Friends of the Nickey Line
The Nickey Line still links Harpenden, Redbourn and Hemel Hempstead but is used now by railway history enthusiasts, walkers and cyclists from many parts of the country. It was opened as a footpath /cycleway in 1985.Newsletter 20
Harpenden is still considered by many as a large village which grew in size after the arrival of the railways. Harpenden at the turn of the century became increasingly attractive to London commuters but still retains much of its countryside feel with 250 acres of commons and greens. A steep cutting joined the original branch line to the mainline railway to London. Cyclists may prefer to join the Nickey Line from Moreton End Lane where accesss can be gained avoiding steps.
The platform and a former signal can still be seen at the site of the Roundwood Halt on the edge of Harpenden. When the railway first opened, this area was entirely agricultural, but in the early 1900’s houses were built, creating sufficient demand for the halt to be constructed and opened in 1927.
The Nickey Line runs through land used by IACR Rothamsted for agricultural crop research. In the grassland areas alongside the Line here look out for salad burnet, marjoram, wild basil, oxeye daisy, agrimony and field scabious in late spring and early summer. Listen here for the songs of skylarks and yellowhammers. Part of the estate includes Knott Wood which can be seen from the path. Notice the hazel and hornbeam coppice in the woods and on either side of the Line. Regular cutting or coppicing of the hazel increases habitat diversity, adding to the wildlife interest of the Nickey Line.
Redbourn’s name is believed to derive from ‘reedy steam’. The village is steeped in history with its first settlers arriving after fleeing Caesar’s invasion of St Albans around 5O AD. Today Redbourn is an attractive village with a large common. One of the Nickey Line’s main stations was at Redbourn, along with a goods yard and sidings. The former station site has been developed into a pocket park by Redbourn Parish Council.
The Ver Valley walk joins the Nickey Line for a short distance at Redbourn. The Line crosses the River Ver itself via a brick bridge after crossing a steel plate girder bridge over Redbourn High Street. The latter bridge was recently repainted with joint funding from local councils and businesses.
This more rural stretch of the line was home to Beaumont’s halt, half a mile outside Redbourn. The M1 motorway (opened in 1959) passes over the line near to the former halt, from where the path runs through open countryside to the edge of Hemel Hempstead, at Cherry Tree Lane.
A short distance from Cherry Tree Lane lies the site of the former Hemelite works, the last company to use the railway. The Line then continues through the Eastman Way industrial area where the path is interrupted for a short distance. Follow the Nickey Line signs through the industrial area to where the path once again resumes.
Yew Tree Wood is one of a number of woods in Hemel Hempstead managed by Dacorum Borough Council. Named after the yew trees which line the edge of the path, the wood is an important wildlife habitat island in an otherwise built up area.
The railway once continued through Hemel Hempstead to Boxmoor across a viaduct over the Marlowes. With the closure of this part of the line in the 1950’s the viaduct was demolished in 1960. The footpath and cycleway now continues from the bridge over Queensway, through Keen’s Field and finishes beside the Midland Hotel.