The River Ver winds through a timeless valley that seems a million miles from city life but is actually only about an hour north of London. Work up an appetite walking this route, taking in the rich wildlife of a rare habitat, before treating yourself at a working 16th-century watermill and bakery. This river is unusual in that it is a chalk stream – one of only around 200 on Earth, of which more than 160 are found in England – and which has pure alkaline water.
A Walk the old railway line
Head down the High Street. The village of Redbourn was a thriving industrial community in its heyday, producing straw plaits, hats and silk threads. Immediately before a railway bridge, go left up some steps on to the Nickey Line. Turn right over the wrought iron bridge. The Nickey Line was a branch line running between Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead; it closed in 1979 and is now a nine-mile public footpath and cycle route. Soon bear left off the line, down on to the B487, and cross the road taking a footpath opposite. Follow this alongside fields until you reach Millstream Barn.
Exit on to St Albans Road (A518). This is a part of the famous Watling Street, an ancient Roman road. Take the footpath opposite, which runs alongside flood meadows. This area is managed for conservation so bird populations have thrived, meaning there’s often great views of wildlife. Listen out for song thrushes and keep your eyes peeled for kingfishers, heron and wagtails. The path soon exits into Redbournbury Mill car park.
B Redbournbury Mill
At the mill, you will be greeted by the smell of the bakery adjacent to the working watermill, which is housed in a small brick barn. Redbournbury Mill was restored in 1987 after a fire. It is now a museum and you can watch the production of organic flour or enjoy a baking experience, learning to bake bread with the master baker himself.
Listen out for the hum of the working Victorian machinery once inside the museum and catch a whiff of the nutty aroma of the organic flour, ground here on French Burr stones. There are four levels of the mill to explore, not forgetting the 9ft tall waterwheel outside that powers the whole operation.
Turn left upon exiting the car park and cross two fords while passing Redbournbury Farm on the right. Look out for a beautifully carved bench depicting the twists and turns of the River Ver at the second ford; this is one of eight placed along the river. Turn left along a track. You will soon arrive at the entrance to Redbournbury fishery and shooting clays. The fishery’s two lakes have been dug out of the old watercress beds, an important industry at Redbourn between the late 19th and early 20th century.
C Heading back
Turn right up the track, before soon bearing left and then right before arriving at the corner of a woodland and an inviting bench dedicated to Julian James, 1943 – 2000, who bought and restored the Mill after the fire. Turn right at a junction, and the track soon passes between farm buildings and alongside a pond.
At a bend, keep ahead on a footpath. Follow the left edge passing a Georgian house. The footpath follows the left-hand edge of a golf course.
The route soon veers away from the course,
and after a while the path emerges into a field. Bear right then left, soon exiting through a hedge into a field with great views over Redbourn. Descend following the telegraph poles and cross the A5183 on to the Nickey Line. Turn left then immediately right on to a path which leads to a lane. Follow Waterend Lane back to the High Street and the start.
HOW TO GET THERE
Come off the M1 at J9 and take the A5183 towards Redbourn. Park in High Street. Trains run from London to nearby Harpenden.
FIND OUT MORE
St Albans Al3 6RS
Baking experiences take place on Saturday mornings, The mill’s opening times
vary; see the website for
The Chequers Inn
St Albans Road, Redbourn AL3 7AD
The Bull Inn
43 High Street, Redbourn Al3 7LW
Mill Green Mill
Mill Green, Hatfield