A short walk on the River Lea and Lee Navigation

The Lea between Hertford and Ware

By Richard Brockbank

Over the years, thousands of people – perhaps even hundreds of thousands, will have enjoyed walking this route between Ware and Hertford.  It’s only 1.3 miles from Hertford Castle Weir to Ware Lock, so can be walked in less than an hour if you have long legs like me, or just as long as you would like to take to admire the scenery.

I walked this route in March 2009, just as we were starting to see the first prolonged sunshine of spring.

I grew up doing lots of walking in the countryside, and enjoy the peace and quiet and pretty views.  The rivers in Hertfordshire have some lovely walks along their towpaths, and the Lea is no exception.  I hope the photos on this page give you a flavour of what you will see.

Lea or Lee?

There is an amount of controversy over which is the correct spelling – in fact, the river itself is the Lea, and the navigation, where the river has been straightened to allow boats to pass more easily, and the water hardly follows it’s original course, is the Lee Navigation, so called because it was created by Acts of Parliament.  Essentially, the river becomes the Lee Navigation when it reaches Hertford, being known as the river Lea from it’s source west of Luton.  But call it what you like – no-one will know how you’re spelling it, after all.

The ugly side of the countryside

The saddening thing about going on a walk like this is the huge amount of litter you see strewn along the river banks and paths.  If you look closely you can see it in the picture of the stone bridge (which is why I changed it to black and white).  I even recall a man saying he drops litter because people are paid to pick it up, and they are therefore providing them with work.  If you’d like to do something about it, please visit The Big Tidy Up.

Update – 20 Aug 09

The Lea was recently featured on the BBC television series ‘Rivers’, presented by Grif Rhys Jones, including parts pictured on this page, such as the two step lock, which Grif canoed down, and the New Gauge Intake into the New River near the A10 viaduct.

This page was added on 02/03/2011.

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  • When a youngster living in Hertford in the 1940s there was talk of a Man who used to regularly walk along the Tow Path of the Lea towing a small vessel or Boat, and the claim was that some old By Law states that this has to be done to keep the Tow Path open to the Public. can anyone verify this old tale and is there such a Law in existance??,

    By George Paul (12/10/2011)
  • Who can remember the Boy Scout’s “Raft Race” held between Hertford and Ware on the river, where intriguingly designed craft were piloted between the two towns by human-power alone on race day each year. At least, that was the general idea! human power was certainly the mode of movement, but buoyancy was often sadly lacking with the alleged rafts often being submarines if they were actually still mobile by the time of reaching Ware! Of course, many never made it that far!!

    By Jos Mottershead (25/07/2011)
  • An interesting little article and some lovely photos.

    By Tony (15/10/2009)