I walked the next stretch of the Hertfordshire Way, from Bishops Stortford to Royston yesterday. A much more open part of the county, the climax being the view from the top of the ridge near Reed, overlooking the Cambridgeshire plains.
I wasn’t going to write about it here, but changed my mind becaus the warm weather has caused an enormous change in the flowers and foliage in just a week. I think this is going to be a “blink and you’ll miss it” spring; if you want to see the spring flowers, don’t delay too long!
Several woods had carpets of bluebells already; the blackthorn leaves were beginning to supplant the blossom (which was still lovely, but beginning to fall like gentle snow); the hawthorn leaves are out and there are some flower buds; the horse chestnuts are putting out their candles; and the buds are beginning to open on the beech trees. I saw all of last week’s flowers, but more summery flowers such as dead nettle and white campion were also very common. Coltsfoot (one of the first things to flower in the spring) has gone to seed.
Also, a small correction. Last week I said the Quin flows into the Ash; actually it flows into the Rib. I crossed both Ash and Quin, far upstream from last week; the Ash was dry (though, in the chalky ground, I expect the water was underground).
The first time I walked the Hertfordshire Way was in spring 2005. There is no airport in the county (though yesterday I crossed the disused WW2 airfield at Nuthampstead), but in the east of the county every village was full of “Stop Stansted Expansion” signs, and in the west it was “Stop Luton Expansion”. Those two battles seem to have been won, at least temporarily. Is there a connection between our insatiable appetite for air travel and this very early spring?
The big disappointment of the walk was that the Old Swan Tea Rooms in Hare Street, one of the best eating places I have stumbled upon while walking, was closed; a sign said it opens only on the first Sunday of the month. As some compensation, the Cabinet in Reed served me the best pint of Doom Bar you are likely to find outside Cornwall (or maybe I was just so thirsty that anything would have tasted good).
Hertfordshire placenames: last week, Cold Christmas; this week, Patient End.
And finally, for travel buffs: because of weekend tube closures, I got back home remarkably quickly, less than an hour from Royston to Whitechapel (via Finsbury Park and Highbury & Islington), though I had to walk home from Whitechapel.