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12 July 2014: Weston, Bygrave and Clothall

Event route planned and designed by Peter O in early 2012.

Weather: Sunny with very little cloud cover. Hot, up to 24°C. 

Attendance: 20 humans - 19 male, 1 female - 4 new people. 1 canine. 2 departures mid-route due to pre-existing injury.

Time: Start 11:11, end 16:50. Lunch 45 minutes.

Terrain: Pavement, grass, farm track, cultivated field, road, footpath, bridleway

Elevation: Start/end: 149m; highest point: 149m; lowest point: 74m

Number of biogenerators on the route: 1

Number of sewage farms: 0.

This walk was a circular route of 11.5 miles from Maiden Street in Weston, N to Bygrave, SE to Wallington, SW to Clothall and SW to Weston. 

Setting off from the village pond in Weston - whose village sign depicts the story of local giant Jack O’Legs -  we marched through our first meadow and headed out into the countryside. A water tower was our first landmark. Part of the footpath took us through someone's back garden, and we then entered the countryside, following a well established track dotted with wildflowers along its verge and dozens of butterflies enjoying the heat and the calm breeze. The path took us into a field of sheep and towards some disused barns.

Model aircraft appeared in the walk.  A field within earshot of a dual carriageway hosted a long, green runway from which model enthusiastic set up their caravans and flew their elaborate models.  One model was that of a jet aircraft. 

The route continued northbound to cross the A505, a dual carriageway that by-passes Baldock.  The road’s construction was strictly environmentally sensitive, with flora present on the construction site temporarily removed prior to construction, and restored to the same site post-construction.  The engineering feat is a local equivalent of a Channel Tunnel, with a significant hole being dug through a sizeable chunk of chalky mud.  The road was effectively left within its own embankment, eliminating road noise until you are more-or-less standing next to the road.  As the photographs show, the result is a remarkably clean building project.

Having crossed the A505, an odd concrete structure greeted us.  Actually a series of steps for riders to mount their horses, two members decided it looked more like an exaggerated Olympic podium and were each awarded with a flower.  Beyond the structure was Clothall Common flower meadow, a riot of colours featuring common knapweed, wild carrot, common ragwort, creeping thistle, dock, lady’s bedstraw, field scabious and common broomrape.

The route took us over the railway - the commuter line between Cambridge and Kings Cross - via fields of poppies and potatoes and onto the lunch point, the churchyard of Bygrave’s St Margaret’s church.  Luckily, we found a lot of shelter from the increasingly hot sun.  Lunch ended when some people started throwing conkers into other people’s boots.

After lunch, the route returned southbound towards the start point.  Having crossed the railway and the A505 again, a panoramic view of the Weston Hills opened up before us.  Right in the middle of the view was a most bizarre building, which turned out to be a new biogenerator plant.  According to a local, the plant provides enough energy to power a small town.  Alongside the plant was another series of wild flower beds, these ones rich with poppies and thistles, a medley of scarlet and mauve.

Alongside the biogenerator plant was a series of trees, all of which there contaminated by the White Satin Moth, a pest to the trees.  In fact, a lot of moths were by now corpses, with the trees peppered with egg sacks; a few moths fluttered about to show willing, in spite of having missed most of the party. A sign warned us that the maximum speed was 20mph, with no exceptions. Surely lunch hadn’t given us that much energy!

The route continued southbound into Wallington, famous for having once been the home of George Orwell and still the place of Manor Farm, the inspiration for Animal Farm.  Wallington Church was just another church, but its main offering today was that it was really, really cool and so very, very welcome from the punishing heat.

The majority of the southbound route is the Icknield Way Trail, a route that passes over the top of the Weston Hills, with ~180° views to the west, looking into Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

On return to Weston, a series of fallow meadows led to the village recreation ground, which had a sizeable wild flower patch.  The walk ended at the Cricketer’s Pub, a free house with a very pleasant beer garden.

Photographs by Peter O'Connor and Martin Thornhill.,_Hertfordshire

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