First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A village shop with a café in the back, spick, span and cheerful; a redundant phone box stuffed with leaflets on walks from the local pubs; barbecues, community hall hops, walking clubs – the twin Hertfordshire villages of Thundridge and Wadesmill are in rude good fettle, and proud of it. We stayed at the Feathers in Wadesmill, and set out full of bacon and bonhomie into a cold summer’s morning.
Grey clouds scudding horizontally from the west had persuaded the local farmers to halt the harvest temporarily. We walked the flinty margins of half-gathered fields of barley and oilseed rape. It was the time of year when wayside plants are drying up – docks the colour of rusty iron, mallows hanging limp. A fine patch of dandelion-headed bristly ox-tongue showed pale green leaves peppered with white pimples like a teenager’s morning-after complexion. Great willowherb stood tall and pink in soldierly ranks in the hedges, and bindweed opened white trumpets along the verges.
We came to Bengeo Temple Farm, the name an invitation to speculate. Back in early medieval times the farm belonged to the Knights Templar, and there have been persistent rumours of a great treasure buried there by the order on their dissolution. Today we had the flashing silver of oat seeds and the dull gold of heavy wheat as treasure of another kind to enjoy as we walked on towards Sacombe Park. The big yellow brick house stands among trees in broad parkland where truncated oaks sprout their limbs from tub-shaped trunks.
From Sacombe Green a Roman road under the name of Lowgate Lane runs east, and we followed it through the blackening bean-fields. There’s something irresistible about marching a Roman road, imagining the dusty sandals of the soldiers rising and falling in step. We turned off Lowgate Lane reluctantly, but the southward path to Wadesmill proved an absolute beauty in its own right. It clings to the rim of The Bourne, an extraordinarily deep seasonal stream, dry as a bone at this time of year as a ravine at least forty feet deep in places, with flood-sculpted promontories and the pale skeletons of fallen trees jammed across it like primitive bridges.
The sun came out from behind the clouds, the barley heads drooped and waited for the harvester, and the woods stood along the ridge as thick and black as pitch. It all added up to a perfect picture of a corn-filled land at harvest time.
Start: Feathers Hotel, Wadesmill, Herts SG12 0TN (OS ref TL 360176)
Getting there: Bus 331 (Hertford-Royston).
Road: Wadesmill is on A10, 2 miles north of Ware
Walk (6 miles, easy, OS Explorer 194): Left along A10; right at Anchor PH down B158. In 200m, right (‘Public bridleway 35, Sacombe 2’) up field edge. At top (356177, yellow arrow/YA), left; in 200m, right (YA) up line of telephone posts. Ahead along field edges. Keep left of Chelsing Farm; cross drive (350178, YA); cross field and keep ahead along field edges. Down steps in Bourne Wood; at bottom, right (342178, YAs), then left up gravel track. In 100m, right through hedge (YA); ahead with hedge on left. At end of brick barn at Bengeo Temple Farm, left through kissing gate (340179). In 30m, right (YA) up gravel track (NB not farm drive!), which becomes green lane along field edges.
In ½ mile pass reservoir and turn right along driveway (333184, white arrow). In 500m at cattle grid and lodge house, fork left (336189, ‘Sacombe House’, blue arrow/BA). In 100m, fork right along driveway. In 350m, just past Sacombe House, left at crossing of tracks (339191, BA). In 200m, fork left by The Red House (BA). In 500m, right at road in Sacombe Green (342196); fork immediately right (‘High Cross’). In 100m, left (‘Footpath, Lowgate Lane’); continue with hedge, then tree nursery on right for 300m to road (345198). Right; at next corner, keep ahead along Lowgate Lane. In ½ mile, opposite Lowgate Lodge, right (353202, BA) on bridleway beside The Bourne stream. In just over a mile cross a road (358187); continue (‘Wadesmill ¾’) on path to Wadesmill.
Lunch/Accommodation: Feathers Hotel, Wadesmill (01920-462606, www.oldenglishinns.co.uk/feathers-wadesmill) – very cheerful, friendly and welcoming village inn.
Info: Hertford TIC (01992-584322)