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Mud, floods, nettles, brambles, and crops

Nettles obscuring a Hertfordshire public right of way
Nettles obscuring a Hertfordshire public right of way
Image courtesy of Gerry Gross
The Hertfordshire countryside changes season by season. And each season can present different challenges for walkers.

We are lucky to have an excellent network of well-signposted public rights of way that are maintained by Hertfordshire's Countryside Management Service so that they are accessible for all to enjoy.

But, despite groups of volunteers working on our rights of way almost every day of the week, the vast extent of our public rights of way network means that there will be many paths that might be impassable at certain times of the year.

And, with more than 260 walks on Hertfordshire Walker, we can't update each walk season-by-season with regular condition checks.

So below are a few tips on how to deal with the various challenges the changing seasons bring.

Mud and floods

In the autumn, winter, and spring you can be slip-sliding on mud or wading through flooded public rights of way.

Hiking poles and waterproof boots with a good grip can make the difference between an enjoyable hike and injury.

The Ordnance Survey (OS) has a helpful guide about how to stay safe when walking in mud and wet conditions.

In the late summer the rights of way that were muddy and wet earlier in the year can become rutted and as hard as concrete.

In those conditions there is always the chance you could step on an uneven surface and sprain an ankle.

Another reason to carry hiking poles and for wearing boots with good ankle support.

Nettles and brambles

In the spring and summer those same rights of way can be obscured by stinging nettles.

Again, hiking poles to push the nettles back, gloves if you need to handle them, and antihistamine cream in case you get stung are advisable.

And, although it's always nice to wear shorts in the summer months, it might be kinder on your legs to wear long trousers that are nettle-proof.

A good first aid kit is useful.

In the late summer and autumn brambles flourish across Hertfordshire.

Many public rights of way will be totally blocked as the brambles converge from each side of the path to make passage almost impossible.

You can also trip over them; they have a habit of lying low across the path.

A set of secateurs (and gloves) are useful for cutting your way through. And hiking poles are useful for pushing the brambles to one side.

Overgrown crops

In the spring and summer new crops can be an issue. Rapeseed, when fully grown, can totally obliterate a right of way.

Landowners are obliged to reinstate any public right of way within 14 days of cultivating the land, but this doesn't always happen.

And even if a landowner has reinstated the path, rapeseed, when fully grown, can still make walking difficult.

After the harvest has been taken in, the same fields will be ploughed over and sometimes rights of way disappear.

That is why we usually add orange arrove to our photogrpahs of arable fields to indicate the direction of travel.

Detours, comments and suggestions

On many walks we suggest detours at points where there are regular issues as the seasons change.

These detours might be because of nettles, brambles, mud, flooding, livestock etc.

Please read the directions for the walk you are planning before setting off so that you are prepared.

You might find it helpful to scroll down to the bottom of the walk directions which are published on Hertfordshire Walker in order to read any comments left by walkers who take the time to update fellow-walkers about any possible issues.

If you have any information about the route that might help other walkers please consider using the comment box, too.

And don't forget to share the same update on our Hertfordshire Walker Facebook group.

Reporting faults

Hertfordshire County Council has an excellent online service for reporting rights of way faults including blockages (fly-tipping obscuring paths or landowners blocking the way), encroachment (nettles and brambles etc), structural damage (gates footbridges etc), and flooding.

But most importantly, don't let any of these issues put you off.

Just go with the flow, equipped and aware, and enjoy our wonderful Hertfordshire countryside as the seasons change.

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Comments and feedback
If you try any of the walks on this site, please let us know what you thought of them. You can either comment here, or on our members-only Facebook Group where walkers are sharing photographs of their walks and walking tips. Comments on our Facebook Group go live immediately, as they do on our Facebook Page. Comments here on our website are moderated, so there will be a slight delay before what you write goes live.

Facebook group rules

Facebook group rules
We have set 10 rules for our Hertfordshire Walker Facebook group which are designed to help keep the group focused on walking in the Hertfordshire countryside

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