When travel writer Nick Corble decided to walk across England last summer, an added benefit was the opportunity to pass through Hertfordshire.

Moments earlier, I’d been walking along the perimeter fence of Luton airport, where a succession of jets had revved up their engines in fresh attempts to shatter my eardrums. Now they were gone, their thunder replaced by birdsong. I’d crossed the county line and was back in Hertfordshire, my home county.

Born and raised in St Albans, I left Herts thirty years ago but it still holds a special place for me. A growing sense of the familiar was reinforced as I wandered into the small village of Peter’s Green and its pub, The Bright Star. Like most days last summer, this one was a scorcher, and I wandered up to the bar for what had become my standard drinks order: a pint of bitter shandy and a pint of water with ice.

“Any particular bitter?” the barman asked as I scanned the pumps, and it was then I saw it. McMullens Country, the taste of early adulthood. I was truly home. I’d been looking forward to this moment - home, after all, is where the heart is - and part of my plan had been to get to the heart of England.

That plan was simple. To walk across England, but diagonally. Not using some strange crab-like gait, but following a line drawn at 45 degrees north-west to south-east, pivoting on the dead centre of England. After drawing that line for the first time I noticed that not only did Herts lie on its trajectory, but passed within a hundred yards of a house I’d lived in for two years in Blackmore End, outside Wheathampstead. I had to visit.

Part of the motivation for the walk was to engineer as many ‘encounters’ as I could: opportunities to engage with people and see if I could gauge the ‘state of the nation’ as it stood on the brink of significant change. I wanted to see and hear for myself what was going on. Initially as confused as everyone else, I wanted to see if I could make sense of it.

People chat when they’re walking, and they also chat in their own homes, and for that reason I tended to use Airbnbs along my route. Given my connection with this house in Blackmore End I wrote to ‘The Current Occupier’ to see if they’d be up for a cup of tea (or maybe a pint of McMullens?). No reply came, and when I found ‘my’ house I could see why – there was no ‘current occupier’. Such was the luck of the diagonal walker: some you win, some you lose.

After a night with cousins in Gustard Wood, I ploughed on through ripening crops towards the familiar sights of Wheathampsted, following the delightful River Lea towards Welwyn Garden City, not getting lost once. One of Hertfordshire’s under-appreciated assets is its detailed footpath signs. These not only give a footpath number, but also distances to the next location. This may seem a simple thing, but experience earlier in my trek, notably in Staffordshire, suggest it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Welwyn was approached via the scorched fairways of the Brocket Hall Golf Course, where the well-watered greens sat like emeralds scattered in a brown sandy desert. The weather acted as a useful conversational opener, and any failure to connect in Blackmore End was more than compensated for by gratefully received opportunities to stop, chat and rest.

A strangely deserted Welwyn was gearing up to its centenary, an interesting contrast to the 50 years fellow new town Milton Keynes had been celebrating earlier in my walk. It acted as a staging post before Potters Bar via Goffs Oak, whose main claim to fame perhaps is that the young Victoria Beckham grew up there. It wasn’t much, but it was something. Before too long I was confronted with the prospect of crossing the M25. My sojourn in the home counties, and my particular home county was over, but not forgotten. London beckoned.

Diagonal Walking: Slicing Through The Heart of England, chronicling Nick’s trek, is now available from Matador (£12.99).

Nick is also available to give talks on his walk and can be contacted through www.diagonalwalking.co.uk