The New River Path is an adventure full of beautiful green space, majestic wildlife, fascinating history and startling discovery that reveals an entirely new side of London.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the New River is incorrectly named. Built in 1613, it’s certainly not new and it is in fact an aqueduct supplying drinking water to North London — so it’s not a river then either.
However, the New River is just as delightful to follow as any London watercourse. Taking you from Hertfordshire’s attractive countryside, through some of London’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan boroughs and into the heart of the capital, is the fantastic New River Path.
The Path is the result of a collaboration between Thames Water and local people and partners. It covers 28 miles (45 km) of fantastic walking, is waymarked throughout and follows mostly grassed riverside trails that are flat for its entire length. It is an ideal walk for anyone finding their long-distance feet and can be completed in any season.
It is also a hike with much to interest nature enthusiasts, history buffs and those wanting to get to know a new aspect of the capital. From where the New River begins at New Gauge, just to the east of Hertford, to historic New River Head on the very cusp of the City, the Path is full of surprises. Despite threading through North London, it is a very green hike. London is, after all, the world’s first National Park City.
Even once you cross under the M25, you spend a great deal of time in parks, gardens, nature reserves and green spaces. However, you’re never far from London’s exciting and varied urban environment, with excellent cafes, eateries and pubs, as well as lots of independent shops for a mooch.
There are numerous highlights along the way, including: Lee Valley’s wetlands, dotted with nature reserves brimming with wildlife; Theobalds Park, a former Royal hunting estate now home to a Georgian mansion; Myddelton House and Gardens, a Grade II-listed building and gorgeous botanical gardens; Finsbury and Clissold Parks, lovely green spaces in metropolitan North London; and Islington, one of London’s most vibrant boroughs.
The New River’s origins can be traced back to 1600, when London’s water supplies were limited, often distributed by merchants carrying buckets. Inspiration struck Edmund Colhurst, who had the idea of bringing water from Hertfordshire’s springs to the capital. King James I agreed to provide half the monies, as long as the resulting watercourse flowed through his palace’s grounds at Theobald.
Merchant adventurer Hugh Myddelton was given the authority to build it and mathematician Edward Wright plotted its course. 200 workers were put to the task of digging out the channel and in 1613, the New River was complete. Though it has seen a few changes in its 400-year history, it remains a vital part of London’s water supply to this day, representing around 8% of the capital’s daily water use.
In this Collection, I have split the Path into three leisurely stages of around 9 to 11 miles (14 to 18 km), giving you time to explore along the way. Each stage ends near accommodation and rail links to Central London. You could easily complete the walk in two days or even take on the challenge of completing it all in one go. The option of starting in Central London and venturing north into more rural pastures is also a splendid alternative.
The nature of the Path’s grassy trails mean that it can get a little bit muddy in winter. However, in summer this should not be an issue. Sun cream is vital in the warmer months and it’s worth taking plenty of water. Dogs on leads are more than welcome.
The start point New Gauge is a short walk from Hertford East station. Direct trains from London Liverpool Street take just less than an hour. Islington, at the Path’s end, is walking distance from King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston stations. Angel is the closest tube station.
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Last updated: November 30, 2021
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
The first stage begins at Gauge House, the start of the New River, and ventures south to the town of Cheshunt. It explores the attractive Lee Valley and its wetlands, passing several nature reserves on the way. There are a number of tempting detours, either to watch wildlife or take a breather in a Hertfordshire…
In this stage, after passing through Theobalds Park, the New River flows under the M25 and enters London. You take a short detour to explore the botanic delights of Myddelton House and Gardens, before the Path winds through Enfield, passing the oldest structure on the New River: Clarendon Arch.
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The final stage takes you through London’s vibrant inner boroughs of Haringey, Hackney and Islington. You skirt Alexandra, Finsbury and Clissold Parks, before discovering Sir Hugh Myddelton’s statue on Islington Green. The Path ends at the historic New River Head in Finsbury, a fitting end to a marvellous…
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