Three Hertfordshire rivers

This one’s for Liz.

We like things to come in threes; this seems to apply especially to rivers. Googling “three rivers” produces 8,430,000 hits, whereas “two rivers” gives 3,470,000 and “four rivers” only 769,000. There is a town Trois Rivières in Quebec; I have been through it but never found out what the rivers are. In England, a district council near Watford is called Three Rivers (the Colne, Chess and Gade?) – thanks to Colin for this correction!

Term is over, a much too stressful term for me, when I was often working seven days a week; at last, I have time for a decent walk. Yesterday, I walked a stretch of the Hertfordshire Way from Hertford to Bishops Stortford. These towns are on navigable rivers (the Lea and Stort – the second flows into the first, which flows into the Thames at Trinity Buoy Wharf very near where I live). But three smaller rivers (the Beane, Rib and Ash) flow into the Lea, and the path follows each of them for a time, and then crosses the high ground between their valleys. At one point, the path passes a waterworks owned by a company called Three Valleys; I assume it refers to these three streams.

(This part of the country goes in for short river names. The Quin flows into the Ash; and further west the Hiz flows north and the Ver south into the Colne. Incidentally, when I first walked around here, Wall Hall, a stately home on the Ver, was a campus of the University of Hertfordshire. It was sold to a builder who converted it to a high-class housing estate. The builder’s slogan was “A vision restored” – so the time it spent as a University campus was just an aberration.)

The Beane is my favourite of the three. According to the guidebook it was called the Beneficien in Saxon times. The path goes through a wooded tunnel along the bank; the opposite bank is more open. At this time of year, the ground is carpeted in yellow celandines, white wood anemones, and purple violets, and the slopes above are thick with bluebells, not yet in flower. On either side of the path, the blackthorn is in full flower, making one of the best displays I have seen. (Blackthorn flowers come before leaves, while with hawthorn it is the other way round. The green mist of hawthorn was beginning, but the blackthorn caught the eye.) The air is full of birdsong, as robins and tits establish their territories.

Since last time I walked this path, it has been altered slightly, to include more of the river (which I didn’t mind at all). The path scales the wall of Woodhall Park estate by a flight of steps. This estate was once owned by one of the founders of Barclays Bank, and is now a school. (I discovered this when, at the lodge gate, a party of ramblers asked me if I knew about the history of the estate. I didn’t, but I had the guidebook with me.) The park is much more open; two buzzards flew from a pine tree as I passed.

Later there were primroses and violets growing together (as they often do), the richer yellow of cowslips by a hedge, and a few bluebells already beginning to flower. By the Rib I saw a kestrel hovering by a road verge.

In the much more open country between the Ash and the Stort, I was entertained by skylarks, and at one point men in SUVs playing soldiers in a wood, making loud explosions.


About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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4 Responses to Three Hertfordshire rivers

  1. Liz said:

    I used google maps and looked up Hertford and Bishops Stortford. But then when I put in “Beane, Rib and Ash” and even “Beane, Rib and Ash rivers, England” google maps came back with:

    Did you mean:

    Beane, Rib and Ash rivers, United Kingdom near United States

  2. Colin Heath says:

    To be horribly pedantic, Three Rivers is the District council next door to the Borough of Watford, covering the likes of Rickmansworth and Chorleywood. Different council and also different MP.

    The Colne and Gade do pass through/close to Watford. Not sure about the Chess – as in Chesham and the watercress beds.

    One of the local water companies has also used the name though I cannot keep up with what they are called and who (in France) owns them.

    It was a great shame about Wall Hall . Their former nursery unit served Debbie and Emma well.

    • Thanks Colin – I am a mathematician, I appreciate horrible pedantry. I am never quite sure where the boundaries are.

      The Chess flows into the Colne somewhere between Rickmansworth and Watford, I think.

  3. The reason for the name of Trois-Rivières, Quebec, is quite interesting: the same logic behind it could have be applied and named the city after two, three or four rivers. (OK, so I looked this up on Wikipedia to remind myself, but I’d definitely read it before.)

    Trois-Rivières is located at the confluence of the Saint-Maurice River with the St Lawrence (so we have two rivers). However, as it approaches the confluence, the Saint-Maurice splits into three branches, with islands in the river; these three branches are the “Three Rivers” in the city’s name. However, if we included the St Lawrence, we’d have four rivers….

    (Incidentally, I once stopped for dinner in Trois-Rivières, where I got into an argument with a car park attendant for parking facing the wrong way in a space. I suspect it was because the car had Ontario licence plates!)

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