A stone's throw from junction 22 of the M25 this walk can be anything from a 15-minute breather to a full hour circuit, with variations in between. A footpath cuts through Willows Activity Farm (dogs on leads!) and there are usually goats and pigs to behold.
Park on the dirt road further up Coursers Road rather than in the Willows Farm car park itself (which is closer to the M25 junction) to get the full range of walk lengths.
Park on the (heavily potholed) dirt road off Coursers Road just at the entrance to Colney Heath. Step through onto the heath and from here, choose your route: for a short romp, stay on the heath and follow the worn routes (no waymarked paths, just a lovely, grassy open space with copses and an easily accessible river for a cooling off dip).
For the longer walk (also possible to vary from 30 minutes up to an hour or so), turn to the left and follow the path through the narrow strip of trees to a gap/gateway on the left leading to a grassy field. Follow this path along a fenceline to a gate leading to a wooden bridge with another gate on the other side of the little bridge. This goes through to an open field. Continue straight along the wide path across the field (usually planted with crops). At the end, go past the tall hedge so that the hedge is on your right, and follow the path as it skirts to the right then left around a paddock. Ignore the boardwalk on the right as you go round the corner (unless you want a shorter route, in which case that takes you back to the big open field and you can go around that field bakc to where you started).
At the other side of the paddock, turn right down a steep path that leads through the middle of two reclaimed gravel pit lakes - wonderful birdlife here, and stunning scenery in all seasons. The path climbs again and, after a kissing gate, crosses over a small bridge above the gravel pit conveyor. After the bridge you have another choice - if you turn right, the path goes alongside the woodland and cuts off about 20 minutes. Carry straight on and you get the full farm experience!
If you go straight on, the path goes through the woods until you reach a gate into a field. Cut across the field to another gate, cross an access road and through another gate into another field, and the path crosses the field diagonally. You're heading towards Willows Farm. At the other side of the field, find the footpath signpost and take the path to the right, along a wide track between a field and the overflow carpark. Dogs on leads here! Go through a gate and the footpath goes down through the Activity Farm - please stick to the footpath and don't stray into the paying attraction! Check out the goats, alpacas and pigs (often with piglets) on your right as you pass through the activity farm.
Through another gate at the bottom of the pigs' yard and turn right. The path now follows the River Colne, which will be on your left. The point at which a field on the right gives way to the quarry workings is where the shortcut rejoins the route. Stay on this path alongside the river until you reach a fork: to the left a bridge goes up and over the river, but you want to take the right fork which crosses back over the gravel pit conveyor belt. Cross over the quarry access dirt road and continue straight on the path until a gate on the right enters a field. Go into this field and follow the hedgeline up the middle of the field to a gate at the top. Turn left out of the gate and follow the edge of the field around until you get back to the bridge with gates at either end, on your left.
Go back through these gates and retrace your steps back to the heath and to where you parked.
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Edited: 21st October 2020. The details of this listing may have changed, and though the Driving with Dogs team do our best to confirm the accuracy of every listing, we cannot guarantee that the details are fully up to date and accurate. If you know that any aspect of this listing is incorrect, please suggest an edit to let us know.