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Walk 93: Grotto Wood Loop

Track along disused railway, historic woodland to explore


4.25 miles (6.85 km)


The Cole Green Way - route of a disused railway track Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The Cole Green Way - route of a disused railway track
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

This is an easy walk along the disused Hertford to Welwyn Junction railway track and through some undulating farmland. You pass a lake surrounded by rushes - birdwatchers should take their binoculars. And you can explore the Historic England scheduled monument, the Baroque gardens at Grotto Wood. There are some muddy stretches, so good footwear and a walking stick are recommended.

Directions


Map for Walk 93: Grotto Wood Loop  Created on Map Hub by Hertfordshire Walker  Elements © Thunderforest © OpenStreetMap contributors  Note: There is a larger, more detailed map embedded at the end of these directions
Map for Walk 93: Grotto Wood Loop
Created on Map Hub by Hertfordshire Walker
Elements © Thunderforest © OpenStreetMap contributors
Note: There is a larger, more detailed map embedded at the end of these directions
Park in the public car park to the south of the Cowper Arms pub and restaurant in Cole Green (Grid Ref: TL 28553 11122). The car park is alongside what was the station platform at Cole Green station.

1: Head east along the route of the old railway track for 1km (see image above). You will cross Chapel Lane and continue heading east until you come to a footpath crossing the track (see image below). This is Hertingfordbury footpath 4.

The footpath leaving the Cole Green Way, see point 2 below Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The footpath leaving the Cole Green Way, see point 2 below
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

2: Turn right on the footpath and leave the disused railway, dropping down to a footbridge over a brook (see image below).


The footbridge across the stream mentioned below Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The footbridge across the stream mentioned above
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

After crossing the footbridge head straight and slightly uphill in a south-east direction with the fence on your left and the field on your right. Follow this path until you meet a quiet lane by East End Green Farm. Here you turn right for 50m until you reach a track going off to your left (see image below).

Hertingfordbury restricted bridleway 19 Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
Hertingfordbury restricted bridleway 19
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

3: Take this track, Hertingfordbury restricted bridleway 19, for 85m until you see a gate and marker post on your left.  This is Hertingfordbury footpath 3.

The gate and footpath marker mentioned in point 4 below  Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The gate and footpath marker mentioned in point 4 below
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

4: Go through the gate, turn left and follow this footpath as it climbs first north-east and then swings south-east and continues past some disused workings which now form a lake surrounded by rushes and frequented by birds. Ornithologists might want to pause at this spot (see image below).

The lake mentioned in point 4 above Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The lake mentioned in point 4 above
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

Continue heading south-east along Hertingfordbury footpath 3 with the woodland on your right until you reach the end of the wood.

5: This is Grotto Wood, about 1.75 hectares containing “substantial earthworks”. The following is from the Historic England site:
“The baroque garden in Grotto Wood is a compact and well-preserved example of this monument class, uncommon in that it was independent of its parent residence. The earthworks, undisturbed by subsequent redesign or changes in land use, will retain buried evidence relating to the former garden buildings, the water management system and the planting scheme, and may provide additional information concerning its period of construction and use. Contemporary documents confirm the functions of the various earthwork features and give a clear and vivid impression of the former structures and ornamentation of the established garden, and chart its abandonment and subsequent descent into obscurity. This garden is unusual in that it belonged to members of a disadvantaged religious minority of the merchant class rather than the landed gentry. As such it provides important contrasts with bigger, more famous gardens and allows significant insights into different levels of 18th century society.”
Grotto Wood is free of charge to enter and a sign at the gate explains what visitors are likely to see when visiting (see image below).

The sign at the entrance to Grotto Wood Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The sign at the entrance to Grotto Wood
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
After leaving Grotto Wood continue heading south-east along the footpath until you reach a gate and a footpath junction (see image below).

The footpath junction mentioned above - here you turn left Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The footpath junction mentioned above - here you turn left
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

6: Here you turn left and head north-east along Hertingfordbury bridleway 2 for 1.25km until you reach St Mary’s Lane. This bridleway takes you through Southfield Wood where someone has created horse jumps to the left of the path. Because this is a bridleway, some parts can be muddy, particularly towards the junction with St Mary’s Lane.

7: Turn left on St Mary’s Lane and head north for 150m until you spot an old railway bridge (see image below). Here you turn right on Hertford BOAT 56 (byway open to all traffic) for 10m before taking the path on your left.

The railway bridge across St Mary’s Lane mentioned in point 7 above Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The railway bridge across St Mary’s Lane mentioned in point 7 above
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

This path leads to the disused railway and Cole Green Way (see image below).

8: Climb up to the track, turn left, and head south-west following the route of the former railway track.

The path leading back up to the Cole Green Way mentioned in point 8 above Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The path leading back up to the Cole Green Way mentioned in point 8 above
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

Continue for 1.5km crossing a lane along the way until you reach the footpath junction you encountered at point 2 above.

9: Turn right here on Hertingfordbury footpath 4 and head north-west and uphill to the outskirts of Birch Green.

Continue straight between the houses, along Foxdells, turn right at Birch Green Lane, and then look out for a footpath sign on your left (see image below). This is Hertingfordbury footpath 7.


The footpath off Birch Green Lane mentioned in point 9 above Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The footpath off Birch Green Lane mentioned in point 9 above
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

10: Follow this footpath as it heads south-west down to a stream. This bit can be muddy after rain. We got really messy here. A stick would be handy because it’s on a slope and slippy.

11: Cross the stream and immediately turn right on the footpath that runs north-west along the south side of the stream. This is Hertingfordbury footpath 8; another good spot for bird-watchers.

The path and bullrushes mentioned in point 11 above Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The path and bullrushes mentioned in point 11 above
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

12: Continue along Hertingfordbury footpath 8 for 375m until you reach the point where a footpath crosses your way.

Here you turn right to cross the stream (see image below) and then turn immediately left to walk west on the north side of the stream, still on Hertingfordbury footpath 8, until you reach Station Road in Labby Green.

The crossing over the stream mentioned in point 12 above Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The crossing over the stream mentioned in point 12 above
Image by Hertfordshire Walker released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

13: Turn left on Station Road, walk past the Cowper Arms, and then turn left along the track back to the car park.

Interactive map