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Google map of the walk
Day 24 25/01/06 Bishop’s Stortford to Patmore Heath (6.0 miles each way)
Parked at Bishop’s Stortford railway station.
(Apologies for the lack of photo's for this page. Sadly I had problems loading today’s photos from my camera to my PC. I eventually had to re-install the card reader software twice, and then lost all today’s photos when I had to reformat the memory card because of a ‘card error’. I took a photo of Patmore Heath before the start of my next walk, but for some reason there is a problem with that photo although all the rest I took that day were fine).
I had to scrape the ice off my car again this morning, and then there was a light rain as I drove to Bishop’s Stortford. I went a different way again, via Stevenage and Ware – there was a very impressive hoar frost on the trees by the A1(M) near Stevenage. Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time I got to Bishop’s Stortford – in fact I was very lucky, as it stayed dry while I walked but started to rain as I was taking my boots off, and rained for most of my journey home (this time I used the motorway route M11, M25 and M1 – it would have been 10 minutes quicker than the other routes, but a traffic jam just before I left the M1 meant it took the usual hour and twenty minutes or so).
From the railway station in Bishop’s Stortford, I followed Station Road into the town centre and turned right along a semi-pedestrianised street where there were all the usual shops. I then turned left, uphill, passing the impressive looking St Michael’s church. A path then led down an alleyway, passing a school to reach a very large area of playing fields. I followed the way marked path to the summit of the hill, and turned right to follow a hedge across the playing fields to a road. Here I turned left along a road of modern houses, before taking a hedged path between the houses and the playing fields. This soon entered a wood, and then followed the edge of the wood beside the fences of a modern housing estate. Where the path emerged onto the estate, I continued in the same direction, crossing a couple of estate roads and then a main road to emerge at last on the edge of open country. The walk through Bishop’s Stortford had taken 30-35 minutes.
The sky had been overcast when I started walking, but the sun was breaking through and a few patches of blue were already visible. I now followed a clear and well-used path beside a hedge, with a huge field on my left. After passing a small wood, I came to a junction at a corner of the field, where a very muddy track led right, to an underpass under the A120. I then turned left onto the old road and took a path diagonally right across a grassy field to a farm drive. I followed this to the left, parallel with the A120 a few hundred yards to my left, and then crossed a stile to continue on a footpath across two fields planted with grass. The path here was very clear, a four foot wide strip through the young grass on either side. Unfortunately, the path was just soft earth which just clung to my boots – by the time I got across the two fields, I had more mud on my boots than I have ever had before. I’ve read several times on hiker web sites that a pound of weight on your feet is the equivalent of five pounds in your rucksack – I can well believe that now! The weight of the mud on my boots really slowed me down.
Having scraped most of the mud off my boots, I crossed a grassy area that was part of the grounds of Hadham Hall to reach the drive to the hall. Hadham Hall dates back to the time of the Tudors, and was once owned by the family of the Earls of Essex. Later a school, it is now a housing development. The Hertfordshire Way passed through a large archway beside an Elizabethan barn, passing a large piece of Pudding Stone. This conglomerate of pebbles glued together by a natural cement and hardened into rock is seldom found outside Hertfordshire and Essex - the church at Aldenham (see Day 12 of this walk) was partly made of Pudding Stone.
By now the sky was entirely blue. Beyond Hadham Hall, the rest of the route today was almost entirely along bridleways on broad tracks. The walk along the track from Hadham Hall was particularly pleasant, with green fields on undulating slopes to the right, and the broad Ash valley on the left, with a water tower on the wooded horizon and a good view of Albury church. The track soon passed what seemed at first glance was a small clump of trees – in fact, this was a small moated site, thought to be where a windmill once stood. This seemed plausible, given its position at the top of the slope above the Ash valley.
The track became muddier as it approached Upwick Hall after about half a mile or so, churned up by horses on the bridleway. The Hertfordshire Way followed the drive from there to the road in the hamlet of Upwick Green, and followed the road to the left for about 300 yards. It then took another bridleway beside more fields (mainly cabbage or some such crop, although there was a small belt of maize) for almost a mile, gently rising and falling a couple of times, to reach another road – again this section was very muddy in places, certainly this was the muddiest walk I’ve had so far. Thankfully, from the road a stony rather than muddy track led across a valley and uphill to the houses surrounding Patmore Heath.
Patmore Heath is a rare example of acid heathland. It was an area of common land that the locals used for grazing their livestock. Since this practice stopped in the 1930’s, some patches of scrub and small trees have developed on what was just grassland, but the local Wildlife Trust are re-introducing sheep grazing to keep this under control. There are a few ponds on the heath where two species of newts can be found, and the heath is home to certain flowers that are not found anywhere else in Hertfordshire.
I had my lunch on a bench on Patmore Heath. It was a bit earlier than usual (at 12.30), but I knew there was nowhere else to stop on the way back. It started to cloud over as I eat my lunch, and continued to do so as I walked back – there was a very threatening dark grey cloud overhead as I neared Bishop’s Stortford, but the slight rain didn’t start until I got back to the car.
Total Distance: 179.1 miles each way