Walk on the Berkhamsted waterways
PUBLISHED: 16:33 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:37 09 October 2012
There's a chance to really get some of that early summer fresh air into your lungs on a six-mile Berkhamsted Waterways Walk
THE River Bulbourne is a chalk stream that rises in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) at Cow Roast and flows through the centre of Berkhamsted. It used to support a vibrant watercress industry and remnant watercress beds still remain. The river runs beside the Grand Union Canal for seven miles to its confluence with the River Gade at Two Waters.
Chalk streams are a globally rare habitat. With their clear waters and stable conditions, they are able to support many plants and animals, including rare species like the water vole.
Chalk streams are fed from groundwater which is stored in the acquifer - layers of chalk which soak up water like a sponge. At various points the water emerges as springs which feed the streams.
A River Restoration Project has been implemented on the River Bulbourne at Berkhamsted. Groundwater abstraction has now ceased at New Ground Pumping Station. This will mean higher levels of groundwater in the chalk under the river and more water escaping into the river. This is good for wildlife, increasing the chalk stream habitat many species rely on.
A partnership project for the enhancement of the River Bulbourne is underway. This includes removing a concrete weir to prevent silt accumulating, pollarding willows to allow more light to the river, restoring cress-beds and narrowing the stream through St John's Well.
The Bourne Gutter is a usually dry tributary of the River Bulbourne. It is said that when it flows it foretells of war and expensive bread. What is known is that it only flows during a lengthy period of very wet weather - more than 32 inches in two months. Such weather would be bad for crops - so the expensive bread bit may well be true.
The river rises from a spring on land close to the Berkhamsted to Chesham road, flows down the valley, under the A41 and into the village of Bourne End where it joins the Bulbourne. Records for the 19th century show it flowing on nine occasions. It flowed in November 2000 and in May 2001 and ran for three miles.
The Berkhamsted Waterways Walk is a series of three circular walks ranging in length and difficulty and here we highlight the six-mile route.
1. Turn left out of the station and head east along Station Road.
2. Join the towpath at Castle Street via a small set of steps or pass The Boat pub and join the towpath on the north side of the canal at the next available access point.
3. Cross the bridge and continue on the towpath as it follows the canal on the south side, heading east.
4. Leave the towpath at Bridge 146 and turn into Sharpes Lane. Cross London Road, turning right and into Sugar Lane. This becomes a track with a public access and for some time gently winds its way through farmland. There are good views to the south of the valley that houses the Bourne Gutter.
5. Take the subway under the A41 and follow the field boundary to Bottom Farm.
6. At Sandpit Green, to avoid the steps and kissing gate turn right onto Chesham Road and follow this back to High Street. Otherwise, cross the road and enter the playing fields through the kissing gate, eventually turning right onto Kings Road.
7. After passing the entrance to Waitrose car park turn left onto a footpath. Take the footbridge crossing the canal and follow the path back to Lower Kings Road and the station.
Start and finish Berkhamsted Railway Station, Lower Kings Road
Distance 6 miles (10km)
Time 2hrs 30mins
Rating Moderate, no stiles, some uneven surfaces
Parking Cycle park facilities and car parking at the station
Transport Berkhamsted Railway Station is on the London, Euston, to Birmingham line. For train times call 08457 484950
OS Map Explorer 181