Only 40 minutes away by train from London lies the Grand Union Canal Walk, a trail that incorporates picturesque English landscapes, weird and wonderful canal boats and more pubs than you can shake a pint at along the route.
Disembarking at the deserted Cheddington station on Saturday afternoon, we quickly scampered along the footpaths through the village and merged onto the Grand Union Canal Walk by the local boat club.
Part of the charm of this walk is gazing at all the boats moored along the side (and picking out your favourite!). With brightly painted exteriors, sweet and, at times, funny names, and stacks upon stacks of random knick knacks precariously stacked on the roof, it seems as if each boat has its own personality – and then you meet the owners.
Along the canals you will easily spot a blacksmith, a painter, folk musicians and too many adorable sea dogs and tom cats to count, and with the surrounding landscape, it is easy to imagine taking to the canals in your own decorated barge.
While the Grand Union Canal Walk links London and Birmingham through a canal network of industrial towns, villages and countryside, the portion we trekked between Cheddington and Berkhamsted followed gently undulating farmland, secluded natural green tunnels, locks, reservoirs teeming with birds, and small villages that appeared as though little had changed there over the centuries.
Given its peaceful surroundings, camping is the best option for accommodation along this portion of the trail. With such beautiful campsites available though, thoughts of B&Bs or guesthouses will be the last thought on your mind.
We stayed at the Orchard at Norcott just past Tring by Cow Roast Lock. The campsite has basic facilities, mainly a toilet and picnic areas, but at £5 a night it is a bargain. Plus, the campsite borders a field frequented by herds of deer, and apple trees and blackberry bushes abound. In the morning you might even receive a wake-up cuddle with the owner’s resident pack of pooches.
The Grand Union Canal Walk is an ideal option for day trippers and newbie campers who want a flat, relaxed walk that is well sign-posted. Personally, I look forward to walking more of the trail next year with friends – and more stops at the pubs.
For more information about the route we chose, check the info below:
You can take a 40-minute train journey from London Euston station and disembark at Cheddington, Tring or Berkhamsted to gain access on the route. Return tickets cost £ 25-30 in advance (not including any railcards) and there is generally one train every hour.
There are numerous pubs along the route to stop for meals, otherwise Tring or Northchurch are the closest areas for restaurants by Cow Roast Lock, approximately 40 minutes’ walk from Orchard at Norcott.
Take note, many restaurants and pubs in the area close earlier than other regions of the UK, and it is not uncommon for restaurants to stop serving food after 20:00.