Here are some of my most recent UK hikes and activities from 2018. Some walks are concentrated in North Hertfordshire, not far from Royston however some walks are located further afield along the North and South Downs. Please follow the links to each Photo Album.
The end of the year was fast approaching and with the onset of winter though by all accounts, a mild one, as global warming becomes a fact of life. Time to get in one or two last walks before heading off to Cape Town and warmer climes. I drove to the village of Barkway not far from Royston, choosing a walk I had done before in many guises. Leaving my car on the High Street in town near the war memorial, I headed east past the sports grounds and along the northern edge of Earl’s Wood towards Nuthampstead, emerging at Park Farm Lane in Little Cokenach. Around 6,000 medieval moated sites have been identified in England and Cokenach is the location of one such site. The path continues behind The Woodman pub off Bell Lane and heads towards a landing strip on the eastern border of Hertfordshire into Essex, which served as a former Royal Air Force station for RAF Nuthampstead.
I drove into Baldock on this Saturday morning to pay a visit to Chapmans, a butcher that sells a variety of my favourite South African food products, such as Ouma rusks and Pronutro breakfast cereal. They also make their own biltong and dried boerewors.
I had planned a walk after and discovered a car park at Hatch Lane, off London Road, in the Weston Hills Reserve. The weather wasn’t the greatest so I decided to take in the neighbouring village of Weston itself, crossing the A505 Baldock bypass on the Weston side of the tunnel. At Church End, I headed up the lane to the Holy Trinity Church, the parish church for the village of Weston. The church building stands to the south-east of the village on high ground, and is built of flint and coursed ironstone rubble. It was Grade I listed in 1968 and the the supposed grave of the giant Jack o’Legs is in its churchyard.
A few days after my walk via Ayot St Lawrence and the disused Ayot Green way rail track from the village of Codicotte, it was time to take my colleagues from our HCL office on a shorter jaunt that overlapped that route, to some extent at least. Although the clocks had not yet gone back, we would still be constrained by the amount of available light, having left the office around mid afternoon. The planned route was to drive to a parking spot near the disused rail track at Ayot Little Green, just outside Welwyn Garden City, then set off past the Waggoners pub towards Brockett Hall, former home of the British Prime Ministers Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston, now a golf course. We were warned off by the groundsman for veering off course(!) but crossed the River Lea via the bridge at the weir in Brockett Park, near Lemsford.
This a new route uncovered on a gloriously yet unusually sunny Autumnal day, starting out from the village of Little Wymondley, located on the opposite side of the A1(M) highway from Stevenage, in Hertfordshire. At the edge of Hitch Wood, where the path crosses the B651 once more (on the Whitwell Road), lies an ornate gated entrance to a large estate which is home to the Sue Ryder Care Home, in the village of St Paul’s Walden. Stagenhoe is a Grade II listed stately home, with its surrounding gardens and is one of two large manors with fine grounds in the village, the other being the historic home of the Bowes-Lyon family St Paul’s Walden Bury. Notable members of the family include the Queen Mother, born Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, mother of Elizabeth II; she was baptized in the All Saints church in St Paul’s Walden.
My good buddy Zoltan, based in Zurich, had flown over for the weekend for a Rick Wakeman piano concert at the Derngate Theatre in Northampton on the Friday. A walk Saturday was in the offing and I proposed a repeat of the circular walk I had enjoyed immensely a few months back i.e. Codicote – Ayot St Lawrence via Ayot Green’s disused rail track and back.
At the taile end of the walk, we stopped for half a pint of cider at the Brocket Arms pub in Ayot St Lawrence, Zoltan not wishing “to get drunken”, as he would put it. In the fading light, we needed to crack on. Just as we left the village and picked up The Hertfordshire Way path heading north towards Codicotte, we heard a sudden crashing noise close by. A huge tree had fallen over just off a gravel track from the direction of Kimpton Mill. A cloud of dust descended into the air and birds took flight in panic. We reached Codicotte and stopped off at the Bell Motel on the High Street of Codicotte for further refreshment.
It was with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of Tom Schumann on 13th June, 2018, after a long, courageous battle with cancer. Tom’s widow Karin, along with her daughter Sarah had planned to visit her son Tim, an architect based in London. It was with therefore a privilege to have them as guests in Royston for couple of days. They had travelled up from London on the morning of 26th September to Cambridge, where they had spent the day. I had arranged to pick them up at Royston station. The evening was spent having dinner at the Fox and Duck Restaurant in Therfield. Having taken leave for the next day, I suggested an impromptu tour of a few villages in North Hertfordshire, not far from Royston.
