Old Mill in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. The Old Mill retains the character of its Georgian and Victorian origins and remains a real pub, where you’re just as welcome to enjoy a decent pint of bitter at the bar or a deli board, as a fine three course meal. The walk route follows a long stretch of the Grand Union Canal, with boatlife and birdlife galore, before heading up into the nearby hills for the return leg through beautiful countryside.

The walk has several gradients throughout, including a couple of fairly long and steady climbs. It follows a mixture of towpaths, quiet lanes, stone paths and field edge grass paths, some of which can be muddy after rain and in winter. You will need to negotiate one flight of steps down to the canal and one kissing gate, but there are no stiles on route and you will not be sharing any of the paths with livestock. There are a couple of road crossings of the A4251 that need care, although both of these are within 30mph speed limit sections. Allow 2 hours.

Berkhamsted is located just off the A41 at the western edge of Hertfordshire, close to the border with Buckinghamshire. The Old Mill is on the main A4251 London Road which runs through the town, at the eastern end. If you are coming by public transport, the pub is a 0.8 mile walk from Berkhamsted rail station. If you are coming by car, the pub has its own large car park. Approximate post code HP4 2NB.

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Walk Sections

Start to Top Side Lock
Start to Top Side Lock

Start point: 51.7567 lat, -0.5524 long
End point: 51.7551 lat, -0.5446 long

Leave the pub car park via the vehicle entrance and turn left along the pavement, passing The Old Mill on your left. Take the first side road on your left, Bank Mill Lane and this will lead you past the pub’s Locals Entrance. Taking care of traffic, continue along Bank Mill Lane, with the pretty River Bulbourne running on your right.

The 1086 Domesday Book recorded three watermills powered by the River Bulbourne, two in Berkhamsted and one in Bourne End. When you visit The Old Mill pub at the end of the walk, you will still find the old mill-race thundering (or trickling, according to the season) over a weir and through the secret courtyard off the bar.

Part way along the lane, turn left into the road called Bank Mill, which leads you up towards a bridge over the Grand Union Canal. Immediately before the bridge, turn left down the steps and then swing right to join the towpath leading you under the bridge (No. 143). Keep ahead along the towpath, with the canal running on your left.

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.

After about 400 metres you will pass Lock 56 within the canal, called Top Side Lock.

Top Side Lock to Sharpes Lane
Top Side Lock to Sharpes Lane

Start point: 51.7551 lat, -0.5446 long
End point: 51.7477 lat, -0.5252 long

Continue ahead on the towpath, with the canal still running on your left. The towpath leads you past a row of whitewashed cottages, under the brick arch of Bridge 144 and then past a second lock, Bottom Side Lock. The towpath now continues with the canal still running on your left and the River Bulbourne running immediately on your right.

The pretty River Bulbourne runs for 7 miles from Dudswell to the River Gade. The Bulbourne is a fine example of a chalk stream, a watercourse that flows from chalk-fed groundwater. Chalk streams are a very rare habitat globally. According to a report in The Guardian, there are only 210 true chalk streams anywhere in the world, and 160 of them are in England. The marshy land alongside the river was used in the 1880s to grow watercress. The industry continued until the 1960s.

Continue for about a further mile along the towpath, passing Lock 58 and passing under the arch of Bridge 145 along the way, to reach the white-washed bridge (Bridge 146). Turn right immediately before this bridge, heading up a short slope to reach a junction with a narrow tarmac lane, Sharpes Lane.

Sharpes Lane to A41 Underpass
Sharpes Lane to A41 Underpass

Start point: 51.7477 lat, -0.5252 long
End point: 51.747 lat, -0.5473 long

Turn right along Sharpes Lane, leading you away from the canal. Follow the narrow lane leading you downhill and crossing over the river to reach a T-junction with the A4251. Turn right along the pavement for about 150 metres and then, taking extra care of traffic, cross over the road to turn left into Sugar Lane.

Follow this access lane, leading you uphill between trees and hedgerows. The access lane swings right and, after passing the last house on your right (the appropriately named Lanes End Cottage), keep straight ahead to join the stone path climbing steadily through the tunnel of holly and hedgerows. As you emerge from the tunnel, keep ahead on the path, now with a hedgerow, open fields and fine views across to your left.

Continue on this pretty hedge-lined path for about a mile and, eventually, you will emerge alongside the A41 with a metal kissing gate on your left. At this point you have two choices:

To follow the shorter 3 mile walk (which excludes the next section of hills), bear right to continue on the main stone path, with the A41 running on your left. Continue until you emerge to a T-junction with a lane (with Swing Gate Lane Bridge over the A41 visible to your left). Turn right along the lane and then skip forward to the directions in the section called Swing Gate Lane Bridge to End.

To follow the full 4 mile walk, turn sharp left through the kissing gate and follow the narrow path leading you down to the underpass beneath the A41.

A41 Underpass to Swing Gate Lane Bridge
A41 Underpass to Swing Gate Lane Bridge

Start point: 51.747 lat, -0.5473 long
End point: 51.7487 lat, -0.5569 long

Walk through the underpass tunnel. At the far side go straight ahead, passing through a fence gap and continuing downhill on a grass path, with a crop field on your right. At the bottom of the field you will reach a tall metal fingerpost ahead. Turn right onto the bridleway signed to Bottom Farm, a grass path which runs along the bottom of this same field, with a hedgerow on your left.

Towards the end of the field the path leads you past Bottom Farm (on your left) to reach a junction with a stone access track. Turn right to join the track, signed as a public bridleway to Swing Gate Lane, leading you uphill between hedgerows. Stay with the track as it swings left and then right, leading you uphill into an area of woodland. Ignore the paths signed left into the woodland, instead stay on the access track (now tarmac) which leads you back across the A41 via a road bridge (Swing Gate Lane Bridge).

Swing Gate Lane Bridge to End
Swing Gate Lane Bridge to End

Start point: 51.7487 lat, -0.5569 long
End point: 51.757 lat, -0.5521 long

Keep ahead along this lane, Swing Gate Lane, with a hedgerow and trees on your left and an open crop field on your right. At the end of the hedgerow, follow the lane ahead, passing a school on your left and heading downhill to the start of houses in Berkhamsted. Take the first side road on your right, Upper Hall Park, and then take the first left turn into Cedar Road.

Follow this residential road leading you quite steeply downhill, with fine views of the hills ahead. At the bottom of the road you will reach a T-junction with the A4251. Turn left along the pavement for just a short distance and then cross over with care to reach The Old Mill for some well-earned hospitality.

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network The Old Mill and Grand Union Canal, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire Original GPX source file

Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2018 by the author peachpubs 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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