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Chess Valley Walk: a dog day out by the river in the Chilterns

By August 8, 2020January 2nd, 2021No Comments
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The placid and clear shallow waters of the river Chess run in a green valley in the Chilterns, just North West of London, (partly) within the M25 and, along side it, Chess Valley Walk trail is perfect for a dog walk.  With 19 tube stops from Aldgate, or 11 from Baker Street with the Metropolitan line, you conveniently reach the start of the walk. This makes a dog day out in Chess Valley is a great option for an easy countryside escape even if you don’t have a car.

Chess Valley Walk for a dog day out in the Chilterns

Dog and man on bridge among willowsat Chess Valley Walk

We had previously told you about a dog day out in the Chilterns, starting in Beaconsfield and leading to the Royal Standards of England historic pub for a lunch and a walk in the surrounding countryside. In this post we take you somewhere else in the Chilterns, to explore the different landscape of the Chess Valley.

The Chess Valley is home to the river Chess, a chalk stream, with narrow meanders and clear shallow waters. Along side it, the 10-mile Chess Valley Walk trail mainly follows its bed. It is a flat walk – as you may expect -, with a few hilly parts where the trail leaves the side of the river and takes you through some obstacles.

Rickmansworth: starting your day and reaching the river Chess

Man and dog in Rickmansworth under a big treeThe walk begins in the small town of Rickmanswoth, in Hertfordshire. Its train station is served by the Metropolitan Line from East and Central London as well as by the Chilterns Railway that you can get from Marylebone station in London and gets you there in only 22 minutes!

Before starting your walk, have a stroll on the high street and admire the historic buildings in the little streets near the church. There are a couple of bakeries where you can get some fresh pastries for breakfast before you hike.

To reach the trail from Rickmansworth centre, continue straight onto the high street and pass a spirits shop as well as the Coach and Horses pub, you will pass under a railway bridge: turn right on the path right after the bridge (not the one before), and cross the large road you will hit and enter the field near the playground and sports courts, you will soon find the river Chess.

Chess Valley Walk

Dog having a splash

While not the entirety of the walk runs along the river, the Chess Valley Walk trail is well marked, so simply make sure you watch for the signposts along the way. There is a map and leaflet of the Chess Valley Walk on the Chilterns official website that can come in handy, to give you a sense of the route.

Family walking on the Chess Valley Walk

The first section is very nice, and you immediately get a feel of the landscape. It can be a good place for giving your dog the chance for a splash and admire the willows and river vegetation. Argo did immediately take advantage of the water!

You’ll walk for a section not along the river, but you just need to follow the signs. Passing through a path among villas and horses, you will find yourself near the (unglamorous) M25 for a short stretch, as you walk over the overbridge and take the first path on the right handside you’ll soon find a much nicer lanscape and countryside will welcome you with its colours, you will find the river again and some stunning views.

Dog bathing in the river Chess

There is lot more to come and you’ll be amazed to see the landscape changing so much as you walk along the trail. You’ll spot the perfect cottages, fields with cows, alpacas, watercress beds at Sarratt (the only commercial watercress farm left in the Chilterns), wild flowers meadows at Frogmore Meadows, and spots of woodland. And then dragonflies, birds and more.

We didn’t walk the full 10-miles walk to Chesham, so can’t report on full trail section, but what we saw was lovely and we are planning to visit again (we will make sure to update this post when we do). During our walk we met a lovely doggie called Archie with his humans who kindly took a photo of us (above – a rare one of the three of us!) – they recognised Argo and knew the blog, how fun (if you are reading, thank you for the pic!).

View of Chess Valley Walk trail in the countryside

man and dog on wooden bridge on river Chess

Dog on the Chess Valley Walk on a sunny day

Alternative paths and walks along the way

You don’t necessarily need to stay on the Chess Valley Walk all the way: there are plenty of alternative trails that cross it and then get back to it, so you can enjoy to take some diversions and spice up your adventure.

For instance, there is the Croxley Green Boundary Walk, near the start of Chess Valley Walk. We walked a small section of it heading out and it offers some breathtaking views on the fields – it looks like being in a live Windows screen background (photos below as proof).

Fields on a sunny day on Croxley Green Boundary Walk

Poppies in a green field on a sunny day

After crossing the M25, on your way to catch the river again, you can also take some (well marked) diversions on Chorleywood House Estate, and a signpost map that will help you deciding the route you prefer to take.

Photo of signposted map

If you don’t want to walk the full Chess Valley Walk, you can also get a train from or to one of the other villages, taking some shortcuts.

