Since the start of lockdown in March 2020, my walks have been confined to areas close to the village of Royston, Hertfordshire, mostly setting out from directly from home. With track options limited, driving to the next village for a walk seemed a sensible idea, notwithstanding the fact that I ran the risk of a fine by virtue of the rules of travel during the coronavirus pandemic, as was the case with two women in Derbyshire, though this was subsequently rescinded. It was the weekend after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the President of the United States. Needless to say, this seemed to signal the start of a kinder, more compassionate era, to follow the catastrophic, divisive reign of the Trump administration. The problems facing the Biden administration will prove a huge challenge, not least formulating a plan to deal with the pandemic, which had claimed the lives of over 400,000 of the country’s citizens. At the time of writing, the United Kingdom is still in lockdown, with deaths fast approaching 100,000. It was forecast that I would in all likelihood only be eligible for vaccination in the Spring, 2021, at the earliest.

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So the planned walk involved paths linking the villages of Therfield, Sandon and Kelshall, all being on my cycle route. I set off from the Fox and the Duck, a pub adjacent to the village green, heading south along Police Row, before branching off along the muddy track, Duck’s Green, the Chain Walk path and Kelshall Lane track, until I reached the Icknield Way Path, on its 110-mile journey from Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire to Knettishall Heath in Suffolk. Waterlogged and in worse condition than I expected, I had cycled this route on my off-road bicycle on many occasions however much to my surprise, one hapless cyclist appeared mad enough to attempt it mid-winter, thanking me for giving way as he raced by, covered in the stuff. Bypassing Philpott’s Wood along Notley Lane track, I reached Sandon Road. Along the tarred road into the village, I passed a girl on a pony ride being led by two adults. They willingly acceded to my request for a quick photo.

Just before reaching Sandon, I passed Danyells at SG9 0RF, a large impressive private property, the homestead partially surrounded by a moat. Just beyond it, I left the road, effectively bypassing the village as an intended detour, taking a path behind the property’s tennis court, along a line of trees after crossing a stream, reaching the road south to Roe Green. At this point, near the rundown buildings of what was once the Sandon Saddlery Company, I turned back towards the village. Signalling a bygone era, the local business had sadly closed its doors for the last time on January 31 2015. I passed Sandon Village Hall, once village school from 1835 to 1939. Temperatures began to drop sharply around 13h00 and for the first time, I felt the cold. Tiny, round hail pellets, each a couple of millimetres in diameter, began to fall from the sky.

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