Saturday, 15 October 2011

A Rural Ride

A gentle afternoon bicycle ride into the neighbouring county of Hertfordshire, to the historic village of Ashwell. The wind was behind me and I was soon in the village of Bassingbourn, which has a scattering of interesting houses including this one with the colonial-style veranda....

Beyond the village the countryside opened up giving views southwards towards the chalk ridge of Therfield Heath.

Then on to Litlington with its beautiful village sign; lots of villages have such signs but this one is amongst my favourites.

The sign records the main features of the parish: the church, its agriculture, its wartime airfield and....what is that strange building at the bottom left?

Before the modern police force was established in 1839 the law was enforced by the church wardens and the unpaid village constable who was appointed by the local manor court to keep the peace. Among his duties was the whipping of vagrants, keeping the parish armour, providing archery butts and assisting the churchwardens in making sure that everyone attended church regularly. Anyone breaking the law could be locked up in the building above, known as The Cage, until the courts were able to deal with them. The steps at the side led to the parish pump where people came to collect their water before the advent of a piped water supply.

Out into the countryside again passing the memorial to the British, American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand airmen who lost their lives in the Second World War while flying from the local airfield. The autumn colours were beginning to be picked out by the declining sun as I neared Steeple Morden. 

No prizes for guessing from where Steeple Morden gets the first part of its name. The light was exactly where you don't normally want it - shining straight into the camera - but this shot seems to work....

....and a more conventional shot of this unusual church....

                                                   ....opposite the church stands the village pub....

....and near the church there's a sign that tells an unlikely tale. You can read about it for yourself....

....considering that the church stands around 200 yards from the site of the well it must have been a mighty blast that gave rise to the well - or a mighty imagination!

Then it was out into the agricultural land again to pedal the last couple of miles to Ashwell. In the early medieval period Ashwell was a flourishing market town, and though the market faded away long ago there is a wealth of ancient architecture in the heart of the village, a fine church and the natural springs which are the source of the River Cam.

A helpful sign informed me that the name Ashwell derives from two Anglo-Saxon words; aesc, meaning an ash tree, and wellan which means a well. So Ashwell actually means Ash-well. Well, well, well.....

The church, with its distinctive tower, dominates the village....

                              ....and could be seen poking up above the horizon as I pedalled away

But before leaving I took a lot of pictures of the centre of Ashwell, which I'll show you next time.

Take care.


  1. That first picture might have been taken somewhere along the Ohio River in the US. And how fitting that the church and pub are just across from each other; it makes the trip convenient in either direction. Jim

  2. Great photos and another very interesting tour. I've heard of those buildings used as a lock up, The Cage, but have never seen one until now.

  3. Thank you for the wonderful tour of your countryside. Our bikes are still in the garage, but I fear biking days are about done for this year.

    Wet, wet, wet day here in Canada today, and the winds took down most of the leaves - everything is so suddenly grey.

  4. What a wonderful journey. I love all the photos ...especially the one with the reflections in the water.
    I have just had a read of your last post ...I wonder if the pink vases are valuable ...they remind me of a decoration used on a china ...???morcroft????.

    I got rid of so much when I moved to Scotland but I kept 2 vases of my Nanas value but I loved to stare at the raised Japanese warriors as a child and then when my Mum had them, my son used to make up stories about the scenes, when he stayed over with her. I wonder if he will keep them when I'm long gone?

  5. Beautiful pictures. I enjoyed your travels!

    Thanks for stopping and commenting at "my" place. I'm now following you!

  6. Some very nice scenes, John. I would have loved to take a bicycle ride with you through this village.

  7. What a fascinating cycle ride with so much of interest about the buildings you have photographed. I've seen some parish 'lock ups' but never one like that. I like the veranda on the pink house -very elegant:)


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