Before we had kids, one thing that Mr C and I often spoke about was a dream of going on long family walks with our children. Heck, I think we even mentioned it on our first ever weekend together! Anyone who actually has kids will know though that this dream isn’t actually all that close to reality – instead you’re likely to get lots of moaning about tired legs and children wanting to be picked up.
Master C is now two and a half (I know, I still don’t believe it either!) and he’s now confident enough on his feet that he’s walking around quite a lot and we’ve started to introduce a regular weekend family walk. At just a couple of miles it’s pushing Master C a bit in terms of distance, especially if it’s towards the end of the day, but he’s perfect;y capable of going that far and it’s long enough that Mr C and I feel we’ve actually had a bit of a walk too.
We’re also busy discovering new local places to go too – mainly thanks to an excellent book of local child friendly walks. After over ten years of living here it surprises me a bit how many new places there are to explore, but I’m actually finding that really exciting and refreshing. I’m hoping to document some of there here to keep track of where we have found and enjoyed, and to share them with others locally.
My favourite walk of late was probably the simplest and the one that we were already most familiar with. The Alban Way is an old railway line that ran from St Albans to Hatfield and when we first moved to the city we lived really close to one part of the line. Nowadays it is a popular route with cyclists and dog walkers and also people who commute by bike between the two places.
Whilst I may be familiar with one part of the route I’ve not actually travelled the whole length of the line and so when we found a walk along the part that started just outside St Albans we decided it would be a good one to try. Parking in Smallford (in a tiny gravel site next to an industrial area) we then headed towards Hatfield as the line passes through fields. The beauty of an old railway line is that it’s flat enough to take a pushchair with us, but also enclosed enough that the kids are safe, and you can see far enough ahead that you can easily get them stood by the side of the path safely if a bike is coming.
Whilst walking on an old railway line can sometimes be a bit dull, this section of the Alban Way actually has loads of interesting things – the first of which being a blackberry arch across the way. Created by local sculptor Diane Maclean in 1998 it breaks up one particularly flat section before the path heads into some trees.
This next bit is where one local enthusiast has started to effectively decorate the line with loads of bits of railway memorabilia. The first thing we came across was a sign high up in a tree warning you about trains, but then as we went further on and came across more signs, wind chimes, and even a station clock.
This is all centred around the old Nast Hyde Station, and it’s obvious that whoever is behind all this has researched the history of the line and this old station in particular. As well as being lovely things to get the children’s attention it was also a nice little reminder of the history of the line – and perfect for a railway geek like myself! After a bit of detective work I’ve found a newsletter online which talks about the man behind this and suggests that it’s quite a recent addition.
We walked for about a mile up the line, until we reached the outskirts of Ellenbrook where there was a perfectly positioned children’s playground which the kids both ran towards as soon as they saw it. It was hard to drag the kids away from the playground, but once back on the Alban Way they continued their running races most of the way back to where we had parked – it was certainly hard to believe that Little Miss C had already completed a 1.5 mile fun run that morning.
I’m really enjoying this regular bit of family time and all four of us getting outside together and having fun. I hope we can keep it up throughout the summer and beyond. I just need to start searching out some local maps and see where we should go next.
Delighted to be joining up again with Fiona over at Coombe Mill and her Country Kids link – whilst we do lottos things outdoors with the kids, I’m useless at writing about them!