How many times this year have I said “This is probably the last sunny day we will have this year – we must get out walking”? This day in early October when T and I took a walk to Stagenhoe, deep in the Hertfordshire countryside, was yet another such day.
I once dreamt of visiting New England in the Fall and realise that probably now I will never make it but I am content. The trees were just starting a journey into abandonment as their leaves took on their first brightest tints of conker red and topaz yellow soon to fade into the colour of a well-loved old leather armchair as they enter a season of restfulness. I don’t need to travel far to view this gift.
We followed a walk (designated 5 1/2 miles, easy) which had been printed in the “Times” on 6 October but were glad we took our own copy of Ordnance Survey Map 193 as printed directions were rather sketchy. Plenty of parking was available at the start point of the Rusty Gun Inn just outside St Ippolyts and we looked forward to returning there to sample their lunchtime menu.
The sun shone and the birds sang over head as we left the road side and followed paths over fields and alongside hedgerows. Soon we passed the pretty Poynders End Farm and marvelled at its beautiful garden and cyclist statue
Further sculptures and statues followed in nearby farmhouses and cottages before we entered into woodland.
We passed through the peace and tranquility of three consecutive areas of woodland – Hitch Wood, Pinfold Wood and Foxholes Wood. The only person we saw was presumably a local resident who was carrying a stack of newly chopped timber with him.
I don’t think I will ever tire of walking through woods and today was no exception. I marvel at the height of the trees and the way in which their roots wend and weave above and below the surface holding the plants in place. The day before I had introduced my grandson to probably his first close up experience of a wood and I felt such great joy looking at the wonderment in his eyes as he felt the roughness of the bark and looked up to the sky to appreciate the majesty of the woods.
Shortly after Foxholes Wood we got lost and missed a sharp left turn towards Stagenhoe. We probably added a half mile on to the walk before we saw the old countryhouse grounds (now a Sue Ryder Home) on our left and realised our mistake.
Retracing our steps we took the now obligatory tractor shot.
We found out where we had gone wrong. There had been a yellow arrow painted on a tree which we had somehow missed.
We soon found our way again and entered the grounds of Stagenhoe, out of the woods and back in the surprisingly hot October Mid Day sun.
It wasn’t far through the area of Langley End, passing the Hertfordshire Way signs, which I will no doubt be following shortly on one of the sections that I will be taking on my Birthday Pilgrimage. I don’t think there has been a section of the Hertfordshire Way where we haven’t seen horses.
It wasn’t long until we reached a short climb up to Minsden Copse. We were greeted by a muntjac deer running out of the wood and bounding across the field, apparently looking left and right before crossing the B656, a kestrel hovering over the adjoining field and up above the copse a magnificent red kite.
The supposedly haunted Minsden Chapel eluded us for sometime. Both the Ordnance Survey map and the Times Walk instructions appeared to us to show it just past the copse but in fact it was situated inside the copse itself. There is apparently a stile but we couldn’t find it so a little bit of light trespassing over a fence by the writer followed to view the derelict pilgrim chapel.
I did not hear ” the distant music” of a musical monk, which some claim to have heard, just the beautiful chorus of woodland birds enjoying the late sunshine.
A quick downhill stroll led us back to the Rusty Gunn Inn; time to spy the pig and piglets and partake of an excellent lunch. All in all a super stroll. But take a map!
OS Explorer 193. 5 1/2 miles. Easy. Refreshments at Rusty Gun Inn. There is also a pub at the half way point of St Paul’s Walden.