On the outer reaches of the Metropolitan line, in what is still the Hertfordshire countryside, lies the 'village' of Croxley Green. Just over a year ago the Residents Association instigated the Croxley Green Boundary Walk, a six mile circuit around the perimeter following fields, woodland, canal and rivers. It's not the best way to see Croxley because it misses the centre where everyone lives. But it is a glorious walk, avoiding built-up areas almost all the way round, and a reminder that the Green Belt has preserved much of beauty even this close to the capital. The CGBW is designed to be walked in a clockwise direction (whatever the logo on the sign suggests), and is really well waymarked all the way round. Plus it's a dead easy jaunt from Baker Street, if the weather's ever this good again.[official website][map][waymarked map]
Where to start: If you're driving, there's a free car park at Scotsbridge Mill. If you're local, you can probably join the loop somewhere up the end of the road. And if you're coming from London, turn left out of the tube station and then head down the steep hill from the top of Frankland Road. I'm starting here.
Common Moor: My loop begins at Lock 79 on the Grand Union Canal, no longer in the shadow of John Dickinson'spaper mill. And then sets off diagonally across Croxley Common Moor, or "The Moor" as we locals call it, a glorious 100 acres of grassland on the flood plain of the River Gade. Rare plant life makes this a SSSI, though excess vegetation still needs to be cleared by volunteers (who were busy cutting and burning yesterday). The path across is a scrubby bumpy affair, and the whole expanse is a local treasure. [moor website][photo][photo] Ebury Way: This three mile cycle path and footway used to be the railway between Watford and Rickmansworth. I've written about it before, if you want the full info. In parts it's like walking along a causeway, with fishing lakes and winter floods currently making some of the exits impassable. Croxleyhall: At Lot Mead Lock the walk rejoins the Grand Union, ever so briefly, before rising up towards Croxley's very own Great Barn. Come on the last Sunday of the month in the summer and you can look inside. Here we cross the Metropolitan railway to enter Croxleyhall Woods, or "The Woods" as we locals call it. Sorry, we locals don't have a lot of imagination in naming places. Lovely woods though, and next month's carpet of bluebells is already pushing through its leafy shoots. [barn website][photo]
River Chess: This shallow chalk stream makes an appearance at the foot of Scots Hill. Here's the car park I mentioned earlier at Scotsbridge Mill, where I once had a very nice 25th birthday meal (and 24 years later the restaurant looks no less popular). The finest stretch of river walk lies beyond the recreation ground. These reedy curves are the most popular spot for cavorting dogs rescuing sticks from the water, and generally getting over-excitable in each other's company. Yesterday I was particularly pleased to see a group of children dangling their legs over the wooden footbridge and one paddling in the stream - a Croxley tradition more usually restricted to the summer months. [photo] Chess Valley: Time for a hike up the hillside around the edge of a green-shooted field. The view gets better as you climb, down to the river below and beyond towards Rickmansworth. I'm ashamed to say I've never walked these particular footpaths before, despite growing up less than a mile away - my loss. At the steps into Copthorne Wood I pass a grey haired lady walking two dogs. She bears more than a passing resemblance to BarbaraWoodhouse, which is perhaps no coincidence because the great lady used to live just across the field on Loudwater Lane. Croxley Green: It'll come as no surprise to hear that locals call Croxley's mile-long village green "The Green". It's another treasure, though on this route we're only walking the top bit past the old people's home and Killingdown Farm. Its fields have recently had Green Belt status removed, presumably in readiness for a few more streets of housing as Croxley nudges ever outwards. Oh, and my apologies to the couple who were standing in the lane listening to the woodpecker as I passed by, stepped on a branch and frightened it off. Dell Wood: The narrowest of muddy passages leads out to a great expanse of fields and woodland where Croxley fades into rural Herts. The Sarratt Parish Footpath and the Whippendell WoodsCircular Walk also pass this way, past one mysterious field marked as woodland on an OS map when I don't think it ever has been in real life. It was good to see several folk out strolling yesterday, of all ages, between the crops and through the trees and off down the hill. [photo]
Rousebarn Lane: Turn left at the foot of Jacotts Hill, a steep incline incorporated in my school's regular Cross Country course by evil PE teachers. A more interesting path runs through the trees parallel to the road, but that's officially in Watford so the CGBW sticks to the lane. And then, sorry, there are 37 very ordinary houses to walk past before veering off over the ridge beneath the West Herts Golf Course clubhouse. Cassio Bridge: We're back on the canal towpath again, all the way back to the start, here nudging up against the nature reserve at the foot of Cassiobury Park. This is a busy stretch on a warm spring day, heading first under the existing Metropolitan line viaduct and then under the location of the new viaduct once the Croxley Rail Link is built. That's currently on target for 2017 completion, a little later than intended, but preparation work is already underway. Shock news, the old Network SouthEast sign outside Croxley Greenstation has finally been removed, 18 years after the last train. Meanwhile Beggars Bush Lane was closed "due to ground investigations" last month, and the old trellis BR bridge can't be long for this world. [photo][photo] Byewaters: I'm not quite sure why the Croxley Green Boundary Walk chooses to pass along the south bank of the Grand Union instead of the original towpath. Rather than passing open water this means Business Park then housing estate, the latter built on the site of John Dickinson's famous paper mill. And that means we're back at the start of the loop again, at Common Moor Lock, after what's been an extremely varied circuitous stroll. Too good to be just for locals.