Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Hertfordshire Way Day 9 - 9 March - Ayot St. Lawrence to St. Albans

Walking 7am to 11.30am
Distance walked 9 miles
Distance left 0 miles

My way this morning took me via Wheathampstead and Sandridge and would have gone round to the west of St. Albans before dropping into the centre. However, I was getting a little short of time as I had to get a bus from the centre to Hemel Hempstead, from where I had a seat booked on an National express coach. Consequently, as I emerged from a farm road on to the A5183, I espied a bus stop with a regular service into the middle of St. Albans. I had time to shuck off waterproofs and stow my trekking poles on to my pack and a bus came along. So that proved to be the slightly premature end to my journey on the Hertfordshire Way.

My thoughts on the walk? It is well worth doing. I really enjoyed it. My recommendations would be to buy the excellent guide book The Hertfordshire Way by Bert Richardson and Ian Hirst, cost £9.99 and then to walk anti-clockwise from wherever you choose to start. The guide book is written assuming you are going anti-clockwise although it is waymarked in both directions. I had the path to myself virtually all the time, seeing only dog walkers and joggers near towns and villages.

The book divides the walk into legs, with access to public transport and parking facilities at the beginning and end of each leg. This is helpful for those who are setting out to do day walks. For anyone, such as me, who is planning to walk more than one leg over a number of days or the whole route, it should be borne in mind that some towns or villages at the start or finsih of a leg can be missed out if desired. It is a good route for a continuous walk. There are no campsites along the way so, with research, B&Bs could be relied on or, as in my case, wild camping. In my opinion, the wild camping is as good as it gets. In more popular areas, woodland tends to be fenced off. I suspect that there are not so many wild campers about in Hertfordshire to present a problem to landowners. As a result, nearly all areas of woodland shown on the Ordnance Survey map are suitable for overnighting, providing one is discreet, responsible and leaves no trace. However, you will need to ensure that you have picked up water during the day.



Hertfordshire Way Day 8 - 8 March - Graveley to Ayot St. Lawrence

Started walking 9.30am to 5pm
Distance walked 14 miles
Distance left 9 miles

Steve dropped me off after breakfast so as to avoid early morning traffic. My plans have changed. I shall now only walk as far as St. Albans. My wife phoned and announced that the children and grandchildren are coming for lunch on Sunday. That in itself might have tempted me home early but was clinched it was the prospect of roast leg of lamb!

Just past Titmore Green, I met with an old friend, Ellie. We were at primary school together in Stevenage and, until 2017, we hadn't seen each other for 55 years. As I was passing her way, it would have been extremely rude not to get in touch. We had coffee at her place and had a catch up and I continued on my way, going through St. Paul's Walden and Whitwell, very pleasant walking and so few people about. Stopping for lunch on the edge of a field, I watched a herd of thirteen deer a couple of hundred yards away. I was totally still but they very quickly detected my presence.

I bypassed Codicote and took a bridleway off the HW towards Ayot St. Lawrence. Here, I found my night's pitch deep within woodland close to the church.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Hertfordshire Way Day 7 - 7 March - Royston to Graveley

Walking 7.30am to 4.30pm
Distance walked 20 miles
Distance left 52 miles

Steve dropped me off on his way to work shortly after 7am at a McDonalds very close yesterday's pick up point. I ordered my first ever McD breakfast with coffee. Only a few minutes later, all customers were told they were closing in five minutes for essential maintenance work. I wasn't amused.

Anyway, I set off across the heath and gallops. There were a number of racehorses out for their morning exercise. It was a windy morning but dry and the wind continued most of the day.



I was made welcome in Kelshall church by ladies there. The modern glass outer doors were impressive. It really was a day of eating up the miles. I think for this reason I missed a HW sign past Wallington. I had gone too far to consider retracing my steps so devised a route across country, including nearly a mile of trespass on a farm road to link up with a track leading to Clothall. Well before Clothall, I took a bridleway to Weston. I rejoined the HW in the churchyard.

In a corner of the church were a couple of easy chairs and I sank into one of them. I had a snack and a drink and half an hour later felt quite refreshed. By now it was raining as I set off across the lovely Weston Park. Skirting a new housing development on the edge of Stevenage which wasn't on my map, along a track I came across possibly the worst example of fly tipping I've ever seen. Quite disgraceful and depressing at the same time.

Approaching Graveley, I tried to make contact with an old school friend, Steve, (a different Steve to the one last night) but my phone kept dying as it had become quite cold. Consequently, I dived into the George and Dragon and ordered a coffee and managed to make contact with Steve who by then was cruising around Graveley looking for me.

Shortly after, we arrived at his house for the night. I'm shattered - a long day.

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Hertfordshire Way Day 6 - 6 March - Patient End to Royston

Walking 8am to 4.30pm
Distance walked 18 miles
Distance left 72 miles

The aircraft noise stopped for the night and I slept really well although aware of rain falling on the tarp. It was forecast to stop raining at 8am and virtually on the dot it did so I delayed setting off till then.

As usual, there was absolutely no-one about. At a farm called Mutfords, when I passed by the other way in 2017, I noticed it as a graveyard for old Austin A40s, this time I also saw an old red London bus.



In Anstey, I read of a WW2 plane that crashed just behind the church with a full load of bombs which, thankfully, didn't go off. The church lychgate incorporates and old lock up.



