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14 December 2019: Tring Park & the Grand Union Canal

Event led by Khris R
Attendance: 11 men
Distance: main route 9.2 miles (14.8 km).
Time: start 11:11, end 15:27, lunch 24 minutes
Terrain: field edge, woodland track, pavement as footpaths, bridleways, highways.
Elevation: start 256m, high 259m, low 155m
Weather: sunny intervals, followed by sun, 5°C, strong cold wind, felt like 1°C
Number of sewage works: 0
Number of churches: 3
Number of golf courses: 0

This was a circular walk of 9.2 miles (14.8 km) from Wigginton village shop, N to Tring via Tring Park, to the Tring Reservoirs, SE to Pendley Manor Park, SW to Wigginton.

We started our walk at a free car park by Wigginton recreation ground and community shop.  The recreation ground is said to host sports regularly, notably women’s football.  The community shop is glorious little emporium of middle-class essential foods - on sale today were alcoholic teas, like oolong tea with Scotch whiskey - with a few tables inside for shoppers to gorge themselves on tea and homemade cakes.

We walked northbound to Tring Park, which today was home to a few cows happily grazing what little grass was left from an evident earlier mafia of sheep.  We viewed Tring Park twice, firstly by walking to elevated grounds to see a wide view northbound of Tring, secondly by walking through Tring Park.  A notable building to see was Tring Park Mansion, a former residence of the Rothschilds.  The Rothchilds once owned a fair chunk of land in this area, of which Tring Park Mansion was merely one property.  The northbound view over Tring Park also took in Mentmore Towers (another Rothchildian pied-à-terre).  Also in Tring Park is an obelisk known as Nell Gwynn’s Monument, although there is no narration or plaque anywhere near it.   Nell Gwynn was a mistress of Charles II and got into showbiz because she used her natural assets to sell oranges.  It must have been a monumental act (so to speak), but it seems that Ms Gwynn knew how to drive a good bargain for her children.

We continued into Tring to walk past the Natural History Museum’s Tring Branch, in which one of us dashed in the museum to photograph a stuffed dodo.  As one does. Next to the Museum is a particularly attractive building, Louisa Cottages, a series of almshouses designed in the mock Tudor in the Victorian Arts & Crafts style, commissioned by Rothchilds estate.

We discussed the idea of doing an additional event for GOC Herts to visit the Tring museum and snack at a nearby pub.  Will such event happen? To be decided.

After passing the Tring market, which featured a troupe of traditional English folk musicians playing Christmas carols, we ventured into Tring’s Church, St Peter’s & St Paul’s. A number of people were in the church, setting up for a concert later that evening.  The interior of the church is spacious and well decorated, with large amounts of red on the ceiling.  A huge memorial rests on a wall, the memorial being that of a Rothschild. Today, it was hiding behind a Christmas tree.

We walked further north, in a green corridor, through some tidy housing estates, and alongside the Brook Street feeder to the Grand Union Canal Wendover Arm.  A long march along six edges of three of the four Tring Reservoirs gave us glorious views of open countryside, with beautiful sun lighting underneath a cloudless sky.  A variety of ducks (mallard, tufted duck and pochard), geese and a few swans bobbed about the water waiting for some global warming to happen.

We took lunch on some benches at the Tring Reservoirs.  It was a nice idea to use benches, but the wind shifted direction a little after we sat down, so some of us got chilled to the bone.  Not as comfortable as we had hoped. Lunch was therefore quite brief.

To warm up, we marched (yes, really) through Bulbourne on the towpath of the Grand Union Canal.  Bulbourne features a few locks, workshops and a dry dock. After passing the pub the Grand Junction Arms (now “under new management”), we continued on the towpath through a deep cutting of the canal.  The cutting offered relief from the cold wind. The cutting had no development at all, with very few boats moored. A stark, but pleasant, sight.

We emerged from the towpath at Tring Station Road, then moved south-west towards Pendley Manor Park.  The Manor was the home of numerous familes - not the Rothschilds - over the centuries and is now a hotel.

We ended the walk at the Greyhound pub, Wigginton.  We noted that this pub did a fair range of ales, a well-marketed gin library and the food smelt great.  This could be a venue for our annual lunch in future years.

More pictures are at https://photos.app.goo.gl/281gaomedA3oniu49.

 

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

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