Top 5 dog walks in Hertfordshire by My Dog Life

Becky from the blog ‘My Dog Life’ has kindly shared her top 5 dog walks in and around Hertfordshire to give us dog walkers some new walks to explore during this lockdown. There are so many beautiful walks to explore in this gorgeous Hertfordshire countryside, and this just gives a little taste as to some of the amazing places to head to. Enjoy!

My go-to dog walks in Herts

Our beautiful home county of Hertfordshire is brimming with places to enjoy life to the max with our 4-legged friends – a kind of doggy utopia where you’re never far from adventure. The county’s full of amazing walks with miles of rolling countryside, ancient woodland, parklands, wetlands and plenty of dog-friendly pubs along the way. Pretty much wherever you’re based there’s relatively easy access to the great outdoors and an opportunity to connect with nature. 

Having lived in Harpenden all our lives, unsurprisingly some of our best dog walks are directly on our doorstep, but just a few steps off the beaten track still delivers plenty of hidden gems. We hope you enjoy our roundup of some of our favourite walking destinations that we love exploring with our crazy cocker spaniel, Benji.

(Due to the current lockdown restrictions, the pubs and cafes mentioned are either closed or offering a take-away service; please check their websites or socials for the latest opening details).

Harpenden Common

Harpenden’s blessed with many fabulous green spaces and the Common is a particularly special place. Originally Rothamsted Manor’s waste land covering over 96 hectares, the grassland, meadows and ponds are a hugely important haven for wildlife and have been designated a County Wildlife Site.

Throughout the centuries it’s remained a vital part of Harpenden life and has long been home to a few established sport clubs including Harpenden Common Golf Course.  Information boards around the common provide details of 3 colour coded walking trails which span over and around various sections – they vary in length so there’s something for everyone.

One of our favourite routes takes you around sections of the open golf course and follows some of the permissive horse-riding route and red walking trail.  Further details of this walk can be found here.

There’s plenty of free parking, off and on-lead areas, and lots and lots of poo bins (hooray!). The Engineer Pub & Restaurant is also nearby where dogs are welcome in the Sports Bar and outside terrace.

Hatching Green

Hatching Green is another of our favourite places and a great starting point for lots of lovely dog walks. From Hatching Green head for the small red brick gate house (Rothamsted Park Lodge) and follow the public footpath signposting Rothamsted Manor. From here, you feel a real sense of history as you walk along the avenue of lime trees, planted in 1880, which lead to Rothamsted Manor in one direction and Rothamsted Park in the other. The land forms part of Rothamsted Estate managed by Rothamsted Research which is made up of 400 hectares including the manor house and experimental farm.  The fields are used for agricultural experiments, some of which are home to the oldest agricultural experiments in the world, so its important dogs are not allowed to freely roam into the fields.

There are many walking options, one of our favourites is a simple circular route which takes you around the perimeter of the manor house, through a small woodland and back through farmland and the tree lined avenues. Details of this route can be found here but there are many ways to extend your walk including a good run around in Rothamsted Park if needed.

There are plenty of bins for your dog poo bags within the park but not within Rothamsted Research’s farmland -we make good use of the one situated at the start/finish in Hatching Green.

If you’re looking for refuge before or after your walk, the dog friendly White Horse is worth a visit.   This lovely pub dates back to the 17th century and dogs are welcome in the cosy bar, snug area and large outside space.

Heartwood Forest

Most local dog owners are more than familiar with the amazing natural space of Heartwood Forest. Owned and managed by the Woodland Trust, this is the perfect place for our furry friends to run off some energy and certainly one of Benji’s favourites. The 347 hectare site is home to a huge network of paths taking you through beautiful ancient woodlands, wildflower meadows and open grassland.

There are three way-marked trails which take you to different areas of Heartwood Forest (details of which can be found on the Woodland Trust’s website). It’s a hugely popular destination for dog walkers, cyclists and horse riders and the main routes can get busy at peak times.

