I take a detour, a short road walk. Northward from a place named The Wilderness the map marks a wide byway through the forest, green dashes against green stipples, green nettles under green beeches: an old droveway perhaps. But the squares have boxed me in. I have already seen the other end of this track, and today's route draws me to the east. I pause for lunch and return the way I came.
Entering Cowheath Wood the footpath is decorated with a laminated map. It is a working forest, and walkers are admitted on the condition that they do not stray. Through the centre of the wood runs a wide track churned up by heavy tyres, dry now, fallen conifers lying across the banks and ditches running either side. It is not inviting. The path cuts across the track like an exposed squirrel, flees dead straight for the opposite boundary of the wood, though there is no exit there, merely seeking somewhere it might be left alone, more or less. Turning left at the fence it soon meets a small stream, and relaxes. Forest machinery will not trouble these slopes.
The Hertfordshire Way's marks lead me along a boardwalk through the marshy Danemead nature reserve to the point where Ermine Street crosses the Spital Brook The Hertfordshire Wildlife Trust have installed an information board at the gate, which explains the unique and interesting aspects of the site, all of which I have now forgotten. Across the way a competing board, provided by the Woodland Trust, invites me to discover Hoddesdonbury Wood and its own particularities. Highfield Wood, which also extends to this point, is extended no such courtesy, and its conservation status remains uncertain.