The Chess Valley Walk

A glorious February day for a walk, and so I walked the Chess Valley Walk with my daughter; eleven miles from Chesham in Buckinghamshire to Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, all along the River Chess.

The river, the constant companion along the way, grows from what is little more than a muddy puddle in Chesham into a shining waterway – never more than inches deep, nevertheless it has carves a deep, verdant valley.  It is a lovely walk, and as we met many walkers on the way, others appear to agree with this.  At just 11 miles, it is to be enjoyed at leisure.

From Chesham Station we headed first along a straight path wrought beside the railway line before descending to the town, and here I must observe that the signs and Ordnance Survey maps disagree on where the walk goes, so we followed the signs for the pleasanter route – further on we found even two maps disagreeing and that the promoters of the path have moved it, for the better.  Soon after emerging from Chesham there are some short sub-industrial stretches, but that is the reality of a working countryside, before we crossed the river and followed through the grazed fields of the farms which are the greatest stretch of the walk.

First then by the woods towards Latimer House.  It is here that the Chess pulls its greatest trick – becoming a broad river which in the sunshine glinted like a lake, which actually is what it is – in a past age the Estate half-dammed the river with a weir to create an ornamental lake.  The great house has now become a hotel, but the ornament remains.

Past Latimer and we were into Hertfordshire.  First stop:  an intriguing enclosure which was the site of mediaeval Flaunden before it moved up the hill.  Nothing visible remains.  Soon after that, we were on part of the first-day route of my ‘Herts Embraced‘ walk, all past Sarratt Bottom and to a pool of the river below the Chorleywood House Estate (many dogs playing in the pool here, then sniffing for our picnic food).

On the Chess Valley Way

On then across the M25 at Solesbridge Lane and through the back of Loudwater and back to familiar territory, in Rickmansworth.

The station at each end has an information board about the route and things to see (I could not seen any sign of water voles not white-tailed crayfish in the river, but will take that on trust).  In the end though, it is a walk to be enjoyed for itself.

Page on the walk with map


The route might be done with standard Landranger maps, though the additional detail of an Explorer map is very helpful.

In the Explorer, 1:50 000 series:

The Great Glen Way: 75 miles of the astounding

Of all the paths I have trodden, my mind goes back most often to the Great Glen Way.  It runs the length of the Great Glen, from Fort William to Inverness, 75 miles in total, and although it is in the heart of the Highlands, within Inverness-shire where the greatest mountain ranges are found, it is a gentle walk along most of its course as it runs by the loch shores, the rivers and the Caledonian Canal, heading into the hills on occasion at the north end, but never to one of the great hills of the shire.

Fort William is a town for walkers and little else by the face it puts on, and a good starting point.  If you come to the town having just climbed Ben Nevis, which rises mightily just south of Fort William, then a walk along the shore of Loch Linnhe and the canal may seem mild, but it is 75 miles, so plan to take four or five days.  Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness are jewels along the great slice through the land which is the Great Glen, and the rivers and canal conduct you between them.

The confession, and the reason I think of the Great Glen Way so often, is that I have walked it at Fort William, at Fort Augustus, by Drumnadrochit and through Inverness, but not the whole route.  That is a challenge for some time maybe not so far away.

Article and route map