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Hertfordshire Walks 2: Mr Kelley on the Stately Homes of North Hertfordshire

Thursday 11 February 2021

Inspired by the recent ‘Race to Tokyo’, Mrs Kelley and I have joined together with three generations of our extended family to attempt to walk to Rome by Easter (that’s 992 miles as the crow flies). This lovely undulating walk through the beautiful countryside of North Hertfordshire passes some fascinating historic buildings, and helps us to add six miles each to the total every time!

We begin at the Post Office in Whitwell. Head west along the High Street for 100m, then turn left to climb Horn Hill. At the top, you’ll catch a glimpse of the grand Stagenhoe Manor, which we will be passing later on the walk.

Next to the water tower there are several paths to choose. Take the first right, which leads you down a steep and often muddy track which comes out on Bendish Lane, opposite St Paul’s Walden School. 

Turn left here and head up another hill towards the hamlet of Bendish. Remarkably for such a small settlement, Bendish was once home to three pubs!

At the green in the centre of Bendish, turn right onto Law Hall Lane, and follow this until you reach a T-junction. Head right down the hill past Law Hall Farm. This is directly on the flight path to nearby Luton airport, so watch out for low-flying planes!

When you reach Lilley Bottom Road, turn left and almost immediately right. This charming cottage marks the edge of the Kings Walden estate. There are some lovely walks through the parkland here. The stately home, Kings Walden Bury, looks like a Georgian mansion but is in fact just a façade built in 1969 on the site of a previous building.

Follow this lane up and over another hill until you reach another, strikingly similar cottage and a duck pond. Turn right here, and follow this quiet road to another T-junction., where you turn right.

After approximately 400m, you’ll see a white house on your left. Take the path immediately after the house, and then turn left when you reach the farm track. Follow this track as it curves round to the right and up the hill to Stagenhoe Manor.

This fine Georgian house dates from around 1740, but there has been a manor here since before the Norman conquest. It is now a Sue Ryder care home.

Follow the path anti-clockwise around the house, pausing to enjoy the impressive elevation and imagining you are in a regency novel, then turn right to take the stony track uphill.

After about 700m on this path, you will reach All Saints Church. There is an impressive obelisk in the churchyard, erected in 2002 in memory of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who grew up very close to here. The interior of the church was used as a location in the recent film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.

Turn right and follow the path downhill, passing a disused quarry on your left. You are now in the grounds of St Paul’s Walden Bury estate, and at the top of the gravel path pause to admire the tree-lined avenue to your left and the Bury to your right. This is the house in which Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon spent much of her youth, prior to her marriage to the future George VI. The house is still owned and occupied by her descendants.

At the kissing gate, choose one of two equally muddy paths to take you down to Waterhall Farm, where there are riding stables and the wonderful Emily’s Tea Shop, which features on many popular cycling routes.

Turn left out of the farm and cross the little bridge over the River Mimram. Just upstream from here are watercress beds that date back to Roman times. The river flows east from here towards Welwyn, and is crossed by the Welwyn viaduct (see Mrs Harris’s walk for details).

Turn left at the end of this short lane, called The Valley, and you’ll find yourself back at Whitwell Post Office.

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