All the walks described in this blog incorporate Royston and the surrounding villages of Reed, Barkway and Barley undertaken during the Covid 19 lockdown of 2020, with variations of the same walk. UK Covid19 guidelines permit one form of outdoor exercise a day, provided social distancing measures are maintained. Fortunately for me, living in Royston in the Hertfordshire countryside means that a walk or a cycle can be undertaken whilst meeting very few en route and such instances where one does encounter someone, maintaining a wide berth of more than two metres is not a problem. Despite the UK now having been in Covid19 lockdown since 16th March, people out walking on the countryside generally still maintain social distancing.

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Saturday 18th April

Much as I try and keep off tarred roads, even if they are only country roads, I was on a mission to explore. I had cycled this road many times past Newsels Barn Farm and Newsels Park Stud and on up the steep hill towards the road that runs into Barkway however was intrigued by a gravel road, known as Stock Bank, that led off to the left. It drops down into a dip before ascending and reaching The Mount behind The Chequers pub, along the Cambridge Road into Barley. There is however a turn-off in this dip that runs south, rising slowly, until one reaches a tarred road which accesses Newsells, a collection of houses that scarcely makes up a village, as there are, to my knowledge, no shops or pubs to speak of. It’s gorgeous countryside, many old homesteads to be found en route.

Sunday 19th April

The idea was to pick up The Mount, a gravel road running behind The Chequers pub, down the hill into the dip I had approached the day before from Stock Bank, off the Royston Road, before heading via Newsels towards Barkway. On this occasion however, I cut short of walking into Barkway itself, instead picking up the path at a junction which would lead me to where Royston Road climbs before meeting The Joint into Barkway. In the village of Newsells, whilst maintaining social distancing, I struck an interesting conversation with a local family en route, who immediately guessed my country of origin. Despite having resided in the UK for close on 20 years, I have yet to lose my accent and probably never will. We chatted about Covid19, the subject on everyone’s lips, and the government’s handling of it.

Saturday 13th June

It was an unusually hot Saturday morning when I repeated this four hour walk last undertaken in April, a circular route from Royston to Barley via the black barn and bridleway off the B1039, bypassing Barkway and Reed along The Joint and back along the Hertfordshire Way following the Greenwich Meridan. It was on the first section up to Horseshoe Farm, Barley , that I met some horseriders, the lead rider turning out to be a South African woman living in Melbourn, a village just outside Royston and across the county border in Cambridgeshire. I don’t recall whether she recognised my accent or I hers. A decent temperature today at 24 degrees. Once again, the duration of the walk was roughly 4 hours.

Saturday 22nd August

Another walk along this north Hertfordshire route today, on this occasion tackling the walk in an anti-clockwise direction. In the village of Barkway, I stopped by a tea-room doubling as a florist. Despite just having shut in order to prepare bouquets for a wedding, they seemed to empathize upon learning I had walked from Royston, so the young waitress agreed to make me a pot of tea. I’ve recently incorporated an alternative route to my local Royston evening walks, which takes me through woodland adjoining Burloes Farm, rather than along the B1039. The setting is sumptuous, as can be seen by these late afternoon photographs. Burloes Hall is a beautiful Queen Anne country house with stunning views of the rolling chalk hills of North Hertfordshire. The generous lawns, bordered by handsome beech trees and mature yew hedges enclose secret Edwardian gardens makes Burloes Hall an ideal venue for weddings.

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