Saturday 16 February 2019

A Fine Day

The day dawned with a touch of frost on the rooftops and silvery sunshine glowing through the thin veil of mist. A fine day was forecast so I caught the train to Royston and commenced putting one foot in front of the other.

These rather ancient dwellings used to be on the ridiculously wide main street which once formed an elongated market place. Over the years the stalls became permanent buildings, infilling the centre of the old street. The other side became the new main thoroughfare while these buildings became stranded in a backwater.

A tree-lined track leads up and on to the chalky ridge behind the town. 

We're soon into a rather odd landscape with elaborate fences and railings. This is home to horses and, judging by the money spent on their accommodation, these must be valuable race-horses.

But most of the land is given over to agriculture and pretty ruthless intensive farming at that. Fields here are huge by British standards and largely dedicated to growing grain crops. Yields per acre are as high as any in the world and this is mostly thanks to chemical fertilizers. 

The path led to a stretch of road walking, but there were wide verges and little traffic and the far reaching views give an impression of being really high. The name of this road that makes you feel happy and high? It's called The Joint. Honest!

I then took to a muddy by-way (a former road which is still legally, but not realistically, open to traffic) past a stretch of woodland before entering the village of Reed.

Despite being near to a main road, Reed seems a place lost in time and an idyllic place to live. Despite its small size it does have a village cricket team - and not just any old village team. Reed Cricket Club won the National Village Cricket Knock-Out Cup in both 2012 and 2017, not bad for a place with a population of around 300.

I trudged onwards along another minor road towards Therfield and found this little pond by the roadside. There was a bench nearby where I sat down for a few minutes and had a drink from my flask. The sun was shining, the birds were singing......why not!

Yes, why not stretch out on the bench and soak up the sun for a while. A Robin was singing in a nearby bush and a Chaffinch was desperately trying to remember the song he sang last year. In the blue sky a Buzzard passed overhead and a little later there was a Red Kite as well. Higher up there was an Easyjet aeroplane too! Difficult to believe this is mid-February.

Eventually I gathered sufficient resolution to press on across the fields back towards Royston.

You might expect that this sea of modern agriculture would host very little bird-life, but in fact Skylarks were singing on high for most of the day, and those Buzzards and Red Kites are obviously finding something on which to feed.

The reason for such bird-life is somewhat counter-intuitive: it's probably because this land is also used for shooting Pheasant and Partridge. Small areas are left to provide cover for the gamebirds and feed is provided for them. Other smaller birds are lucky enough to benefit from this without running the risk of being shot at.

All that remained was a saunter across Royston Heath and back into town to catch my train home.

Walker's Log:

     Start: Royston, Hertfordshire 09:50
     End: Royston, Hertfordshire 14:35
     Distance walked: 11 miles (17.5 Km)
     Total ascent 710 ft (216 metres)
            Notable birds: Red Kite, Buzzard, Skylark, Kestrel,Jay, Redwing, Meadow Pipit, and most of the usual suspects.
     Churches: unusually I didn't pass by any churches on today's route.
     People with dogs: 2
     People just enjoying a walk: 5
     Cyclists: 0
     Horse riders: 0

Take care.


  1. Obviously a pleasant outing, John, and I am glad that you were accompanied by a few birds. Red Kites seem to have made a truly spectacular recovery in the UK. I remember visiting about twenty-five years ago when they were still a real rarity. It makes me a little sad I must confess to see those areas of chemical-based industrial farming.

    1. yes, I'm old enough to remember when you had to travel to Wales for a chance to glimpse the Kites and even then nothing was guaranteed. From what I've seen elsewhere in the area this kind of agriculture is not sustainable in the long term, at least not the immense yields which farmers have come to rely on.

  2. Thanks for a lovely virtual walk with you. I like the last photo, where some of those birds you were talking about got included! Interesting that they are supported by a bird hunting side effect! I agree with David that I'm unhappy about chemically produced grains...but know that is the competition in many places. I've been moving more and more to eating organic everything.

  3. A really beautiful walk there. Interesting variations of landscape from agriculture to racehorse fields, small towns and beautiful tree-lined paths. You made me laugh with that happy and high road: The Joint. Perfect!

  4. A wonderful 17,5 km long walk, John. I like the variety in views.

  5. The area certainly does feel as if it's drawn out of time. Beautiful shots!

  6. A wonderful stroll though the countryside with lots of beautiful views.
    Thank you, John.

  7. So pretty, and looking quite like Spring has already sprung. I wonder about living near the large commercial farms. With all the chemical fertilizers and pesticides and such that they use, it seems like those areas would be very unhealthy places to live. The Ohio River Valley here is beautiful, but with those big stretches of corn and other grains I am sure there are lots of dubious chemicals being used. Which makes me not want to look for our next home in that region, or any others like it.

  8. A fine place to walk in my opinion! I would not have wanted the day to end. My favorite shot is the second of the tree-lined track.

  9. Another lovely walk through delightful English countryside. Can't be beaten.

  10. Hi John - well you gave me food for thought ... some of the tiny, tiny roads in towns or village - not many now granted - but hadn't thought they might be half of a thoroughfare before the 'stalls' got infilled and became housing in centuries gone by - makes sense though. Gorgeous walk ... cheers Hilary


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