Winter walks in Hertfordshire
PUBLISHED: 10:00 20 December 2016 | UPDATED: 16:40 29 December 2016
Eaten too much? Check. Fatigued by telly? Check. Kids bouncing off the walls? Check. Time for a refreshing outdoor stroll. Bundle up and head out on one of the Countryside Management Service's top winter walks, says Isabel Crozier
West: Ashridge Drovers walk
Choose between two routes, a six-mile route ora shorter four-mile one, and soak up the Chilterns landscape on the Ashridge Drovers Walk. Both start and finish at Tring Railway Station, taking in the village of Aldbury and the Ashridge Estate visitor centre and café. The routes pass through rolling woodland, farmland and steep chalk grassland, following the network of ancient green lanes that are typical of the Chilterns. Ashridge Estate is owned and managed by the National Trust, and is home to a very wide range of wildlife, including the tiny-but-vocal goldcrest, fallow deer and, in the spring, a fantastic display of bluebells.
Enjoy a circular five-mile walk to Weston with scenic views across the north Hertfordshire countryside. The village of Graveley is situated between Stevenage and Letchworth Garden City and Baldock on the B197. There are many historic houses in the village, some dating back to the 16th century. There are two pubs too, so there’ll be a warm welcome for you when you return from your bracing walk.
Central: Mardley Heath
Mardley Heath Local Nature Reserve is an unusual and interesting mix of old gravel workings, remnant heathland, ponds and woodland. It covers approximately 100 acres and is home to some of Hertfordshire’s finest old hornbeam trees. There is a good network of paths that can be used to explore the reserve on foot, horseback or by bicycle. Take Cannonsfield Road or Heath Road off of the B197 Knebworth Road. The car park is in Heath Road. The heath is also accessible on foot from Woolmer Green and makes an enjoyable circular walk from one of the fine pubs in the village.
Mardley Heath features in the Places to Visit pages of the CMS website.
East: Southern Country Park & beyond
Explore the south-west corner of Bishop’s Stortford by following the Parks and Beyond circular walks. These link together five East Herts Council-managed open spaces – Southern Country Park, Northern Parkland, Thorley Wedge, Bishop’s Park and The Firs. You can start your walk at Southern Country Park car park off Thorley Lane (East) in Bishop’s Stortford.
South: Merry Hill Walk
Enjoy glorious panoramic views out as far as Windsor from Merry Hill, a beautiful green space comprised of woodland, meadows and ponds. Merry Hill has been created by the Woodland Trust on 240 acres of farmland. You can enjoy a four-mile circular walk from historic Bushey, also worth exploring. Look out for jays (left) retrieving buried acorns and green woodpeckers foraging for any hardy insects in the grass. It’s hard to miss the raucous calls from the ring-necked parakeets that thrive here.
Merry Hill can be found between Bushey, Oxhey and Carpenders Park. There is a car park in Kemp Place and Merry Hill can be accessed from a footpath down the side of St James’ church in Bushey Hill Street. w
To download a guide to the walks featured, and for more inspiration, visit the Countryside Management Service website, hertfordshire.gov.uk/cms and click Get Active. If you’d prefer to join an organised walk, check out the themed walks in the county at hertsfordshire.gov.uk/walksandmore
For a regular ramble, there are more than 50 Hertfordshire Health Walks each week to choose from – see hertfordshirehealthwalks.org