Could The Cole Green Way be extended to Hartham?

National Cycle Route 61 runs from Hatfield to Maidenhead in Kent.

The popular cycle path follows the route of the former railway line from Welwyn Garden City to Hertford, where the route diverts from the trackbed through Hertford town centre to Hartham, where it joins the towpath to Ware.

There is no dedicated path through the town, with cyclists having to share space with motorists. This is the missing link.

But could a dedicated route be restored by extending use of the old railway?

Most of the land forming the route of the railway remains undeveloped.

There may be land ownership and engineering challenges, but it may be possible.

The proposed path can be broken down into five sections

  1. Hertingfordbury Park to the River Mimram
  2. River Mimram to Hertingfordbury Road
  3. Hertingfordbury Road to North Road
  4. North Road to Port Vale
  5. Port Vale to Port Hill & Hartham
Map

The map above shows the route of the path, based on the route of the old Hertford & Welwyn railway.

Restoring the route as a footpath and cycleway would require a least four bridges to be built at these locations:

Now let's look at each of the five sections.

Hertingfordbury Park to the River Mimram

Map

At present, the cycle path leaves the trackbed just west of Hertford Football club, passing by the football ground before joining West Street.

Cycle Route 61 leaves the Cole Green Way at Hertingfordbury Park

However, the trackbed is still used as a footpath, although it comes to an end when it meets the River Mimram.

The footpath comes to a dead end where it encounters the River Mimram. This is where a bridge (A) would be required to reach the land west of Mimram Trading Estate.

A bridge would be required to cross the River Mimram

River Mimram to Hertingfordbury Road

Map

This straight section of trackbed is extant behind fencing to the immediate west of Mimram Road Industrial Estate. Much of the vegetation has recently been cleared by the likely owner, Network Rail.

The photo above shows the trackbed next to Mimram Road Industrial Estate

Hertingfordbury Road to North Road

Map

The former railway crossed Hertingfordbury Road to the immediate east of the current bridge carrying the Hertford Loop. This bridge was demolished and it’s at this point that a second bridge would be required.

The photo above shows the point at whihc the bridge would have to cross.

On the north side of the road is an access roadway used by Network Rail (shown above).

The trackbed is more or less extant on either side of the Hertingfordbury Road, running parallel to the existing railway track.

This photo of the former trackbed was taken from the footbridge that connects Sele Road and Welwyn Road, just south of Hertford North station.

The trackbed curves around to the right as it heads towards Hertford North station, where it once crossed North Road. This is where a further bridge (C) would be required.

This section is also thought to belong to Network Rail.

North Road to Port Vale

Map

The bridge would cross North Road at the same point as the former railway bridge (now demolished).

The north-east abutment is still extant.

This is where we encounter our first physical obstruction - a mobile phone mast.

The railway ran parallel to Beane Road along and embankment. Parts of the embankment have been removed for Millmead Way, pedestrian access to Millmead Park and the North station car park.

This section of track passed over the River Beane. However the bridge has been removed, either a new one could be constructed or the existing bridge carrying Beane Road used.

A section of embankment has been removed to provide parking for the station

Above shows another view or the embankment.

Ownership of this section is unclear.

Port Vale to Port Hill & Hartham

Map

This section - commonly referred to as the Lower Bengeo Railway, is in private ownership but wholly undeveloped.

A fourth bridge would be required at the west end of Port Vale to replace the demolished railway bridge.

The track bed curves around to the east, running parallel to Port Vale before meeting Port Vale.

The photo above shows the trackbed between Port Vale and Port Hill.

The track ends where it meets Sidings Court, from where you can turn left to make a short walk to a pedestrian crossing across Port Hill.

From the pedestrian crossing you can take the access road to Hartham Car Park and rejoin Cycle Route 61.

Apologies for the poor resolution of some of the maps.

Steve Beeston
March 2021