Watford is 21miles (33km) from the centre of London, with the M1 and M25 close by. Watford Junction Station offers fast trains and London Overground trains that can get you to London Euston in 18 minutes and 47 minutes, respectively. The Metropolitan Line can get you to Aldgate in 64 minutes. Both of these stations are within walking distance of my house, and with the Croxley Rail Link due to open in the next few years, there will be a new station within 5 minutes walk of my house.
You would think that living in West Watford, I would be surrounded by urban blight, and to some extent I am. But, I am also surrounded by some wonderful countryside and open green spaces. Very close to my house I have access to the Ebury Way which is a pedestrian route that follows the route of the old Watford & Rickmansworth Railway. The Watford & Rickmansworth Railway was a three mile branch line, that opened in 1862. In 1927 the line was electrified but, with more passengers using the Metropolitan Line, the line closed in 1951. Now the 4 mile (6km) route can be walked or cycled from Oxhey Park, Watford to Rickmansworth.
If you begin your walk from Oxhey Park, you follow the River Colne to Riverside Park, where you join National Cycle Route 61. As you head along the Ebury Way, you will see the Lairage Land Nature Reserve, on your right-hand side. The Lairage Land comprises a group of meadows, rough grassland, plantation woodland and scrub, the river Colne, and its margins, and reedbed. There are many types of plant, bird and wildlife species to be found here, including; Yellow water lily, Musk thistle, Green woodpecker, Great-spotted woodpecker, Grey wagtail, Reed warbler, Linnet, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Cuckoos can also be heard each spring. Gatekeeper, Smaller Skipper & Red Admiral butterflies, among others. Dragonflies and both species of Pipistrelle and Noctule, can also be seen here. Moving along, you soon cross the River Colne via an old railway bridge. On your left-hand side you will see the Electricity Transmission Station and the fields of Oxhey Hall and Oxhey Cottage. Roughlyy 300 metres from the bridge, along the edge of the river Colne, you can just make out a Type 27 variant WWII Pillbox. On the opposite side of the Colne is Brightwells Farm. Continuing your journey, the path begins to rise up slightly as you come to the entrance to Brightwells Farm. The path then drops down again and you pass Brightwells Farm fields to your left and Holywell Fields to your right. A littlle further along and you can see Old Merchant Taylor’s School and, in the distance, you can just see Moor Park Mansion. You will then pass under Tolpits Lane, and pass the National Lottery HQ, Watford’s Royal Mail sorting office and other industrial units. To your right you will see Croxley Common Moor, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.Croxley Common Moor Nature Reserve is 100 acres of historic grassland, that cover the River Gade’s flood plain. Many rare plants and animals have been recorded on this site, including; Water Voles, Red Kites, Red Backed Shrike, Burnet Moth, Purging Flax, Large Thyme, Heath & Lady’s Bedstraw, among others. As you reach the end of Croxley Common Moor, you pass under a bridge that carries the Metropolitan and Chiltern Line trains to and from London. From here the Ebury Way is a tree-lined route surrounded by natiral beauty. On your right is the continuation of the River Gade flood plain and to your left are the first of the fishing lakes, known as The Alders. You then come to a bridge that crosses the Grand Union Canal. To your right is Lock 81 and Lot Mead Lock House. From this bridge you have three choices; Continue along the Ebury Way. Follow the Grand Union Canal Towpath to Rickmansworth and beyond, or follow the Grand Union Canal Towpath to Watford and beyond. Following the Ebury Way you will see The Alders Fishing Lakes to your left and Croxley Hall Farm and Fishing Lakes, to your right. Behind Croxley Hall Farm is Croxley Great Barn. Croxley Great Barn is one of the largest of its type, in Hertfordshire. It was built sometime between 1396 and 1401 and measures 101ft by 40ft (31m by 12m). You then continue along until you cross another railway bridge, which crosses the Narrow-boat Permanent Mooring area, which is the end of the Ebury Way.
If you then follow the footpath alongside the Permanent Mooring area, you will come to Batchworth Lock Centre and the Cafe @ Lock 81, where refreshments can be purchased. From here you can follow the Grand Union Canal Towpath towards Watford or head South along the Grand Union Canal Towpath, which will lead you into Rickmansworth Aquadrome and onto Stocker’s Lake, Stocker’s Lock and the World Famous Stocker’s Farm. Stocker’s Farm has been used in many film and TVshows, including; The Adventures of Black Beauty, Withnail & I, Ashes to Ashes, Children of Men, Midsomer Murders & Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, to name but a few.
If you do take the Ebury Way, I would love to hear what you think of it.