Grand Union Canal – Berkhamsted – Tring

…When the strong castle in its lofty pride
Frowned o’er the sleeping woods that stretched beside;
Here the fierce Conqueror from his victory came,
Here Royalty, with all its glittering train
Of courtly knights and dames of noble race,
Graced the fair banquet or pursued the chase

by Sarah Littleboy

A local Quaker lady wrote these words looking upon castle ruins through Romantic eyes. The “Fierce Conqueror” was William the Conqueror who built this castle when he reached this part of the Britain after defeating Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Castle would have stood tall and proud at the time, and it to this day it boasts one of the oldest Motte and Bailey’s in Britain, perhaps where King William would have once stood! The castle was used by some Royalty and key figures in English History, such as Thomas Becket and The Black Prince (Prince of Wales). It was during the mid C15th, the castle fell into disuse and eventually fell into ruins. Despite a castle no longer standing here, the ruins themselves, still evoke such a romantic images, just as Sarah Littleboy captures in her poem! Knights waiting to rescue Princesses from the stone ruins of the castle! Being allowed to walk around with such freedom was so nice and enjoyable I was almost sad to leave it behind to start out our walk along the Grand Union Canal for the rest of the morning!

Passing by the Lodge at the entrance to the castle, we made our way away towards the railway bridge, which we duly walked beneath. We joined up with the Grand Union Canal towpath to start our walk in earnest. We had left this part of the towpath quite some time ago, so it was nice to pick up where we had left off. The path was to take us across an old cast iron bridge, which had been standing here since the canal was originally put in place! It was nice to know a bridge built over 100 years ago originally for horses to cross the canal is still standing today 🙂 The Canal path runs along side a small green here, which was at this time taken up by a small children’s fair. In fact this little green is a considered a flood plain, even from as early as the Mid C17th this was known as a Marshy Moor! This was due to the local River Bulbourne running nearby, however, a lot of this was diverted into the Castle Moat! Carrying on along the path, we nearly walked into some baby goslings, how cute they were! 🙂 . The towpath took us past our first lock of the day, it was nice to watch it in use as a barge made it’s way through. Just further up, we were treated to yet another set of youngsters, some beautiful young Cygnets.

From Grand Union Canal – Tring to Berkhamsted Walk

As we strolled onwards, we came away from the canal towpath as a muddier path suddenly took our attention. The path led us to an extremely marshy area with a small wooden bridge crossing deep waters. This whole area, would have once been of some amazing significance, when a natural spring used to run here. During the C12th a hospital was set up so soldiers returning from the crusades could be treated with the healing properties from these very waters. A hospital was founded here by of the Earl of Essex and run for over 300 years by Brothers of St Thomas the Martyr of Acon. The spring flowed for many hundred of years even in the Victorian era, people came to bathe in the “Holy Water”. Strange, then to think, that the fate of the area to become watercress beds! Eventually even the spring dried up and the area was flooded to become the artificial lake that we see today! We rejoined the canal towpath, which was take us past our next Lock, which did look a little scruffy in my opinion! At least it was navigable unlike some I have seen in the past!.

Beyond the lock we were treated to the sight of a beautiful Swan, who was carefully swimming around the canal. In fact the Swan was guarding a nesting swan on the other side of the river, the Swan even started to make it way towards us whilst we walked past to ensure we kept away! As we meandered our way on head, we spotted some charming look ducks with a small brood of baby ducklings! As we continued on our way, I caught the sound of a Cuckoo 🙂 , our walk had turned into a Nature Ramble! All the stopping to admire nature had on offer made this probably the slowest walking time we had ever made LOL. We advanced on to walk past Northchurch lock, where I discovered a small sign to Braunston saying it was 59 miles, nice to know it was just that little nearer than the 71 miles when I first found a sign! It as not long before we came across a small stone bridge to take across the canal, which was to bring us to “Dudswell” lock.

From Grand Union Canal – Tring to Berkhamsted Walk

On from the lock, we walked past an unusual fence where we felt that something was looking at us. These were donkeys! It as the most unusual wildlife we had come across on the walk! The path was to lead us on to our next lock on the walk “Cow Roast Lock”. A very strange name if you ask me, I could not see a sign of an inn, where any public roast may have taken place. In fact no roast had taken place here at all, the name derives from “Cow Rest”, when this area had a number of large cattle pens used by drovers whilst en-route from the Midlands to London. The lock certainly looks pretty today and has even won awards for being so lovely 🙂 . Farther on past the Lock the path was to take us past a small marina absolutely jam packed with Barges! This section of the canal towpath was in a dreadful state and extremely muddy. I made the decision to storm through the mud rather than skirt around it, I am not sure this was wise but it certainly got me over the worst without falling over!

It was not long before we reached the turn off for Tring. It was here we ended our walk for the day by walking to to Tring Station to take the train home for lunch 🙂 At least this has prepared me for most of the Grand Union Challenge 🙂 Please feel free to click on the photo below to browse through all the photos I took on our walk –

Grand Union Canal – Tring to Berkhamsted Walk

Our route for the morning walk was as follows –

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One response to “Grand Union Canal – Berkhamsted – Tring

  1. Pingback: Baker Street – Islington Walk – Via Grand Union Canal « Karen's Sponsored Walks

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