Apr 272024

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Springtime landscape near Benington 1 Springtime landscape near Benington 2 Springtime landscape near Benington 3 Springtime landscape near Benington 4 Springtime landscape near Benington 5 Springtime landscape near Benington 6 Springtime landscape near Benington 7 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 1 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 2 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 3 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 4 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 5 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 6 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 7 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 8 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 8a Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 9 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 10 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 11 Gargoyles and grotesques at Benington Church 12

The two renovators were busy lime-washing the chancel of Benington’s Church of St Peter, but they courteously moved their buckets and twitched back their plastic sheeting to let us wander around. Extraordinary stone carvings abound in St Peter’s – a pair of Green Men supporting the chancel arch, a gurning friar, face howling in terror, and the effigy of a king either plunging a sword into his own guts or trying to pluck it out.

No such dramas in the churchyard, overgrown or rewilded according to your point of view, the gravestones half drowned in cow parsley, buttercups and miniature cranesbill.

The whole village of medieval timber framed houses seemed awash with greenery this spring morning, and the elderly gardener leaning on his fork at the gate of Town Lane had all the time in the world to expound on the life and times of Benington. Lucky for us that the famed gardens of Benington Lordship hadn’t opened yet, or we would never have got away from this delightful spot.

A scribble of blackcap song, loud and melodic, followed us along the nettly verge of a barley field. Skylarks sang over the fields each side of the broad flinty track of Cotton Lane as it curled up and over the back of Great Brookfield Common.

A short stretch of High Elms Lane, a ridge road lined with pale pink campion and Jack-by-the-hedge, and we were following a shady green lane where enormous poplars trembled their ace-of-spade leaves in the wind.

A reviving sandwich and immaculately kept pint at the Lordship Arms on the crossroads in Burn’s Green, and we went on east past a dimple of ponds, walking a wide track through hay meadows waist-high with grass awaiting its first cut of the year.

The bridleway through Benington Park made a pale parting among the sombre blue-green of wheatfields. Here I picked up a big solid flint shaped and scalloped, perhaps a palaeolithic hand axe.

In a sea of silky green barley a fragment of hedge, thickly powdered with may blossom, showed where a country lane had once run. We crossed the fields to find Duck Lane, and turned homewards between banks of periwinkles spreading their royal blue petals like windmill sails.

How hard is it? 6 miles; easy; field paths and green lanes

Start: St Peter’s Church, Benington, Herts SG2 7LH (OS ref TL 297236)

Getting there: Bus 384 (Hertford-Stevenage)
Road – signed from A602 between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone

Walk (OS Explorer 193): Up lane to junction; right (‘Ware, Hertford’). Just past bus shelter, right (303235, kissing gate) on permissive path. In ½ mile at arrow post, ahead (299229); in 100m, join sunken lane on left. In 300m, by brick hut (296228), fork left uphill on Cotton Lane. In ¾ mile, left up road (298215). In 500m, fork left (301217, ‘Benington’) up track. In ¾ mile cross road at Lordship Arms PH (309226). In 300m at Pond Cottage, fork right along track (312228). In 100m fork left (blue arrow/BA). Follow BAs, descending into valley. In 500m, left (318230, BA post). In 500m at far corner of Home Covert, bear right (312230, BA) through trees and across field. Cross Benington Park house drive; right (BA) onto hill top by 4-finger post (308234). Left up hedge for 30m; right on path across field, then on left of hedges. At bottom of slope, left (309240, BA); in 250m, left (306241) along green lane, then Duck Lane to Benington.

Lunch: Lordship Arms, Burn’s Green (01438-869665, lordshiparms.com) – superb real ale pub.

Accommodation: Roebuck Inn, London Rd, Stevenage SG2 8DS (01438-365445, roebuckinn.co.uk

Info: Benington Lordship Gardens – beningtonlordship.co.uk

 Posted by at 01:28

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