Just before Reed, the expected sweeping rain arrived. I took shelter for a few minutes but then pressed on.

Barkway

Reaching Royston, I made my way across Therfield Heath where my friend, Steve, had just arrived to ferry me back to his place a few miles away for the night. I was exhausted so he did most of the talking!

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Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Hertfordshire Way Day 5 - 5 March - Cold Christmas to Patient End

Walking 7am to 4.30pm
Distance walked 16 miles
Distance left 90 miles

A noisy night with deer barking and pheasant running around squawking. I didn't sleep that well as there was a depression in the ground in the wrong place.

It was a clear sunny morning walking through woodland and field paths into the village of Wareside. The HW took me on a pointless loop into Widford for one reason only. The HW guide divides the route into legs, the beginning and end of each leg being accessible by public transport. Had I thought about this, I could have saved a mile by skipping the loop.

Widford

The route to Bishop's Stortford passes by the Henry Moore Foundation with a number of his sculptures on view. That will have to wait for another time as I decided to go north instead of going round in a large loop to Bishop's Stortford. There is a large Tesco on the route but I didn't really need it. So, a few miles lopped off the overall total.

On my new route, I went into Much Hadham, which the HW guide says is possibly the most attractive village in Hertfordshire. As there are no shops between Bishop's Stortford and Royston, I thought about a spot of lunch in the pub there or at the garden centre cafe. Unfortunately, it being only 10.30, the pub didn't open till noon and the garden centre is closed on Tuesdays. Actually, for some reason I thought it was Wednesday and opened the gate and wandered in. A toilet was open so I topped up with water.

Much Hadham

The church was open so I went in. A footpath behind the church took me to Little Hadham where the pub there was open. A large lime and soda was very welcome. I ordered sandwiches and a side order of chips and sandwiches to take away for lunch tomorrow. That sorted the food requirements until Royston.

North of the A120 at Little Hadham, I was glad to find that work on the planned bypass hadn't yet started. Work was to have begun in February 2019.

Near Patient End

The route took me through Patmore Heath which I remember visiting on family outings as a child. My pitch for the night is woodland a mile or so beyond Patient End. As I approached, I saw a herd of maybe a dozen deer in the trees so I may have noisy company tonight. It's early evening and owls are hooting. It came on to rain a bit just as I had pitched the tarp. Rain had been been forecast for this afternoon but it's been a good day, sunny at times but cool. There are planes going in to Stansted Airport but not too intrusive

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Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Hertfordshire Way Day 4 - 4 March- Northaw to Cold Christmas

Walking 9am to 3.30pm
Distance walked 13 miles
Distance left 113 miles

A late start as my battery pack was kindly being charged overnight in the site reception and they don't open till 9. It was a straightforward walk into the town centre and, luckily, I found the underpass beneath the A414 which goes through the middle of the town.

I'd have liked to spend more time there but had to get going. I found the Tesco and, fortuitously, the Tourist Information Centre where I bagged the only copy of the latest Hertfordshire Way guide book. Immediately, I was able to navigate my way out of town. I should have bought it before I left home.

The Way followed alongside the River Beane, a chalk stream of which there are only two hundred in the world and most are in Hertfordshire.



At the tiny hamlet of Stapleford the route took me along a road called Clusterbolts - I wonder where that name came from. Then, continuing by the river but now in woodland before entering Woodhall Park, really lovely and well cared for.

Woodhall Park

Then, crossing the A602 and into Sacombe Park. Through Thundridge and its well preserved cottages and at 3.30 I had to consider my options.

Ruined tower of old Thundridge church

If I walked on for another couple of hours, there was nowhere obvious on the map for a wild camp and I was right by a perfect wood so I called it a day with a view to an early start tomorrow to make up. The expected blustery showers only produced rain for about 15 minutes.

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Monday, 4 March 2019

Hertfordshire Way Day 3 - 3 March - Northaw to Hertford

Walking 6.35am to 3.30pm
Distance walked 15 miles
Distance remaining 126 miles

I got away before the first dog walker came by. It was raining very lightly. The HW made a loop around Cuffley along field paths and then went into the only shopping street where I found a Tesco Local and a Costa. Here I had a large Americano which was really larger than necessary, especially on a rather empty stomach.

Just a few feet away from the path!
On the northern edge of Cuffley I entered Home Wood, after which there was a road walk up to the village of Newgate Street followed by a long farm track and woodlands. I met a lady walking dogs who said the dogs had barked at a kangaroo nearby on a farm but I didn't see it.

Catkins

At Essendon the HW went across a golf course at Essendon Country Club where I made a mess of exiting by taking the access road out which was in completely the wrong direction which meant a road walk of a mile at the other end to get back on route.

Bayford Wood was nice for a lunch stop. Approaching Hertford, the HW went alongside the railway for well over a mile and then over a footbridge by a housing estate and into Hertford. The Camping and Caravanning Club site is on a lane out to the south of the town and there is no easy way to it from the HW. I asked directions of several people and muddled my way there, adding more unnecessary distance to the day. Still, on arrival I was made very welcome. Storm Freya is due and I've managed to pitch in a very sheltered spot amongst trees. It's very blustery but the tarp is hardly moving. I've had a needed hot shower.

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