On a fantastically warm day in late Autumn, I met up with my friend Tammy for an 11 mile walk on the North Downs from Shoreham, Kent today, accompanied by Alfie the Labrador, whose owner is one of her neighbours. A detour took us to the Rising Sun, a ramshackle pub, if ever there was one. Alfie the Labrador is a dog like no other, possessing an insatiable appetite, hoovering up any variety of food en route. Fallen, rotting apples, discarded old bones, nothing escaped consumption. Having ordered beers which we were to enjoy in the sunshine in the back garden, Alfie made a beeline for the garden table at which some folk had just been eating. Without hesitation, the hound leapt onto the table to grab a left-over sandwich, much to our embarrassment. Tammy had brought along some dog treats however these were chicken feed compared to what had been consumed.
Not far from Bishop Stortford near Stansted Airport, this walk involved crossing the border between Hertfordshire and Essex. Patmore Heath, a 7.6 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in East Hertfordshire caught my eye as I was driving around looking for a starting point in an area I was unfamiliar with and had not walked before. The site was notified in 1985 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is home to a large amount of dry grass, as well as marshy-areas. Some really gorgeous houses are located around the heath in a way that gives the area an air of a real country village bereft of too much planning; the sort of place where you’d like your kids to grow up in.
It was a warm day in August during a heat wave that lasted several months in the summer of 2018, throughout the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia, The green belt east of Hatfield and south of the A414 in Hertfordshire had long since attracted my attention. Essendon is a village and civil parish in Hertfordshire 6 miles, south-west of Hertford. The village has a view of the Lea river valley to the north, as it flows between Welwyn Garden City and Hertford. Although on an ancient site, St Mary’s parish church in the town dates mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries and was restored in 1883. It was here that I engaged in conversation with someone attending to a parent’s grave, to determine where to pick up the start of the path at the rear of a residential area.
This walk from the Hertfordshire village of Codicotte, just outside old Welwyn, where I lived when I first arrived in the United Kingdom in 2001, at the tail end of a lengthy season of unusually hot summer days, turned out to be one of the nicest, most picturesque routes I have done in a long time, lasting more than 6 hours, taking in much in the way of history. It was late afternoon between four and five o’clock that I reached the starting point of my walk and felt I had earned a drink or two at the Bell Motel on the High Street of Codicotte. The town was on one of my favourite cycle routes from old Welwyn towards Peters Green via Kimpton. In fact, I recall popping in to watch a live broadcast of a World Cup 50 overs cricket match between an England side featuring Kevin Pieterson and a South African led by Hansie Cronje prior to the scandal that ended the latter captain’s career. South Africa won that match.
An Easter weekend Kent walk on 1st April with my friend Tammy, who hails from Eltham, south London, starting out at Pedham Place Golf Centre, a total of ten miles.The Darent valley was one of the major areas of Stone Age settlement however Shoreham is not mentioned in the Domesday Book. The village was the birthplace and home of Private Thomas Highgate, who was the first British soldier to be shot for desertion during the First World War on 8 September 1914, following the Battle of and Retreat from Mons. It was the most bombed village in the United Kingdom during the Second World War because the Army took over several manor houses for operational use.
The cold spell enveloping the United Kingdom at the end of February – start of March brought with it snow, though with more severity elsewhere than it did in north Hertfordshire. By Sunday the thawing had begun as temperatures began to rise and a walk was in the offing. Muddy conditions prevailed. The circular route is one I’ve done many a time, from Royston to Reed along the Greenwich Meridian, across the A10 and back via Therfield along the bridleway into Royston.
Persistent rain and extreme cold rendered any form of outdoor activity an unpleasant experience. Sunday 11th February 2018 gave way to sunny skies despite the cold. Decided on a walk from the village of Barley just outside Royston, north Hertfordshire, heading south along mostly farmland towards Nuthampstead, before turning west through Cokenach (farm) and into Barkway. Early in the walk I encountered the local cricket clubhouse at Barley, the existence of which I was unaware of. In the end, a rather pleasant 3-4 hour walk with the bonus of spotting deer trouping across the fields at Cokenach Estate. It might have been around 5 degrees Celsius but that’s not to say it can’t be fixed by a flask of hot tea and the occasions when the sun managed to escape from behind the clouds rolling in from the south-west!