Walk Of The Month: Broxbourne Woods

Broxbourne Woods offers a welcome escape from London's urban sprawl. Mark Rowe lays a trail
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The Independent Travel

When it comes to walking, Hertfordshire is Britain's lost county. Perhaps this is because of its proximity to London, or the busy roads that border and bisect it. I grew up in the south of the county and often sought to escape the edge of the London sprawl by exploring its woodlands. One area always stood out: Broxbourne Woods National Nature Reserve (NNR).

When glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago, wild woods grew in their place. They are proof that nature, with our support, can hold its own against man-made pressures.

The walk starts from Broxbourne Wood east car park. Take the northbound bridleway, which drops gently downhill. Suddenly, you find yourself deep in the woods. Cross a stream, climb gently uphill and follow the winding path through the trees. When you reach a bench, the path dog-legs to the left over some wooden sleepers.

Just before a small dip and a bridge, turn right by a marker post. Follow this track to the road, turn right and after 60 yards, take the first left along a bridleway. The path is shaded by a beautiful arch of trees.

After half a mile, you reach White Stubbs Lane. Cross and enter Wormley Wood.Keep to the main path through the wood, cross some streams, follow a boardwalk, climb some steps and pass a small bench before reaching a modest footbridge. At the next marker post, go straight ahead, passing a bench, and cross another footbridge. Turn left by the next marker post - even though the trail is way-marked straight ahead. Follow the path for 300 yards. As it sweeps to the left in front of a large ditch, bear off to the right across a small boardwalk. After 50 yards, a path will join from the right and you continue ahead until you reach a T-junction with a bridleway.

Turn left through the wood. Pass a small pond on your left and continue until you reach a white, metal post. The bridleway drops to a stream and then climbs once more. Pass an NNR information board and then, 100 yards on, turn right at a crossroads, following a signpost for the Broxbourne Woods NNR trail. After half a mile, you cross a road and walk through Emmanuel Pollards car park.

The path heads east and then loops back. Keep on the track until you reach the road, ignoring the marker post to your left. Turn right along White Stubbs Lane and after 50 yards turn left at a footpath signposted Pembridge Lane. Go through the gate and head across the field at around 10 o'clock - the path is invisible. Pass through a gate to another field, crossing at about 2 o'clock. Pass through the metal gate, cross the paddock and take another metal gate just to the left of the barn. Walk through the farmyard, through a wooden gate and cross the road.

Go straight ahead, through three metal gates and pick up the path that drops down to the bottom right-hand corner of the field. Go through a gate, cross a footbridge, through a gap in the fence and keep ahead. You reach a slanted T-junction and bear left. Go straight over the crossroads, pass a bench dedicated to Henry Barnes, across a spruce-lined track and follow the path as it meanders enchantingly though Cowheath Wood to a gate.

Leaving the woods, cross two meadows to a grassy lane that leads to a house. Keep ahead across the driveway and turn right through a gate. Cross this field, and the next and zig-zag through a gate. Head around the edge of the field to the solitary oak tree and bear right along the track past the farm. As the road bears left, keep straight ahead, following the signpost for Highfields Farm.

In the wood, follow the boardwalk to a metal gate, walk along the right-hand edge of the field, and through two more metal gates before passing to the left of a gas container. Pass through the gate and keep Highfield Wood on your right. Pass through a gate and cross the field, heading for a gate on the far left-hand side to reach the road.

Turn right and before long you cross Ermine Street, and 100 yards later, turn right into Hoddesdon Park Wood. Take the footpath to the left and cross a stream. When you come to a crossroads, turn right down the main, broad path. Cross over two sets of crossroads and at the bottom of the track, turn right. Cross several footbridges and then pass through a gate. The NNR trail signs guide you across two footbridges here and lead you into Danemead Nature Reserve.

Eventually you reach a gate, turn left and follow the path until you pass a house. Just before an information board for Broxbourne Woods turn right. Shortly afterwards, bear right again. Keep on the path through the wood, crossing a footbridge on the way.

After about 600 yards, the path turns uphill. Soon after, take the path to the left. This will lead you through a gap in the fence, down to a footbridge, and up through the meadow you walked through earlier. Pass through the three metal gates and then bear right along Pembridge Lane. After 200 yards, take the roadside path back to the car park.

Distance: 9.5 miles.

Time: Four to five hours.

OS Map Explorer 174.

Bayford train station is 1.5 miles from the start of the walk. Call national rail enquiries (08457 484950) for times and fares.

For more information on the Woodland Trust visit woodland-trust.org.uk.