Well, we never expected a gap of one year and a month between our penultimate leg of the Hertfordshire Way until its completion. A combination of family responsibilities, illnesses, injuries, weather and coronavirus intervened before we were able to set off on our socially distanced walk from Codicote to St Albans to finish the approximately 170 mile route. The weather was kind , eldest grandchild was able to give A a lift in his car ! (times have moved on!) and we left off from exactly where we had stopped the year before. Chatting just as ever. Once out of Codicote and re-finding the route we dropped down a steep climb to Codicote Bottom.
We still talked of Brexit, we now talked of covid but as ever we also talked of the blessing of children and grandchildren, the beauty of Nature, in gratitude for our health and fitness and of memories. (We go back nearly 50 years now).
The River Mimram was crossed quite early on. As ever the route was quiet and rural and we coveted the garages of beautiful country houses – not for cars – but just to live in! We came the back way into Ayot St Lawrence and wandered round the ruined Church before taking a circular path around the back of the “new” rather ugly building put in its place.
Quite quickly we were out in the fields again. I think both of us are reasonably small but this tiny fence gap almost defeated us.
Upon reaching the outskirts of Wheathampstead we crossed the River Lea. Unbelievably it is 6 years since we walked its entire length from Luton to the East End of London.
Devils Dyke is a great prehistoric earthwork ; part of an Iron Age settlement of the Belgae Tribe. It is always amazing when passing along such places to think how on earth people excavated such great ditches out all those years ago. A plaque at its entrance stated that it was probably on the site of a great battle fought by Julius Caesar and the Belgae (Cantuvellauni) tribe in 54 BC. It made pleasant walking.
Acorns adorned the trees, most of the harvest had been bought in (although we were concerned about some of the outstanding wheat?), summer was past its peak and there was a feeling of early Autumn in the air. The weather was turning out to be perfect for walking. How wonderful for the last day of our trek. We had walked through one almost unbearably hot day (hoping to reach a pub for refreshment only to find that it had been turned into a house); we had walked through extremely heavy rain and various climates in between……….. but this today turned out to be just perfect.
We passed the John Bunyan pub and Hammond’s Farm and skirted a beautiful magical wood (Titnol’s Wood). This structure of tree roots must surely have been artistically arranged by “man” by design.
Quite often along the Hertfordshire Way we have approached Churches through the “back way”, along a footpath and this again proved to be the way with St Leonard’s in Sandridge. A tree had been named “the remembrance tree” and adorned with doves with the names of those to be remembered through the time of coronavirus. For one final time we sat on a bench in a churchyard and ate our sandwiches….……….. how very grateful we had been for so very many benches in peaceful churchyards along the way.
Onwards through the village and past cricketers on one side, cows on the other and a field of horses. We wandered close to the new Heartwood Forest and through the Childwickbury estate.
Two beautiful beasts shared our footpath. There have been many horses along the way (for me to photograph – especially white ones!); cows, sheep, dogs, cats (in pub gardens), larks, red kites, and all manner of insects. The peace and rural environment of an area so close to London has been a surprise to both of us – even though we were both born and lived in the County.
Closer and closer to our final destination of St Albans, where we had begun this challenge on March 2nd, 2017. The aim had been to complete it by our 60th birthdays in the late Spring of 2019. We had overshot rather. At the outset we also aimed to walk 170 miles. With diversions along the way and the times we got lost and had to retrace our steps we probably walked more than 200. Not to worry. It had been a wonderful adventure. The Cathedral came into view as we walked close to Batchwood Golf Course. A could almost see her house. We had explored so many previously unknown areas of Hertfordshire but this section we both knew so very, very well. We were walking home.
Down to the Batchwood roundabout; across to St Michaels; through “the Lake” (I refuse to call it anything else – whilst discussing how we both still call “the pictures”, “the pictures”); past the ice cream van; the “Fighting Cocks” (many drinks partaken of there during our teenage years – but not so many as the ciders and Cinzanos in “The Blue Anchor”!); up the hill , further up the hill and there, as ever stood the Cathedral.
The LHD* was of course waiting at the end. He took the obligatory photograph as we passed through the Abbey gateway, from whence we had begun all those many months before. So much had happened in that time and yet so much was still the same.
So much has happened during our 49 year friendship and yet so much is still the same.
“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead.
Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend”.
- We really need to end with a photo of “LHD” (lovely hybrid driver), formerly known as the “Red Hyundai driver” and the “lovely T”. None of this would have been possible without you in so very many ways. Thank you.