Wednesday 1st August 2012
Toilets: Rickmansworth Station; possible detour to the Red Lion pub in Chenies; pubs and cafes in Chesham; Chesham Station.
The Metropolitan Line is the tube’s most underrated line. Starting in the City and running through King’s Cross and Baker Street, passing Wembley Stadium and the Metroland suburbs of Harrow, it eventually brings you out into the countryside of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Apart from the London Overground, it’s the only tube line that extends outside zone 6. In less than an hour, you can be travelling through the rolling hills of the Chilterns.
The Chess Valley Walk is ten miles long, stretching from Rickmansworth to Chesham at the end of the line. There are exit points for both Chorleywood and Chalfont & Latimer stations. The route itself has good signposting in places but none at all in others, so you definitely need to bring a map; the Chess Valley Walk is marked on Ordnance Survey Explorer maps. It’s a fairly flat route with a few sloping bits. I had done this walk a few times before, but the last time I did it was a couple of years ago before having started this blog.
Starting at Rickmansworth, I found the bridge over the main road, crossed a field and walked down some enclosed pathways, before emerging at the picturesque River Chess. The water level was quite low, and I found out that at one point, parts of the river had no water at all due to the droughts earlier this year, even following the recent atrocious weather. Further on during my walk, someone walked past me and said “Blimey. There’s actually water in the river now.”
The route then went along some more enclosed pathways going past houses, and then down a fenced-off pathway by the side of the M25. It felt like a very long path, but I eventually emerged at a road bridge and crossed the motorway. The route then become a lot more pleasant, going through fields belonging to the Chorleywood House Estate. There were a couple of children playing in the river, and I crossed a footbridge.
Just after crossing New Road, I had to walk through a field full of cows. This made me feel a bit nervous, but luckily they totally ignored me.
I passed the watercress beds at Holloway Lane. Being a chalk stream, the River Chess provides the perfect conditions to grow watercress. It’s on sale for £1.50 per bag, and they also had a few drinks for sale in the fridge.
After that, I somehow managed to take a wrong turning, ending up on a narrow bridleway that was still part of Holloway Lane. It didn’t really matter, though, as I was still heading west and eventually emerged at the beautiful village of Chenies. I stopped for a rest on the lovely village green, where there was a sign saying that Chenies had won the Buckinghamshire Best Kept Village award on several occasions over the years.
After rejoining the proper route, I went through a field that I always think of as the Really Scary Cows Field Just Before Latimer. There’s a sign on the way in saying that the farmer reserves the right to shoot any dogs that bother the cows, and for some reason, every time I walk through this field I feel like they’re the largest, scariest cows ever, even though they really aren’t. They were mooing when I started walking through, but luckily they more or less ignored me.
I passed through the village of Latimer, a group of beautiful houses centred around a tiny, triangular village green.
After walking along a quiet road, I went through a field and then into some woodland. To get out of the woods, I had to go downhill down a narrow and slightly awkward path.
After passing Blackwell Hall and going through a couple more fields with horses, the path reaches a road. Unfortunately, if you’re using Explorer maps, this is the point where you reach the edge of map 172 and need to swap over to map 181 briefly, then go back to map 172, and then go back onto map 181 properly. This is possibly the most inconvenient and confusing place to change maps, since the route isn’t marked along the two roads that you need to walk down, and there is also no signposting at this point. I’ve done this walk a few times before so I knew where to go, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people got lost here. So, when you reach grid point SU998999, just before reaching the edge of map 172, you should have just passed Blackwell Hall, and then walked through a couple of fields with horses and electric fencing. The path eventually veers off to the left and reaches a main road called Latimer Road. What you need to do is turn left onto this road, crossing as soon as possible, and you will pass some sewage works. After a couple of minutes, take a right turn into Hollow Way Lane, keeping a stream on your right. On the corner where the road does a big left turn, there is a footpath with a Chess Valley Walk sign. Just after passing a couple of people’s back gardens, this is where you get onto map 181 properly.
The route then found its way back along the River Chess again, winding along, before eventually bringing me to some playing fields, then a roundabout where I turned right and made my way up to Chesham. The high street had a bit of a country town feel about it.
I can definitely see the attraction of living here – it’s large enough to have lots of facilities, but small enough to be surrounded by countryside, and you can also get the tube home.