A stroll along the riverbank in Hertfordshire
Mon Apr 19 00:00:00 BST 2010
- Start: Bishop’s Stortford Railway Station
- End: Sawbridgeworth Railway Station
- Country: England
- County: Hertfordshire
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub:
- Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 194
- Difficulty: Medium
Take in the tranquil scenery offered up by the River Stort on this walk from the Countryside Management Service
BEFORE the influence of man, much of the valley floor would have been a series of extensive marshes with undisturbed forest on the valley slopes. Gradually, with the clearance of forest and the drainage of marshes, land was made available for farming. Small village settlements followed and the valley formed a ready means of communication dating back to Roman and Iron Age times.
The Iron Age settlement and fortification at Wallbury Dells would have been protected by extensive marshes to the south and west. Wallbury fort was one of 30 or more hill forts constructed between Dorset and Essex to defend tribal territories. Between 300 and 200 BC the fort was modified to include double banks that enclosed an area of around 31 acres.
Many water mills were built along the course of the river and in 1769 the River Stort Navigation was opened from the Lee at Rye House to Bishops Stortford, to enable barge traffic to use the river. Several mills, such as Burnt Mill and South Mill, have now gone but Hallingbury Mills remain although put to other uses. The canal was mainly used to transport timber and grain, particularly barley, which went to the many maltings in Bishops Stortford and Sawbridgeworth.
The completion of the railway along the valley bottom and the improvement of the London Road, the old A11, quickly led to the decline in canal traffic. In 1948 with the nationalisation of canals, the control of the Lee and Stort passed to the British Transport Commission (BTC). On the disbanding of the BTC in 1962 the control of the canals passed to the British Waterways Board.
You can join this walk from either Bishops Stortford or Sawbridgeworth railway stations. The tracks and paths described here are mostly accessible to all users. At certain times of the year, particularly in the winter months, the conditions mean that wheelchairs and prams/buggies may have difficulty in negotiating the described route.
Rating Moderate (flat, unsurfaced paths)
Time Approx. 2 hours
Distance Approx. 8km (5 miles)
Toilets Bishops Stortford Railway Station, Sawbridgeworth Railway Station
Start/Finish Bishops Stortford Railway Station, Sawbridgeworth Railway Station
Map OS Explorer 194
Starting at Bishops Stortford Railway Station main entrance, walk towards the town centre via Station Road. Just before you reach the Riverside Bridge take the slip road/footpath to the left following the public footpath to the Stort Navigation.
Facing the river, turn left, walk with the river on your right along the footpath. After about 400m you will come to a footbridge which leads to Southmill Trading Estate, an old Victorian Maltings. Carry on until you reach the main road, London Road.
Exercise caution as you cross the road and continue along the Stort Navigation with the river on your left, towards Spellbrook & Sawbridgeworth. At the South Mill Lock, cross over the river and continue with the river on your right. Passing Rushy Mead Nature Reserve the next lock you reach is the Twyford Lock.
Exercise caution as you cross the road, Pig Lane. After about 1800m you will reach the Spellbrook Lock. To your left as you reach this lock is Wallbury camp, an Iron Age hill fort, built around 400 BC. Exercise caution as you cross Dell Lane and continue along the towpath for another 1000m before you reach the next lock, Tednambury Lock.
On this section of the walk you will pass Hallingbury Marina at Gaston Green. As you continue on for 2km to Sawbridgeworth Lock, and near the end of your journey you will have some lovely views of the countryside and its flora and fauna. From Sawbridgeworth Lock continue on for 400m to London Road. Here turn left and head for Sawbridgeworth Railway Station, past The Maltings on the other side of the road.