Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount
Car-free adventures aroundHertford and WareHertfordshire
Two scenic market towns beside the pretty River Lea that make a fabulous hub for car-free adventures. You can stroll between them along the water and go on to visit Amwell Quarry Nature Reserve, with its reed-fringed, flooded gravel pits. You can take a bus through the Hertfordshire villages and walk to the sculpture-filled grounds of the Henry Moore foundation at Perry Green.
1. Stroll past the gazebos
The riverside is never far away in Hertford and Ware. Hertford North Station, with trains from Moorgate and Letchworth, is closest to the lovely little River Beane while Hertford East , with trains from London Liverpool Street via Ware, is closer to the wider River Lea. A beautiful 2½-mile walk through water meadows along the river to Ware, passes the start of the New River walk and a series of waterside gazebos.
- Leave Hertford East railway station, turn right along Mill Road and right again along the river.
- After a mile, you will reach a brick house on your right; this is the Victorian Gauge House that regulated an extra flow of water from the Lea into the New River, an aqueduct that has carried drinking from Hertfordshire springs to London since the early 17th-century.
- Go on along the River Lea, under the A10, into Ware. Reaching the centre of town, you pass a line of 18th-century gazebos – a unique group of riverside summerhouses in the gardens of former coaching inns. At the bridge, just beyond the gazebos, turn right into Amwell End and left into Station Road to reach Ware railway station.
2. Amwell Nature Reserve.
From Ware railway station, turn left onto Station Road, right past the shops and right again along the river for another beautiful waterside walk. A sign points left after about 1½ miles to Amwell Nature Reserve, a series of lakes and reed beds in old gravel pits below a wooded bank.
- This is a great place for birdwatching all year round with both overwintering birds and spring migrant visitors. Its nineteen species of dragonfly and damselfly is the highest number at any one site in Hertfordshire.
- The species that you might spot, from one of the three hides, range from coots to kingfishers, and from hobbies to herons to house martins.
- About ½ mile beyond the reserve is St Margarets Station. If you want to go straight to the reserve, this is your nearest stop. Turn left out of the station, past the Jolly Fisherman pub, and left again along the riverside path.
3. Scott's Grotto
A short walk from the station, Scott’s Grotto is one of Ware’s most interesting hidden gems, an underground labyrinth built by an 18th century poet, John Scott. Having moved from London to Hertfordshire, for the fresh air, Scott inherited Amwell House (what’s left is now part of the college) and decided to construct a fashionable grotto to attract his London friends out to visit him.
- The grotto is a five minute walk from the railway station. Turn left onto Station Road and left over the railway. Head right past the college and turn left up Scotts Road and you’ll find the grotto in a sunken garden, on the right, between numbers 28 and 34.
- It’s open on Saturday afternoons from April 1st to September 28th (2.30-4pm). It’s free (donations welcome) and you don’t need to book.
- A maze of underground tunnels and chambers, decorated with shells and stones, leads in a circle under the hill. At the top of the garden, a summerhouse looks out onto the trees below.