Event route planned and designed by Martin T in 2013.
Weather: overcast with sunny intervals, two rain showers.
Attendance: 14 men.
Time: start 11:15, end 16:10
Terrain: pavement, field edge, ploughed field, footpath, bridleway, woodland, concrete farm track, grass, disused railway, canal towpath.
Elevation: low 29m, high 84m, start 31m.
Number of golf courses on the route: 0
Number of sewage works on the route: 0
This was a circular walk of 10.6 miles, from Stanstead Abbotts, NE to Hunsdon, E N W to Widford, SW to River Lea Navigation, SE to start point.
After meeting at Stanstead Abbotts village car park, we made our way to the High Street until we reached St Andrews Church. This church is unusual, because its orientation is south-north, rather than east-west. It was built in 1881 and is grade 2* listed.
We climbed a hill to some modern houses, then entered the countryside, following field edges and passing mid-C16th Newlands house and garden. Of course, this is a grade 2 listed building. More recently, it has also been a bed & breakfast house, with three rooms for rent.
We stopped at the village of Hunsdon for a coffee break a recreation ground, then continued through the village, passing the Fox & Hounds pub, which might be good enough for a future Christmas walk & lunch.
More countryside followed, with lots of ploughed fields, some with winter crops already growing. We walked through Black Hut Wood, behind which is an aerodrome. On heading north on farm tracks, we saw a few light aircraft passing overhead. We eventually reached the village of Widford and headed to its church, dedicated to St John the Baptist. The church marked our lunch spot, where we sat on the northern side of the church to admire the view into the River Ash valley. The Church sits on top of a hill, with a severe gradient down to the River Ash, resulting in a stunning middle-distance view of the River Ash Valley.
The church dates from C13th, although one existed on the same site earlier. The church is relatively small, with just nave, chancel and tower. Some mural painting have been uncovered, one of which is an image of Christ seated on a rainbow, dated 1299. The large east window was a gift presented in 1894 by American descendants of a local man who emigrated in 1626. The windows depicts “apostle to the Red Indians in North America”. There is more history to see here for anyone interested in that kind of thing, including the construction and ornate decoration of the ceilings. Of course, it’s grade 2* listed. Everything in this side of the county is listed, even the clouds.
After lunch, we walked into the Ash Valley, alternating between following the river and the disused railway that ran from St Margarets to Buntingford and closed in 1965. The views alongside the river were increasingly beautiful. We witnessed the arrival of a partridge shoot. We met a sty of adorable little pigs and shortly thereafter, adorable little cows standing at a ford, all of which seemed very eager to meet us! In the Easneye Estate, we passed through a herd of cattle, slightly less adorable, but happy for us to pass without incident. We rejoined the disused railway and entered the Lee Valley Park, from which we had views of Amwell Quarry Nature Reserve, and then crossed the River Lee Navigation to follow the towpath back to Stanstead Abbotts. Amwell Quarry Nature Reserve is run by Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust. The site is a conserved wetland of sufficient importance that it is designated a “Ramsar” site, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of the Special Protection Area that encompassess the whole of the Lee Valley.
Finally, we stopped at the Red Lion pub, where we were bedazzled by a television showing a Powerpoint presentation of local adverts, complete with speling mistaiks.
Words by Peter O’Connor and Martin Thornhill.