Hertfordshire continues to delight. Away from the modern shopping malls and the madness of the motorway there are areas where places are hardly big enough to count as places and roads barely wide enough to be called roads. Of course, these secluded enclaves are bounded by busy highways and surrounded by bustling towns, but the wandering pedestrian can still escape for an hour or two in landscapes that seem remote in both time and place
We're starting today in the well-heeled village of Preston, though it wasn't always so opulent. It didn't have it's own church till 1900 and the Red Lion is only here because in 1982 the villagers got together to run it as the country's first community pub. But today's Monday so it won't be open at lunchtime.
Soon we're out of the village and strolling down one of the narrow roads where passing places are few and parking spaces non-existent. Luckily traffic is infrequent and we can stand around searching the hedgerows for bird life.
Autumn berries are thick on the branches this year, which is said to foretell a severe winter, though it's more likely just the result of a warm but showery summer, such as the one just drawing to a close.
There you are: this bizarre countryside in a single photo. A farm lurks behind luxuriant pathside vegetation while a jet makes its way in to nearby Luton Airport, all watched by an unconcerned Buzzard perched in a tree.
This is farming country, but with a fair scattering hedges and trees. We were just congratulating ourselves on the wide grassy path when we were suddenly directed across a recently ploughed field with no sign of a track.
We came out, just as we should have done, near Whitehall Farm. There were some interesting old farm buildings but a man was leaning on the gate, enjoying a cigarette, and I didn't feel I could ask him to move just so I could get a photo.
We now entered Kingswalden Deer Park, though the hedges no longer look high enough to contain deer. We wandered in a large loop around the parkland and though we didn't see any deer, or even cattle, we saw plenty of ancient oak trees.
This cluster of trees are well past their best but still look as though they're prepared to fight off anyone who means them harm!
But they can't fight off the natural forces that are slowly breaking them down. One of the chief beauties of this old park is that everything appears to be left to its own devices with only minimal interference from meddlesome mankind. Apart from the occasional walker it seems to be little visited - probably because there's hardly anywhere you can park nearby.
Old trees often take on this "stag-headed" appearance, but this one is taking the look to extremes. Those wooden posts mark the position of drains; I think this grassy path must once have been the main approach to Kings Walden House, where horse-drawn coaches would have brought visitors and given them an impressive first view of the estate
I loved the way the high cirrus clouds gave this tree a twirly top-knot! We came out in the wonderfully-named Miserable Lane and made a brief stop for a drink of squash and the buttered scones that Les had been carrying for us.
I said we were walking in a circle around the park and here we are back at the farm. The smoker has withdrawn and I can get my photo of what I first thought to be a dovecot, but I'm now sure is a traditional granary, raised up off the ground to prevent access to mice and rats.
Much of our route was along shady paths that were once minor roads - Whitehall Lane, across Back Lane and finally a section of Deadwoman's Lane. There must be a story to that last name, but I doubt it's a happy one.
Then we had just a few meadows to cross to complete the walk.
It was quite a short section but not without its charms and still felt quiet and remote from modern life. We reflected that all morning we'd only seen a couple of dog walkers, a man on a bike and a smoker leaning on a gate. There are another 1.2 million people hiding somewhere in this small county!
Like the whole of today's excursion there was no shortage of photogenic trees and we lingered a while to drink in the last drops of a lovely ramble.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the pub is closed today and even the old well is no longer functional. Luckily we know of another pub just 10 minutes' drive down the road.