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10 & 17 October – A Tale of Two Rivers – Broxbourne, Hertfordshire

Event led by Peter W
Attendance: Group A:6 & Group B:9 men
Distance: 11.11 miles (17.88 km)
Time: start 11:01, end 15:32, lunch 29 minutes
Terrain: footpath, gravel track, grass, field and road
Elevation: start 89m, high 104m, low 39m
Weather: overcast with glimmers of sun & slight mizzle, 10 to 14°C, light wind
Number of sewage works: 2
Number of churches: 3
Number of golf courses: 0

This was a circular walk of 11.11 miles (17.88 km) from Broxbourne (train station), Hertfordshire along the River Lea/Lee Navigation/Lee Valley Country Park kissing the Essex border via Dobbs Wier continuing through the twin towns (Stanstead St. Margaret and Stanstead Abbott), to Amwell Nature Reserve into historic Ware and it’s gazebos and returning back along the New River, Great Amwell and parts of Hoddesdon/Rye House.

The route featured tranquil waterways; canal locks, a magnificent weir and countryside nestled between small towns and an historic industrial area.

Lunch took place in peaceful area outside St. Marys Church in Ware with a magnificent statue “The Maltmaker” as the centrepiece. This statue commemorates the days in which Ware was the principal malt supplier to the city of London specialising in brown malt for a beer known as 'Porter' and was the premier malting town in England with 140 malt houses by 1880; which have all closed.

Areas of interest: Lee Valley Country Park which stretches between Waltham Abbey in Essex and Broxbourne in Hertfordshire is estimated to be 1000 acre’s.

Lee Navigation is a canalised river incorporating the River Lea (also called the River Lee along the sections that are navigable). It flows from Hertford Castle Weir to the River Thames at Bow Creek; its first lock is Hertford Lock and its last Bow Locks. A historical note: The Lee Navigation is named by Acts of Parliament and is so marked on Ordnance Survey maps. Constructed elements and human features are spelled Lee, such as the canal system and Lee Valley Park. The un-canalized river is spelled Lea, along with other natural features such as Lower Lea Valley.

Dobbs Wier has had a long history serving the water-sport’s community, as the sluice-gates could be changed according to the flow of the water. Especially in winter months after heavy rain the weir could be changed into a formidable feature used for whitewater training. This was closed in 2003.

Rye House Power Station was built on the site of an earlier coal fired power station built in 1951, and an open cycle gas turbine plant commissioned in 1965. Both these stations were closed on 1 November 1982. Nearby was the go-karting track which was where Lewis Hamilton started his career.

Stanstead St. Margaret/Stanstead Abbott (the twins) have an interesting feature that the Greenwich Meridian (longitude 0°) passes through the villages with its exact position marked by Meridian obelisks which were erected in 1984 to commemorate the centenary of the adoption of the prime meridian line. However the GPS system uses a prime meridian that is about 100 metres east of the Greenwich Meridian at Stanstead Abbotts.

Amwell Nature Reserve is a 37 hectares biological SSSI site owned and managed by the Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. The site is a former gravel pit, which has been restored to become a wetland nature reserve with two lakes, Great Hardmead Lake and Hollycross Lake. It is internationally important for wintering wildfowl and is one of Britain's most important site for dragonflies. It also has large communities of damselflies and breeding birds. Plants include marsh dock and hairlike pondweed, both nationally rare. Amwell has a quarter of all British species of molluscs. In October 2018 A team of pigs were introduced to the site for conservation and rewilding. The pigs are a mix of breeds that include Gloucester Old Spots, Large Black and Saddleback. They were having a grand time.

Ware has been occupied since at least the Mesolithic period (which ended about 4000 BC). The Romans had a sizable settlement here due to the trading route: The Old North road from London to Lincoln. It is claimed Ware is one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe and the modern name of the town dates from the Anglo-Saxon period when weirs were built to stop the invading Vikings from escaping in their longships.

The Old North Road was less than a day's journey from London and subsequently it had many coaching inns. In the 17th century Ware became the source of the New River, constructed to bring fresh water to London.

Ware coat of arm are derived from the bargemen of Ware, the red and white striping on the rudders being the livery colours of the City of London, associating the Ware bargemen's free entry rights to the City; the crossed coach horns reference the town's long history as a coaching town; and the sheaves of barley reference the malting history of Ware.

Ware has many listed buildings by Historic England, many timber framed/listed buildings including the remains of a fourteenth-century friary. The church of St. Mary is C14. The town is also famous for its many 18th-century riverside gazebos, several of which have been restored.

Some useless information: the Great Bed of Ware, which was mentioned by Shakespeare. It is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The bed is 10'9" square and 7'6" high and has reputedly accommodated 12 London butchers and their wives. WOW !

Great Amwell is a small village that the East India College was founded in 1806, for the education of young men intended for the civil service of the East India Company in India. It is now a public school. The New River runs through the village.

In the Saint John the Baptist Churchyard there are some notable person who were laid to rest. Harold Abrahams was an English track and field athlete. He was Olympic champion in 1924 in the 100 metres sprint, as depicted in the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire…Abrahams died in Enfield in 1978 and was buried in the same grave as his wife Sybil Evers.

Our Leader Peter held a fun quiz on both walks. If we passed 42 bridges. How many did we cross? The answer was 18. Group A was won by Kieron & Group B was won by Khris.

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