Two years and three weeks since we started our 60th Birthday Pilgrimage along the Hertfordshire Way we are reaching the North Eastern corner and beginning our journey back to our starting place in St Albans. Each section of the trail has been different and rewarding in its own way and today’s 13 mile stretch from Hare Street to Royston was no exception.
Beginning in Hare Street, which we had reached on the last hot day of Autumn last year we found ourselves enjoying the arrival of Spring. With thoughts already of what our next challenge should be we noted a sign for the Greenwich Meridian Walk and made plans to find out more about this route.
Very quickly we were straight back out in open fields and meadows. Just short of a mile into our walk we reached the peaceful setting of the church of St Nicholas in Great Hormead.
This turned out to be a day of Churches, remembrances of past wars and wildlife.
Each step of the way tokens of Spring accompanied us as we traversed footpaths and bridleways between one village or hamlet to the next.
The village of Anstey was a delight. We passed an antique pump in the centre of the village and an old pre-war AA sign on a house.
We sat for a while and started our sandwiches rather too early on a bench in front of the Church of St George before exploring the setting in more detail. Behind the Church was a moat – all that remains of an old castle. We read of medieval graffiti inside and in the porch found some which was maybe more modern.
Also inside was remarkable modern stained glass in memory of the USA bomber crews who died flying from nearly Nuthampstead in World War Two.
It was very moving to see the names of servicemen etched into the butterflys.
A further memorial to the USA398th Bombardment Group was found close to the Woodman pub at Nuthampstead.
We were again reminded of the Second World War as we passed through an old airfield bordering Scales Wood. The area which had been used as a runway had now been planted with trees and it was so easy to picture the American servicemen over 75 years ago boarding their planes.
The walk remained extremely peaceful and rural and after walking alongside several more woods we found ourselves in the village of Barkway.
Both A and I have very fond memories of Much Hadham on an earlier walk and we debated for a while which of the two areas we would chose to live in should money be no object – ah, but then again we could never move away from close proximity to the grandchildren we are blessed with!
Barkway was an old coaching stop on the once main road between London and Cambridge and again it was so easy to cast our minds back and imagine stage coaches pulling into stop at the side of the wide highway.
A further rest for nuts, and energy bars beckoned and we sat in the sun on a conveniently located bench close the village pond.
Eventually rousing ourselves from our sunny spot and leaving behind our feline friend we passed through Barkway Churchyard and on towards Reed Church. We chuckled at the comment in the Guidebook that Reed was believed to be a Roman settlement “for pensioned soldiers” (so much detail!) although no “Roman remains have been found in the area”. Further giggling ensued over a sign for an 80s disco to be held in the small hamlet and more particularly a protest to “Save The Cabinet”.
Much of our Hertfordshire Way walking had been done whilst “Brexit” was a large topic of media conversation and for a while we wondered whether the inhabitants of this small hamlet knew some news that hadn’t yet been filtered down to us that day. The area itself was so quiet and peaceful it seemed a pity for such serenity to be destroyed.
All was, of course, revealed as we rounded the corner and came across the old pub.
The last part of the walk from Reed into Royston was fairly straightforward and in fact this is one of the few legs of the trail we have undertaken when we didn’t really get lost. (There just appeared to be one slight inaccuracy in the guidebook which referred to “bear slightly left”, which it was in fact “slightly right”- p 133, para 7 ). The sloe was in bloom (blossom before leaves) as we neared our destination.
Fine views were had from the top of a hill with a couple of miles to go and as we carefully worked our way down the slope we marvelled as a man ran strongly past us in the opposite direction.
We were surprised that it had taken us seven hours to reach the ancient Holme Oak Tree by the Priory Church at the end of the walk. But then we did sit several times in the Spring sunshine. All in all another fine section of the Hertfordshire Way – only four left to go. As I had badly blistered the heels of both feet it was bliss to be escorted back to the Red Hyundai by the ever reliable and dignified gentleman.
13 miles; good transport links in Royston but not in Hare Street; several pubs in villages along the way. OS Explorer 194.