London Colney is a mixed-up sort of village just south-east of St Albans: the heart of a pretty village round a green by the little river, onto which is grafted grey modern development brought by the motorway junction. To the east is Colney Heath, another swollen village. Between them, as their names suggest, is the River Colne.
The Colne runs all through south-eastern Hertfordshire and beyond, and ultimately down to the Thames. Here, by the ‘Colney’ villages it is a little, shallow river. The river provides a short, family walk of six miles, there and back, with more variety to it that one might expect in six miles.
A convenient starting point is the car park in London Colney (from which there are lanes through the streets to avoid just walking by the main road). The aim to reach the village’s interesting bridge over the River Colne: it is a fine, elegant, brick-built bridge with seven arches, and all this for a river little bigger than a brook, though it spreads into a wide pool above the bridge.
The path follows the river upstream, eastward, and very soon comes upon a children’s petting farm (which even in the after-Christmas frost was open with eager, short customers. Beyond the farm you depart from the riverside to a series of fishing lakes, created from old gravel pits, whose banks are being reclaimed by nature.
Beyond here the path suddenly comes upon a conveyer belt; a remarkable appearance of industry – the belt serves a quarry, which path passes near – Tyttenhanger Quarry, and ‘Tyttenhanger’ is a name which pops up across the landscape here as the name of the old estate. There is a footbridge over the conveyer belt.
Approaching Colney Heath, there is a model railway centre (open in season to visitors) created by the North London Society of Model Engineers. Not much to say as it was closed when I passed and nothing could be seen.
There is a path through the common on the south side of the river, but it is more interesting to see the village, Colney Heath, however briefly, and there is a pub there. Through the edge of the village and along the north edge of the common, the river must be crossed, and here there is a ford. Wellies needed in winter – or clamber up to the road, but the ford is convenient enough.
This is the return leg. Again, it is possible to follow a path west and south-west to Tyttenhanger Farm, but the route chosen here follows through the common close to the road, and along field-edges until the farm’s entrance track, when the route heads north-east a short way, not to the farm, but the path turns off again, once again to encounter the long conveyor belt.
Here there are little woods and the river again; scrubby riverside land, until it reaches the petting farm again, this time the main site.
Under the A1081, it is soon back to London Colney and to the bridge. Then retrace your steps to the car park.
- Ordnance Survey Explorer 182 (St Albans and Hatfield) – 1:25 000