Travelling by train up to London, as I used to do regularly many years ago, you pass between wide fields, past factories and warehouses, through cuttings and alongside rows of back gardens. Then suddenly, just north of Welwyn Garden City, you seem to be flying. Looking down there's a dainty winding river threading its way through emerald green pastures. I looked it up when I got home: it's the River Mimram.
Yesterday I began walking at Hertford where the Mimram flows into the River Lea which then flows down to join the Thames just opposite the O2 Arena.
After a few minutes walking I entered Panshanger Park. Once the extensive grounds of Panshanger House, home of Earl Cowper, the area has had a chequered history. It must have once been a very grand place with landscaping by Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton but when what remained of the estate was put up for auction in 1952 there was no one interested in buying the house which was subsequently demolished. But much of the grounds was of interest - to gravel extraction companies.
Over the years more than 400 million tonnes of sand and gravel have been removed. If you live in Hertfordshire there's a good chance that your house contains a little bit of Panshanger Park! Quarrying continues but as each phase concludes the land is being returned to a more natural state as a country park.
The restoration includes wetlands and woodlands, which will benefit the wildlife, as well as footpaths, a cycle-way (coming soon) and wide grassy areas which are popular with families and dog-walkers.
Although the house is gone the remains of the Orangery, built in Victorian times, can still be seen and gives some idea of the grandeur which has been lost.
At present the Orangery is behind high wire fences as the structure is unsound and might be dangerous if the public were allowed to wander beneath the disintegrating brickwork. I was able to poke my camera lens between the wire to get these pictures.
Some of the big trees that grew near the house have also survived, including The Great Oak which has been measured at 7.6 metres in circumference and is said to have been planted by Queen Elizabeth I.
Elsewhere there are also relics of other times, like this cast iron waterwheel.
And several lakes, some of which date from the landscaping done during the eighteenth century and some which may have resulted from the later quarrying. But what turned the waterwheel and filled the lakes.......?
The River Mimram.
Interesting and scenic as Panshanger Park is, it hasn't got us much nearer to the end of today's walk as all we've done so far is describe a big loop, bringing us almost back to where we started. I'm sure I'll visit the park again and explore the area more, but it's time to press on.
We'll complete the walk and catch up with the River Mimram further upstream. But it will have to wait till the next post.
Such interesting history. The oak fascinated me the most. Great post, John.ReplyDelete
Land being returned to a more natural and original state is something that we see done here more and more. A good thing!ReplyDelete
You had a wonderful walk, thanks for the interesting photos John.
Beautiful little river! So much quarrying here for filling the wetlands to the south for subdivisions. Hope someday these once rolling pine lands return to some kind of natural beauty.ReplyDelete
Catching up with you again, Cousin, and enjoying these photos very much. That orangery...what a life they must have lived, and how many servants and other staff supported it! The waterwheel is almost sad, being neglected like that, but many here in the US suffered the same fate.ReplyDelete
loveluy contryside landscapeReplyDelete
An enjoyable walk through a beautiful landscape. I love that great oak tree, it is priceless!ReplyDelete
John, I really love your magical tours - full of information about areas I know nothing about and supplemented by your super photographs. Thanks for this tour.ReplyDelete
Sounds like some very interesting history. Too bad about the lost orangery.ReplyDelete
I am always fascinated by old architecture and wonder how they accomplished such things so long ago. And I love that river...ReplyDelete
Wonderful walking with you here John, I would looooove to walk through a Capability Brown designed park. The idea of an Orangery is so romantic don't you think? Queen Elizabeth's oak tree is magnificent!ReplyDelete
What a beautiful place to walk. I love the history entwined with the river and land.ReplyDelete
What a beautiful old oak and lovely setting for it. Land reclaimed from mining is altered forever but I guess it's pretty in its own way. Nice they've made a park of it with walking and bike path. A pity there isn't more of the grand old home left to see.ReplyDelete