We absolutely love exploring the quieter, lesser-known paths where you find yourselves completely immersed in the peaceful surroundings.  The bird life, bluebells and wildflowers are a sight for sore eyes and provide a lovely haven to escape to. We’re lucky that we can access Heartwood by foot from south Harpenden but we also really enjoy the quieter routes which take you around the native tree arboretum and neighbouring community orchard– a description of one of these routes can be found here.

Poo bins are a bit scarce on the ground, there are a couple just by the Heartwood Forest Car Park and one on the main bridleway by Langley Wood.

You’re spoilt for choice for nearby dog-friendly pit-stops; in Sandridge, you’ll find The Queens Head and Rose and Crown pubs, plus Heartwood Tea Rooms and The Potting Shed at Carpenters Nursery – all great options for a pre or post walk pick me-up.   

Ayot St Lawrence

Located between Harpenden and Welwyn, just north of Wheathampstead, you’ll find the beautiful and historic village of Ayot St Lawrence, one our regular dog walking destinations for as long as I can remember.  As you wind your way around the narrow access roads bounded by rolling countryside and tall hedges of quintessentially English estates you feel yourself stepping back in time.  All those well-used phrases like ‘picture postcard’ ‘chocolate box scenery’ and ‘frozen in time’ are all applicable to this little village steeped in history. Many visitors are drawn to Shaw’s Corner, the once home of play write George Bernard Shaw who lived here for over 40 years.     

Roadside parking is available along Hill Farm Lane, near the Brocket Arms, and from here you’ll find a maze of walking footpaths in all directions.  When short on time we often do a quick, easy loop starting by the ruined medieval Church of St Lawrence and head through a sheep grazed pasture towards the ‘new’ Palladian St Lawrence Church. We then pass through a couple of gates to the right of the church before following a footpath adjacent to Priors wood and joining Bibbs Hall Lane.  Continuing along Bibbs Hall Lane as it turns left, we then join a footpath on the right leading to some wooden steps and a path which leads around the outer edge of Shaw’s Corner and back onto Hill Farm Lane. The only poo bin available on this route is next to the red phone box along Hill Farm Lane.

It’s hard to resist the extremely popular dog-friendly Brocket Arms pub beckoning you in for a post walk refresher. This lovely 14th century country inn is full of character and legend has it is haunted! We particularly love the outside space in the summer months.   

Ashridge Forest

Another place close to our hearts and now one of Benji’s particular favourites is Ashridge Forest on the Hertfordshire -Buckinghamshire border.

Ashridge Estate needs little introduction. Comprising of 5000 acres of ancient woodland, commons, pastures, heath and chalk downland – owned and managed by The National Trust. Exploring this magical estate and its different landscapes with its rich variety of wildlife including rare butterflies and fallow deer, will give you and your doggy companions plenty of space to lose yourselves in the splendour of nature.  

The forest itself is steeped in history and provides a huge array of walking routes through magical ancient woods. A pleasure in all seasons, with dense carpets of bluebells in spring and rich rusty tones in autumn, we even love it on the bleakest winter’s day.

This is a popular destination which draws in the crowds, so we tend to visit early in the morning and stick to the quiet footpaths which zig zag through the forest.  For more structured walks around the estate, take your pick from the National Trust’s website where you’ll find plenty of ideas on how to explore this amazing place.

At the heart of the estate next to the Bridgewater Monument you’ll find a visitor centre with a well-stocked gift shop and public toilets. This is where you’ll also find the brilliant open-air Brownlow Café which is very dog friendly and offers a great range of food to suit every taste – but be prepared to queue during peak times.  

There are 5 poo bins along Monument Drive and around the visitor centre. There’s also a handy guide for dog walkers which is worth a quick read.

There are lots of reasons why we love living in Hertfordshire and the huge number of beautiful places to walk our much loved pets is definitely one of them. Let us know if you have a special place you and your furry friend enjoy exploring in this wonderful county.   

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