Our thoughts on Chess Valley Walk with dogs: the good and the ugly

Dog bathing in the river Chess

The good: what we loved

Our experience was definitely very positive. We really liked the Chess Valley and plan to go back with friends another time. From a dog’s perspective, it is paradise for What your dog will love for a great walk in the contryside and having a splash (if they like water).

What we loved the most were:

1. The clear waters of the river Chess and the chance for a splash. The river Chess is really beautiful. We were impressed by its clear tranquil waters and Argo had absolutely a blast having a splash (not really a swim as the water was shallow).

2. The countryside landscape. Once you reach the river Chess, you will find yourself in the countryside and you will only spot a few cottages (some dream houses there!) and farms along the way (with the exception of something we mention in the ugly section below). I love weeping willows and some parts of the trail were like a fairy tale. The landscape (apart from the section mentioned below in the paragraph about ‘the ugly’) was a relaxing view and in some parts of an unexpected beauty.

3. The animals. Alpacas, horses and cows, dragonflies and birds. What is not to love.

View of the river Chess in the Chilterns

As of kid-friendliness… If you have young children you may find it a too long of a walk, but there are so many parts of the river where you can set up for a nice picnic and let them have a splash. In fact, we encountered many families with kids along the river, having a good fun. They will also enjoy seeing all the animals en route!

Ugly bit of Chess Valley Walk near M25

Ugly bit of Chess Valley Walk near the M25

The ugly: what we didn’t like

  • For a quite good part of the walk, despite the green idillic landscape views, you will still be able to hear the noise of the M25. This fades away as you move into the valley and is finally gone by the time you reach the water cress farm in Sarratt.
  • There is a short part of the path that runs next to the M25, before taking the over bridge, which is pretty ugly. But don’t worry: once you pass the bridge and take the first path on the right hand-side, the landscape changes and you are presented with even better views than the first section from Rickmansworth.

Not  in the ‘ugly’ list (these are rather lovely), but one for your ‘watch out for’ list: on the route there are sheep and cows in fields you will have to cross, as well as horses and other animals, so ensure your dog is under control and keep your dog on a leash where necessary.

Tips for your visit

So if the plan sounds a good one for you, here are some tips for making your trip to Chess Valley with your dog the most enjoyable:

  • Take the full day for the best experience
  • Bring water and a bowl as you won’t find any refreshment points on the trail
  • Wear appropriate footwear
  • Bring a picnic (and responsably take any trash back with you)
  • A poo bags carrier will be essential as we didn’t notice any bins along the way
  • If you travel by car remember to bring a towel in case your dog goes swimming before jumping on the car
  • Ensure you keep your dog under control and on a leash around cattle (that roams free in some parts of the way)

Dog tries to eat the water at Chess river

Signage of Chess Valley Walk

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Chess Valley Walk with dogs | Key info

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  • Type of walk: Countryside walk, mainly flat (only few hilly parts), well-marked path – cattle warning
  • On a hot day: the river is great so your dog will be able to have a splash and get refreshed, however the path is probably mostly under the sun, althogh there are trees where to stop for some shade, so it may not be the best choice for a scorcher day.
  • Refreshment points: In Rickmansworth there are a few pubs and shops, however you won’t be finding pubs or eateries along the trail, so make sure you bring water and food with you.
  • Best way to travel there: Public transport if you wish to walk the full walk, since you will be able to get the train back from Chesham rather than having to walk 10 miles back to Rickmansworth.

Map and leaflet of Chess Valley Walk

How to get there

By public transport

  • By tube:  Metropolitan line to Rickmansworth: a 19-stop ride from Aldgate (56 minutes according to Citymapper), or 11 from Baker Street, and you can use your Oyster card.
  • By train: Chilterns Railway from Marylebone Station to Rickmansworth Station, for a 22-minute journey (normally tickets that sell for around £7 one way).

From Rickmansworth station, you can either follow the indications for the footpath (you need to cross under the railway bridge), or after crossing the bridge you can get to the high street for a little walk around the lovely streets of Rickmansworth before heading towards the Coach and Horses pub and taking the footpath on your right after passing under the bridge. Just cross the main road and pass along by some sport courts and playground and you will find the river.

By car

You can easily reach Rickmansworth taking the M1 / M25 and taking the A404 exit to Amersham/Chorleywood/Rickmansworthexit, junction 18. Parking: There is parking near the station – take the station car park costs £2 per day on Saturdays and Sundays (more during the week). However, you can park closer to the start of the trail, there is another car park in front of the Coach and Horses pub, which is free of charge on weekends. 

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dog and man on Chess river walk

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