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13 December 2015: The Baa Lambs of Harpenden and Rothamsted

Event led and planned by John T
Weather: Overcast throughout, rain mostly in the first half of the walk.
Attendance: 13 men
Distance: 4.5 miles
Time: start 11:13, end 13:17.
Terrain:  Pavement, grass, field edge, track, woodland, mud
Elevation: start 114m, high 139m, low 107m
Number of sewage works on the route: 0 🙁
Number of golf courses on the route: 0 🙁


This was a circular route of 4.5 miles from Harpenden, E to the Nickey Line, S on the Nickey Line, W to Rothamsted and Hatching Green, and N to Harpenden.

Starting from Harpenden railway station, umbrellas and waterproof hoods up, the 13 of us walked through a small part of Harpenden to Rothamsted Park, part of the Rothamsted estate that was eventually purchased by Harpenden Urban District Council, who turned it into a public recreation ground. We followed a tree-lined avenue and into some very muddy fields. We were promised mud, but were not quite so prepared for the amount we got. Field edges and tracks took us onto the Nickey Line, which we had previously visited in July this year, on our Redbourn Walk. This time, we left the disused railway line at the point we joined it last time and headed back into the grounds of Rothamsted Research. We had a brief stop in some woodland, about two thirds around the entire route and this is when it stopped raining; up until this point, no photographs could be taken.

We approached a field of sheep, but these were not the Baa Lambs we had been promised, causing some confusion amongst us. We then saw the site of one of Rothamsted Research’s longest running experiments, the Park Grass experiment, which started in 1856. Although it didn’t look like much to us on the day, we are assured that it is one of the most important experiments in the world of biodiversity and bio-ecology. It basically tests the effects of inorganic fertilisers on species diversity and soil function, as well as interactions with atmospheric inputs and climate change.

A short distance on we reached Rothamsted Manor, an old manor house, largely of the 17th century, which is now the halls of residence for the workers at Rothamsted Research, and is Grade I listed. A permissive path took us in front of it, and we used the dry weather as an excuse for a group photo in front of the house.

We then returned to Harpenden via Hatching Green and part of Harpenden Common. It was here that we saw a sign for the Baa Lambs Car Park, but this was merely a sign that we were close. We then stopped under a small group of trees and were informed this was the highlight of the walk, as these are the Baa Lamb Trees! These trees may be named after Balaams, Balams or Bailams, a farm that once stood nearby, and not the sheep that used to graze here.

We finished up at The Inn on the Green, who were happy for us to order food on arrival, rather than the usual pre-booked three-course Christmas meal as we have done in the past. And there was not a single sprout or ounce of cranberry sauce to be seen. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Words and pictures by Peter O'Connor.

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