Sunday, 14 August 2011

In Search Of Olde England (part one)

I'm well aware that the countryside is rapidly disappearing beneath housing developments and roads, and what is left is being bought up by people from the cities who seem to think that all they need to be real countryfolk is a four-wheel drive vehicle and a pair of green wellies. But every once in a while I get the urge to go out there and search for Olde England, poor deluded fool that I am.

Parts of Hertfordshire look promising when you travel through; it still has hedgerows and trees and gently rolling hills that look so typically English. So I mounted my bike and set off, soon turning down a grassy by-road. There are lots of these around if you know where to look; ways which once were roads but are now no longer used for traffic.

A sign proclaimed that the track was not suitable for cars, motorbikes or horse-drawn carriages(!) but was OK for bicycles, horses and pedestrians. Centuries of wear had cut the road surface down below the level of the surrounding fields. Blackcap were seen in the bushes, a Sparrowhawk passed through and there were many wild flowers to be seen. 

Meadow Cranesbill
(the seedpods show how it got its name)

My route eventually led onto a minor road which passed a modern farm where the farmer also made time to tend his garden.

A second farm was less well cared for but had some remarkable old buildings.

I soon found myself on another by-road, this one was once a Roman road. The Romans made their roads so well that they remained in use through the ages. On the road I saw
  • Four dog-walkers
  • Six cyclists
  • Four horse-riders (no Romans!)

Two-and-a-half miles later I arrived at one of the more unfortunately-named places in England. It must take its place alongside Ugley (home of the Ugley Women's Institute), Idle (where they have the Idle Working Men's Club) and the neighbouring villages of Gravely and Yelling, where they may or may not have a Gravely and Yelling Church Choir. 

It actually looked quite pretty, not at all nasty! 

At Nasty I turned back on minor roads, passing through the village of Great Munden. I'd journeyed on some ancient trackways, passed by old farms and cottages, seen a little wildlife and, in the farmer's garden, seen evidence of the patient, hard-working but unhurried way of life that  was once the norm in the English countryside.

Take care.


  1. I think there are still lots of parts of 'olde england' around, but you do have to dig them out, which is a shame. There are people seeking to restore some our land to its former glory but that is a huge battle against our modern ways :(

    Very interseting post, I've enjoyed the tour!

  2. My oh my. I thought West Virginia had some funny place names! We have Big Ugly, but I don't think we can beat Nasty.

    Beautiful photos, John. Like you, I worry that old places and old ways will be buried in the press to the future. What a shame it will be when these old places are gone.

    BTW, my word verification is "picting." Neat.

  3. Ah, my first English castle! I can now tell my girls that there are castles in England, not just palaces! Great post, John. Thanks for showing me the "off the beaten" parts of England.

  4. 'Olde England' is still out there and what a pleasure it is to 'get out/or on your bike' and find it! We are blessed with some beautiful countryside! It has been a real pleasure to have read about and viewed parts of Hertfordshire!

    Thanks for sharing your journey John!

  5. I so enjoyed the ride!! I loved seeing all the English countryside!

  6. Thank you all for commenting. Yes, there's also lots of stuff which we pass by every day which has an interesting history. I always enjoy finding out what I can.


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