There are two places called Welwyn. The larger one is a new town founded by Ebenezer Howard and planned along similar lines to nearby Letchworth. The inhabitants don't like it being called a new town though; they prefer the sound of Welwyn Garden City which is its official name (even though it's not really a city). About a mile away stands the original settlement, sometimes called Old Welwyn - but not by those who live there; they prefer Welwyn Village.
So it was at the railway station in Welwyn Garden City that my walk began, through a flowery park.
Soon I descended into a leafy track known as Ayot Greenway, which follows the course of a former railway line. Dog-walkers, joggers, cyclists and even horse riders were enjoying the sunny morning.
Into the rural idyll of Ayot Green. What once used to be a poor rural hamlet is now a home to prosperous community and what were once sub-standard dwellings are now listed buildings and highly desirable residences; the previous inhabitants having moved out to more modern accommodation in Welwyn Garden City. Like it or not it's what's happened in many villages across England.
If change had not happened then these buildings may well have become derelict and been lost forever. I count myself very fortunate in that I've always managed to find housing and employment away from the bustle of our towns and cities. Three years at college in London was plenty for me.
Ironically, of course, it was in the big city that I learned about the evolution of our countryside! These wooded footpaths and minor roads hide the deep history of our rural past. The sign above incidentally does not refer to a "little green lane"; it's a lane leading towards a place called Ayot Little Green
Then, on a sharp bend in the road, there's an old graveyard. This is where Ayot St Peter's church stood before the church we saw in the last post was built half a mile to the south.
There were a succession of churches on this site over the centuries, one of which must have been a striking building indeed; it's recorded as having been octagonal and having a tower which stood on the opposite side of the churchyard. I'm told that in early spring snowdrops and wild daffodils dance among the gravestones.
You often see sights like this - farm implements left in gateways to prevent unwanted intrusions on to agricultural land.
There are still plenty of five-bar gates around, though this one doesn't look as though it gets much use these days. Shortly afterwards I made a diversion which involved walking beside busy roads - you'll find out why in the next post - before returning to quieter paths.
My progress across the fields was being monitored closely by a pair of equine eyes. He looked kind of lonely in such a big paddock.
A metal kiss-gate and a wooden sign mark the path across farmland. I know it's a niche obsession but I love it when the harvest is gathered and the fields are ploughed and harrowed, laying bare the subtle colours of the soil.
An inquisitive herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle come over to check out the unexpected visitor to their field.
Niche obsession time once more. The soils of Hertfordshire vary from tan through to beige and even pink or white where the underlying chalk comes close to the surface. I then walked on through some woodland, then a quiet lane led me to Welwyn North station.
Welwyn North isn't in either Welwyn Garden City or Welwyn Village. It's in Digswell, but don't ask me why!
Start: Welwyn Garden City railway station 09:30
Finish: Welwyn North railway station: 15:10
Distance walked: 9.1 miles (14.6 Km)
Churches: Ayot St Peter - open for Heritage Open Weekend
Notable birds: Buzzard, Red Kite, Jay, lots of Rooks and Wood Pigeons on the freshly tilled fields
Animals: Muntjac, Grey Squirrel, Rabbits
Walkers: a few dog walkers on the Ayot Greenway, but just three others during the day
Cyclists: four on the way and two who were looking around the church at the same time as me.
Horse riders: three