Sunday 3rd August 2014
Toilets: Watford Metropolitan Line Station (men’s on the platform, ladies’ outside the ticket gates); Kings Head pub, Hunton Bridge; various pubs in Kings Langley; Paper Mill pub and various restaurants at Apsley Marina; public toilets at car park in Durrants Hill Road, Apsley; various pubs in Hemel Hempstead; Three Horseshoes pub, Winkwell; three canalside pubs just before Berkhamstead Station; pubs in Berkhamstead; platform 4 at Berkhamstead Station (locked when we were there).
The next section of the London Loop was going to be difficult to get to due to various closed railway lines, so we continued with our Grand Union Canal walk instead. Our experience of the canal so far had been starting off as urban, continuing through some smelly industrial areas, and then continuing through the outskirts of town, not quite urban but not quite countryside – the sort of places that people argue about whether they’re in London or not.
Heading north from Watford, the canal finally gave us a properly rural feel. We walked past some lovely boats and quiet, sleepy locks. The Braunston mileage posts helped us keep track of how much progress we’d made.
It wasn’t 100% peaceful, since we had to go under a motorway slip road, the A41, and then the M25. We could hear the M25 from quite a way away, but the noise gradually faded afterwards. We appreciated the wildlife, including this dinosaur in Kings Langley.
There were plenty of boats around, but they were mostly full of people relaxing. Not many of them were moving about.
We stopped for lunch at Woody’s Cafe at Apsley Marina, a pleasant stopping point. There were several other options for lunch there: a pizza place called Calzone, an Indian restaurant called Marina Spice Lounge, and a pub, The Paper Mill.
Between Apsley and Hemel Hempstead, we saw a lot more people out and about. They didn’t look like long-distance walkers, though. Lots of local people were using the canal as a route into town. We passed a lot of new housing developments, many of which were fairly attractive. As we approached Hemel Hempstead, there were more and more open fields where we could’ve stopped for a rest, but didn’t. The original plan was to end the walk here, making it 8.5 miles, but we realised it was only three more miles to Berkhamstead, and it was a beautiful day, so on we continued. Our boat name of the day award went to My Overdraught.
Further on at Winkwell, we stopped for a quick drink at the Three Horseshoes, a beautiful sixteenth century pub.
After another quiet patch, we reached a busy area known as the Port of Berkhamsted. Just after this were three pubs (The Rising Sun, The Boat, and The Crystal Palace), and then it was time to turn off the canal.
Berkhamstead Castle is just across the road from the station. It’s a Norman castle, built nearly a thousand years ago. The grounds are open from 10am-6pm during the Summer, and 10am-4pm in the Winter, with no entrance fee. We stopped here for a long rest, having enjoyed our long walk on this boiling hot day.