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09 March 2019: Waterford to Sacombe

Event led by Martin T
Attendance: 12 men
Distance: 8.5 miles (13.6 km)
Time: start 11:06, end 15:13, lunch 37 minutes
Terrain: grass, pavement, road, farm track, mud, bridleway.
Elevation: start 69m, high 115m, low 44m
Weather: sunny intervals, strong wind, one single flurry of rain, 12°C with ~23mph westerly wind (gusts up to ~40mph), felt like 7°C
Number of churches on the walk: 1
Number of golf courses on the walk: 0
Number of sewage works on the walk: 0


This was an 8.5-mile circular walk entirely in Hertfordshire, from Waterford Heath Nature Reserve, NE to Chapmore End, NE to Tonwell, N to Sacombe, SSW to Bullsmill and S to Waterford Heath.

The start point of Waterford Heath is a former sand and gravel quarry converted in the 1990s to scrubland.  The current managers are Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust. In the warmer months, grizzled skipper butterflies can be found feeding on wild strawberry plants.

At Tonwell, the water tower is grade 2 listed building, built in 1964, listed in 2007.  The water tower is a distinctive landmark in the area due to its distinctive inverted-cone shape.

Sacombe House is an old country house, built 1803-1806, now used as offices and flats.  It looks like it could do with a re-decoration. It looks onto Sacombebury Farm, a more modest building that appears better maintained.

St Katherine’s Church, Sacombe, was our lunch point.  Most of us huddled up against the eastern wall, to escape the strong wind.

The Dane End Tributary featured a nice, sharp incline for our immediate post-lunch calorie burner, taking us to the high point of Sacombe Park.  The views from this point were medium-ranged and pleasant. The Dane End Tributary is notable for its unusual series of three pumping stations, whose bleak, mainly windowless forms resemble an alien invasion of the countryside.  Ironically, there’s no water to be seen at ground level.

The route continued into the Woodhall Estate, an Estate that owns wide tracts of land in this area of Hertfordshire.

Upon return to Waterford Heath, we caught a glimpse of the River Beane underneath a bridge for the Great Northern Railway (Hertford North branch), before ascending to the plateau atop the former quarry, now the scrubland.  Our path continued to a randomly-placed work of art, Breaking the Mould, by Andrew McKeown.  This installation is one of twenty-one dotted around the country.  It expresses rebirth, specifically the production of a seed from an industrial mould.  It is typically found in land reclaimed from industrial use. Speculation bubbled about whether the centre of the piece is actually a Creme Egg.  This was until pointed to the back-end of the seed (or egg), at which point we noticed that this seed/egg appeared to have a pair of buttocks and an intriguing orifice.  The bubbling speculation over-boiled.

Tonwell Water Tower listed building entry (grade II)
Sacombe House listed building entry (grade II*)
Sacombebury Farm listed building entry (grade II)
St Katherine’s Church, Sacombe, listed building entry (grade II*)

Words and pictures by Martin Thornhill and Peter O’Connor.

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