Event led by Peter O, route planned in 2015.
Weather: Sunny intervals, a little rain towards the end, 10°C, winds <10mph.
ttendance: 18 men
Time: start 11:09, end 16:29, lunch 45 minutes
Terrain: Hardstanding, woodland track, grass, bridleways, crop fields
Elevation: start 67m, high 131m, low 63m
We started at the George and Dragon pub in Watton-at-Stone (“Watton” to the locals), whose landlord kindly allowed us to park our cars there during the day. We walked a short section of the High Street and then took a footpath to the church, St Andrew and St Mary’s, dating to 15th century. The churchyard features a very large monkey-puzzle tree, probably the largest one that most of us had seen.
On leaving Watton, we had the first of the countryside views, which continued for the majority of the day. Some of the woodlands surprisingly featured vast arrays of bluebells, taking advantage of the early spring this year. We had a coffee break in Hazeldell Wood and the first of our two group shots.
Soon, we reached Queen Hoo Hall, a tudor country house dating to 1570-85.
More woodlands and views followed until we reached St Peter’s Church, where we had lunch. The building has 11th century origins and the churchyard includes a chest tomb of the Rt Hon Lady Anne Grimston of Gorhambury, who died in 1717. The tomb has trees growing out of it, which have swallowed up the original railings. The outer railings were installed in 1870 because of visitors to the tomb wanting to view the trees, which reputedly owe their existence to Lady Grimston’s last words: “If indeed there is life hereafter, trees will render asunder my tomb”. Some of the more recent burials in the churchyard feature some rather over-the-top gravestones in terms of their size. The war memorial at the church served as a location for a second group shot after lunch.
We then walked through Tewin village and Tewin Wood, with views of the Ladywalk estate. Tewin Wood is essentially a posh housing estate built within a woodland. Tewin Wood is probably a better candidate to be Hertfordshire’s answer to Bishops Avenue (relegating Harpenden into second place, on the grounds that is a less leafy). Tewin Wood is home to big properties, some of which look occupied (and were on the day), others of which looked empty, awaiting residents. Some properties are large, English chalets of the 1960s; most are more modern and adopt a variety of architectural styles. The most noteworthy examples stood opposite each other: one grand colonial-style house looked at an ultra-modern, bunker-type of property (both pictured, below). Every property’s back garden is part of the woodland of Tewin Wood.
As we turned a corner within Tewin Wood, we caught glimpse of a static caravan park: within only metres of each other, an estate of the upper-middle landed gentry stood next to an estate of the thrifty elderly.
We then walked in front of Ladywalk, giving us closer views of it. Nobody seemed to be in apart from a security guard. The guard dogs are apparently two golden labradors and a poodle! On the walk, we speculated whether Ladywalk was the home of Lewis Hamilton’s father Anthony. In preparing for this event report, we’ve subsequently discovered that Anthony Hamilton owned it up to at least March 2014; allegedly, according Financial Times on 11 March 2016, he sold in in 2015 to an Indian tycoon.
Bridleways and byways then took us north to get views of Datchworth village before returning to Watton-at-Stone, including a little bit more of the High Street before returning to the pub, where 15 of us squeezed into their ante room.
Words and pictures by Peter O'Connor and Martin Thornhill.