We set off on the next leg of our 60th birthday challenge along the Hertfordshire Way from the County Town on a beautiful Spring morning.
Leaving behind McMullen’s Brewery amid chatter about what beers used to be served in St Albans’ old “Blue Anchor” we soon found ourselves as two lone walkers ambling alongside Goldings Canal. So quickly we were away from the hustle and bustle of Hertford and out into such peaceful surroundings.
After passing the old pumping station we both fell in love with the area of Waterford Marsh.
We followed the route of the River Beane wending its way across water meadows which reminded me of those around the River Frome in Dorset. It also ran through wooded areas with the last of Spring’s bluebells – how quickly time is passing on.
The atmosphere was calm, clear and expectant. Trees having unfurled into full leaf and ground under our feet dry from the recent spell of warm weather.
We hoped to see the Church at Waterford with its well-renowned stained glass but forgot to cross the busy A119 – a trip for another day. This is certainly a section of the Hertfordshire Way to which I would be delighted to return.
The pungent tang of wild garlic filled the air as we left the wooded area and entered into the village of Stapleford with its 12th Century Church.
We wondered how many generations of parishoners had worshiped at the Church of the St Mary the Virgin and imagined the lives which had been lived out in this tranquil setting.
After leaving the Church and commenting on its tiny side door we turned left into the interestingly named track of “Clusterbolts”. We have passed several amusing and enchanting place names along our walk of The Hertfordshire Way and remembered the “Bread and Cheese Lane” we had wandered down on the Cuffley to Broxbourne section back in the early Autumn.
The River Beane continued to accompany us on our journey until we reached and entered the grounds of Woodhall Park. We could not see the 18th Century House built by Thomas Rumbold of the East India Company but the stable block with its own dome and clock was impressive and gave us food for debate for sometime.
The photograph here only shows part of the driveway up to the block.
We eventually reached the edge of the estate and one of those “long, long, long” walls which seem to go on for many miles around such landholdings. The climb up was fine but the descent down the ladder on the other side slightly challenging.
By now we had finished our sandwiches. Several legs of the Hertfordshire Way had found us eating Chocolate Fingers – today a small bar of chocolate each sufficed.
After crossing the extremely busy and dangerous A602 we entered the area of Salcome Park ; a creation built for Sir Philip Borteler which was later owned by Samuel Smith the eventual owner of Woodhall Park. We found the signposting around this section of the Hertfordshire Way slightly lacking at his point. A Christian Aid walk was also taking place and we had to be very careful not to follow the different route which they were taking.
The area again was very peaceful and rural as we spied Wadesmill,the halfway point of our 13 1/2 mile walk ahead of us.
The skies overhead were beginning to darken and we resisted stopping for refreshments here deciding to get some more mileage behind us and push on. The drizzle started just as we reached Thundridge old church. Just after this we almost got lost again whilst following the route of the River Rib, when we couldn’t find the footbridge mentioned in the Guidebook, but we backtracked quite quickly and found ourselves climbing up to a house named Timber Hall and Legges Cottage.
The perfume of a spectacular hedgerow Lilac was enjoyed by both of us – a scent we did not want to leave and could not bottle.
We plodded on as the drizzle turned to rain and trying to avoid stepping on the numerous snails who were beginning to make their appearance descended downhill to Wareside. A chance comment of A’s overhead by a local about the “newness” of the village church will not be forgotten and the gentleman directed us to the local pub.
Upon leaving the pub the rain increased ………. but our spirits were high. My Guidebook is showing signs of water damage and wear and tear and we still have seven legs to go! Coats became drenched, boots soaked through and I needed windscreen wipers for my sunglasses (long story!) .
However, the scenery, even under the leaden skies uplifted our souls. The views were far-ranging, the vegetation almost coming alive before our eyes with the fullness of Spring growth. So many different shades of green, a fully satiating feast for our eyes.
This leg finished with a climb up to Widford’s spectacularly positioned Church. We took a slight detour to avoid the cattle but were again rewarded with a fine view of the surrounding area from the churchyard.
The ever constant, ever loving, ever patient, Red Hyundai driver was not far away.
Every May without fail, around the time of my birthday, whilst out on a walk, I am blessed to see the pendulous violet blooms of Wisteria and this year did not fail to disappoint.
At one point during the late afternoon I was prompted to sing…………………..
“It is not raining rain you know, it’s raining violets” – an old refrain of someone who was very dear to me.
Hertford to Widford along the Hertfordshire Way – 13.6 miles. Good public transport to Hertford, but absolutely nothing reliable at Widford, which is in the middle of Hertfordshire’s “nowhere”. Great gratitude to the Red Hyundai driver, who somehow did over 100 miles this day. Easy walking, few inclines. Signposting left a little to be desired; would recommend a map (Explorer 194, Landranger 166,167). Pubs at suitable intervals. Yet again the Hertfordshire Way did not fail to delight.
(No, no pic of an equine friend today ………………… didn’t pass one the whole way).