Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd May this year was the date for the annal Rickmansworth Festival organised by the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust as the culmination of Ricky Week. The festival is a real mixture. What is technically the main attraction is the display of narrowboats, moored four abreast all the way down from Batchworth Lock to beyond the entrance bridge to the Aquadrome. The towpath was heaving and the boats were impressive and from many eras – cargo barges, those converted to houseboats and new builds too. Live music is performed by the lock and boat trips are available for a small fee.
The festival also spans into the Aquadrome where stalls selling cheese, sausages, handmade gifts and traditional painted barge fare are interspersed amongst burger vans and morris dancers. It’s busy and hard to move through the crowds but the food stalls do offer free samples and we did walk out with cheese and sausages. The final area of the festival consists of a fairground with the usual array of garishly painted rides and games. You don’t need to stay long, but it is worth a visit if you’re in the area. The event is always the third weekend of May and the London Transport Museum occasionally run heritage vehicles though these seemed to be absent this year. It was a few years ago that the heritage A Stock run was put on to tie in with this event.
Soph and I live in Watford, so we had two options to reach the festival. Driving and trying to find somewhere to park in the town didn’t seem feasible so we elected to walk. Luckily there is a handy route between home and Ricky, the Ebury Way – the route of the former Watford and Rickmansworth Railway, the Croxley branch of which is currently being converted into the new Metropolitan Line Extension. The line from Watford Junction to Rickmansworth (Church Street) via Watford High Street opened in 1862 with the branch to Croxley Green opening later in 1912. Both branches were single track west of the junction with the new Watford DC line that opened in 1913 and is now part of the London Overground.
The walking route itself is very easy going. It is actually the continuation of National Cycle Route 6 that we partially followed to St Albans a few weeks ago. It also follows the Colne down so this can be seen as a continuation of the Abbey Line Trail. It begins near the construction site of the new link road which is on the old site of Croxley Green depot, that was used for BR and Bakerloo line trains, and goes through the park up onto the old railway embankment. Here you can look through the fence to see the tracks that the Met will run along in a few years time as well as the Network South East red lampposts that are still visible at the distant Watford Stadium station.
The route then continues along the old railway across various bridges reconstructed on the old brick and metalwork underneath (where cyclists are told to dismount but none of them do – we were very nearly knocked off the bridge). There are various points where the view is simply stunning across the Colne Valley. Eventually you come pas the back of the Croxley Green business park whose access road resulted in the closure of rail services on the Croxley Green branch by demolishing part of the railway embankment at Ascot Road. The next point of interest is Croxley Common Moor with the buildings of the village visible on the hill in the distance. The Moor is a local nature reserve and often has grazing cattle on it.
The final approach into Rickmansworth crosses the Grand Union Canal and reveals a hint of the routes’ railway history with a gradient marker still in situ beside the path, before the trail weaves amongst newer buildings to bring you out at the site of the old station that is now a Travis Perkins. It’s a short walk – no more than a couple of hours – but worth it just to see the area and to contemplate on how the Metropolitan Railway were mostly to blame for the lines’ demise.
ADDENDUM TO THE EBURY WAY
The Ebury Way is split over two maps, OS Explorer 173 London North and OS Explorer 172 Chiltern Hills East.
There are seventeen Geocaches on or near the route and inside the Aquadrome. I do not maintain this bookmark list so do your own research for any new ones.