“The trees are afraid to put forth buds,
And there is timidity in the grass;
The plots lie gray where gouged by spuds,
And whether next week will pass
Free of sly sour winds is the fret of each bush
Of barberry waiting to bloom.”
(“A Backward Spring”)
Thomas Hardy put it best……………….. what a long, long while we have waited for Spring this year. I think today it finally began. So where to walk? Although the sun came out I hesitated to venture across fields knowing that the ground would still be very muddy. The best walks for days like this always seem to be canal towpaths or cycle ways and on this occasion the 9 k St Albans Green Ring proved the perfect flat, dry and interesting walk.
This circular route can be picked up at any point and the lovely T and I decided to begin at the alluringly named Everlasting Lane and walk along Batchwood Road and then along to Bernard’s Heath. As always when I return to the City of my birth I found myself reminiscing. My Nana used to take me for walks over the heath – how I loved to kick those leaves! Today the sun finally shone through the trees and we were grateful that in 1915 much of the land was made Common Land and saved for the public in perpetuity. A fascinating history of the heath has been written by Chris Reynolds and is available here.
Signs of the recent heavy rains were still in evidence as we crossed the heath and looking at the modern children’s playground I remembered how when I was a child there was what seemed an extraordinarily steep slide going down a hill (which seems to have been flattened out) which I adored.
Crossing Sandridge Road we came across the “optical illusion house” and then entered St Saviours Church.
Again my own family history was apparent as I looked at the names from the war memorial. G E Howe was my great grandmother’s brother killed in WW1. My great grandfather had sung in the choir at St Saviours and I looked at the choir stalls and wondered whether these were the same seats he would have used all those years ago.
The route continues along Lemsford Road, then passed the old Boys’ Grammar (I have decided to stick with my “snorben’s” terminology!) and round into the back of Fleetville. Ballitos has long disappeared and we had time for a quick break for coffee and a brownie.
I am old enough to remember the bridge which went across Sutton Road and this is where we turned onto the Alban Way.
I love to see the work which has been done along this old rail route and we passed by the Salvation Army stop. I didn’t realise that the Campfield Press was originally the Salvation Army printing works.
The Alban flag was amongst the “graffiti” under one of the bridges and we soon passed the old London Road Station and then felt like we were back in the countryside.
There were wonderful views over the allotments and lakes and a distant view of the Abbey and even the Clock tower.
After crossing the St Albans/Watford line we found ourselves in the retail park near the old gas works and then crossed over to the Lake.
For the first time this year lunch was eaten outside on a bench whilst watching a busy squirrel as joyous as us at the Spring weather.
The St Albans Green ring continues around the Lake and into the St Michael’s area, passes the “growing stone” and then leads up Branch Road into the Batchwood area. We, however, wanted to pop to the shops so passed through the Abbey Gateway and into town.
This really is a superb walk. It can be completed in a few hours or could take a whole day if one wished to stop off at various points of interest along the way. It is easily accessible from the mainline train station if one walks along Hatfield Road to Fleetville. Cafes are available in Fleetville, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, the Lake and the City Centre. Several pubs are passed and there are plenty of benches and park areas. Some of the walking is along suburban streets but that was OK – I love nosing at other people’s gardens! So long as children were well supervised on the busier sections this would be a good flat walk (or indeed cycle ride) for them too.
I might have had to move away nearly forty years ago – but St Albans is still the City I feel drawn to return to.