Saturday, 30 April 2016

Escape To The Country

I'd planned my escape in detail. Jump off the train at Stevenage; cross the car park; avoid the temptations of Chicago's, Chiquito's, Nando's and Prezzo; slip past Cineworld; navigate the underpass; hurry on by Plumb Center, Parts Center and Drain Centre then under the A1 road and.....if you're not exactly in Paradise at least you'll be in Dyes Lane within 15 minutes of stepping off the train!

We have not, alas, completely left the urban blight behind us just yet and there was plenty of litter as well as the sound of the main road for the first half-mile or so.

But hey, we can still admire the blossom (probably Blackthorn) and enjoy the birds and flowers. Blue Tits and Linnets were hopping about in the branches and the first bluebells of the day were jewelling the grassy banks.

We're now in the kind of wide open country that results from modern farming, but there are odd little woods and copses to add variety, the paths are well-signposted as you can see, the skylarks are belting out their endless song from a clear blue sky and then there are the views....

Back in the days when I took most of my photographs as slides I'd have despaired in this kind of country where everything of interest is condensed into a narrow strip near the horizon: nowadays I can simply crop the image into a wide panoramic shot which gives the true feel of this landscape.

After a pleasant descent across a newly harrowed field - yes, that's where the path goes and the farmer had made the path clear to follow - I was deposited onto a minor road with a pub. I hopefully looked at my watch but couldn't make it any different from 9:15 in the morning, a little too early for a pint. I wrote recently about the old pubs that had small agricultural business attached to them; this hostelry has rare-breed pigs and sells local produce too, though I don't think they'd have boxes of carrots on the bar as the pubs I remember did.

I was following a sunken path which suggested it was once a well-used track and, there through the trees, I could glimpse the ruins of an old chapel. But more of that another time.

We're now in the vicinity of Hitch Wood which featured in my earlier post Two Of A Kind, concerning the misdeeds of the twins Albert Ebeneezer and Ebeneezer Albert, which regular readers may remember - if you did read it you'll certainly remember it! 

One of the best bits of going for a walk is taking the time to sit down, eat a banana and take in the scene in a leisurely way. The scene above is where I enjoyed my break.

The path led me to the hamlet of St Paul's Walden, not more than a handful of houses but with a rather nice old church. We'll be peeping inside in the next day or two if you keep following this blog.

The church is so grand because two of the houses are a good bit bigger than my humble abode. This one's called "The Bury" and was once the home of someone quite famous; you'll definitely have heard of her, but I'll tell you another time.

When planning this walk I deliberately chose a route that would take me through several small woods in the hope that I'd find a good show of bluebells. In Reynolds Wood and Graffridge Wood I succeeded to a degree that I could never have hoped.

Both these woods are actually private land but with public footpaths leading through them, so as long as you stick to the track you're quite within the law of the land. 

The public path can also be taken through part of the grounds of Knebworth House where there is a fine herd of fallow deer.

Blossom and new leaves.

I don't know how it happens but every so often you come across a little patch of landscape that is simply magical. This is just a little stream that feeds the ornamental lake in the park, but its mossy banks and fresh green leaves are, to my eye anyway, far more beautiful than any man-made water feature.

You never know who you'll meet on a walk and here, making very slow progress along the track, is a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. Not very rare but still nice to meet.

In Newton Wood there were more bluebells but I was suffering from an overdose of the pretty little flowers by this stage of the day and found myself photographing this elderly tractor instead. 

We'll soon be back to the outskirts of Stevenage so I'll leave you with these horses grazing their rather waterlogged meadow. Hope you enjoyed our little stroll.

Walker's Log:
    Start: Stevenage, Hertfordshire 08.15
    End: Stevenage, Hertfordshire 14.15
    Distance walked:  11.5 miles (18.5 Km)
    Notable birds: Buzzard, Skylark, Corn Bunting, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Red Kite.
    Mammals: rabbits, deer.
    Wild flowers: Bluebells, Primroses, Wood Anemones, Coltsfoot, Cowslips.
    Churches: St Paul's Walden and ruins of Minsden Chapel.
    People with dogs: 0
    People enjoying a walk: 30 (!), one group of 25 and 5 other walkers.
    Cyclists: 0
    Horse riders: 0

Take care.


  1. I hope those ponies have good strong feet.
    The bluebell image is amazing! Something I hear about often but have never seen. Wow!
    I agree about the tiny magical landscapes, as I happily come upon them on just about every walk in the woods. But at the moment the biting blackflies are so thick here that there is no stopping - not even for the time it would take to pull a banana out of my pack. Just as well, I suppose, as it never pays to open your mouth outdoors during blackfly season in Massachusetts!

  2. Those Bluebells are amazing! You find the most interesting places to go for long walks! Great post.

  3. I have a Facebook friend who recently moved back to the states from England. She often writes of missing the bluebells. Now I see why. Truly beautiful. What a great LONG walk!

  4. That sounds like a perfect day! I have enjoyed walking along with your photos. The bluebells are truly gorgeous. I also noticed that you spotted a Red Kite :)

  5. Such a lovely walk this morning!

  6. Amazing bluebells - what a sight. Not far from my birthright in St Albans...

  7. Thank you so much for getting me out of this room and into the country. Love the bluebells, they remind me of my grandmother.

  8. The "little patch of landscape" is idyllic indeed. I brew myself a spot of tea, sit back and read a few pages of my book, then probably fall asleep.

  9. Thanks so much for taking us along on your trek! The scenery is beautiful and you described it so well! That church is awesome.

  10. Wow, what a variety you took in! 11.5 miles, that's quite a good walk. Those bluebells were really amazing.

  11. What a variety of scenery. That's just about the prettiest field of bluebells I've ever seen photographed. And what a cooperative butterfly!

  12. I'm envious. It's far too cold and wet for such a lovely walk here - and our bluebells seems forced too early and are weedy things this year.

  13. Once again your walk was very enjoyable. Like everyone else mentioned, those bluebells are amazing. Your story telling along with the photos takes us along an incredible journey in your part of the world.

  14. John, there is so much in this single post that I don't know where to start. Your start in modernity and quick descent into olde England? The fallow deer? The church or the Bury or the tractor? I have just scratched the surface . . .

  15. I followed the line and re-read your post about the Twin Foxes. You really need to write a book.

  16. What a wonderful landscape. There is so beautiful. All those blue flowers and green nature etc. etc.
    Have a nice new month... spring is here again.

  17. This walk sure held a lot of beauty! So many beautiful views! I think I would love to look out on some of them every day if possible.


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