Shilley Green

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Once coppiced beeches line the lane from Hitch Wood to Shilley Green where its forks to the Easthall hamlets one way, gently down the valley slope to Langley another way, or more steeply down a byway to Langley Bottom.

An old farm stands back from a grassy patch, dominated by a magnificent ash tree – long may it survive ash die back disease. Apart from that, there are some stables and a pre-fabricated house with an old railway carriage for an outbuilding.

The fields and vestigial woodland round here are great for spotting fallow deer – which sometimes hold up the sparse traffic – and hares and foxes. Sadly, fly tippers are a regular scourge.

Warren’s Green

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Warren’s Green is one of the four greens on the periphery of the old grounds of Weston Park. We’ve already looked at Friend’s Green, Damask Green and Hall’s Green. It’s on the same skein of paths and minor roads with each end of the tiny settlement – two cottages – bracketed by right angle twists in the road that only make sense when you see the road as part of a grid of ancient footpaths and byways.

There’s an outlying farm where we found the weather station above, and another relatively new house.

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Hall’s Green

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Hall’s Green is only a mile or so northeast of the Stevenage extension of Great Ashby but there’s no direct road link so the green rests peacefully. The narrow roads in this patch are bewildering, twisting and turning apparently at random until you look at the Ordnance Survey map. Combined with the footpaths and byways, they form a grid that has efficiently linked hamlets and farms for many years.

You can hear the church bells from over the fields at Weston and three parallel footpaths lead from the green to the village with the church tower a marker if you doubt your route. To the east of Hall’s Green runs the byway (and, in its southern section, road) from Baldock to Walkern and along the valley of the Beane beyond.

Hall’s Green has a pub (back view below) and Irongate Farm and a few cottages. The old farm at Fairclough Hall just outside has been repurposed as office and craft units, a very relaxed place to see your accountant.

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Bericot Green

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This is a shot of the disused Panshanger Aerodrome, a World War II training base and later a flying school. From the Ordnance Survey, it looks as if the airfield swallowed up much of Bericot Green although there are some scruffy light industrial buildings at the top of Moneyhole Lane off the B1000 from Welwyn to Hertford. They might stand on the site of an original farmstead.

The footpath across the fields to the north and east of the airfield perimeter offer a view over the Mimram valley where Archers Green and Poplars Green (see previous posts) lie, and the big house at Malden Hill beyond. The fields were growing nothing but thistles when we walked through, raising the suspicion that someone has the whole area earmarked for development. One attempt to build over the aerodrome was fought off in 2016 but developers rarely give up.

Greens around Therfield

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Therfield straddles the pre-historic Icknield Way on high ground above a heath dotted with tumuli and delightful Ordnance Survey markings like Hopscotch and Duckpuddle Bush. But that’s all to the north and we started off heading south, looping back in a circular walk that took in five greens.

First up was Duck’s Green, which is now the name of wooded track.

We veered off the main path to go through Collins Green where it’s similarly difficult to identify the original green and there is no habitation but some big sky views across the plateau.

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The lane from Collins Green to Chapel Green contains plenty of elm. That’s a sight that’s bitter sweet. The survivors of Dutch elm disease put up a fight but they rarely grow higher than a spindly 30 foot (though some on this walk challenged that). Then they die off and stand as diminutive skeletal reminders of the elegant monsters we lost.

I could see no chapel at Chapel Green, unless the whitewashed cottage with a bountiful kitchen garden has been repurposed.

We found another path to take us back towards Therfield and saw some of the fallow deer familiar to the high ground across Hertfordshire.

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Washingditch Green demanded a visit just for the name. There’s little to see. The Ordnance Survey map marks a pond though we just found an isolated strip of damp ditch at the spot – once a washing ditch?

From there, it’s a couple of hundred yards to Hay Green, which is built around now, a perfectly decent place but not a lot to detain us on our walk across the fields to Therfield, apart from the rush hour chaos.

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Nup End Green, Tagmore Green

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These two are about a mile apart. We combined them in one short walk from Codicote. Four winding country lanes meet at Nup End Green and delivery drivers can be seen puzzling over which turning is most likely to get them to Hogsnorton or the Bothy or wherever.

We got to Nup End Green along with the postman, a much-appreciated key worker during the lock down. Deliveries in this tiny hamlet did not take much of his time.

Wherever you walk in the countryside, there’s a proliferation of threats and imprecations fixed to houses and gateposts and anything else. Is crime out here on the rise? Do incomers from urban areas bring security neuroses with them? The sign below did not convince us we were being monitored by the newest of new technology. In fact, it was rather sad.

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By contrast, the signage at Tagmore Green was pervasive and as cold as our impression of the place itself. Arriving along Sally Deard’s Lane was pleasant enough but then it’s a short run of sizeable but uninspired houses and turning off to a new development that brandishes its Private Road sign with pride. Still, the downhill walk back to Codicote provided good views and a fabulous display of poppies.

Sootfield Green

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The chimney is of the only house in Sootfield Green, which is close to Preston on the high ground to the south of Hitchin. (It’s not marked on Google Maps but if you look at the satellite photo link, it’s at the centre of the X formed by the road and the wooded byway. It is marked on the Ordnance Survey.) The house nestles in the junction of the little road from Weston to Charlton and the Dead Woman’s Lane byway. The lane is said to get its name from a plague burial pit nearby.

Trace the lane north and south through its various its manifestations as a footpath, byway, and minor road and you see it is an ancient route from Hitchin to Whitwell and beyond. The Tatmorehills Lane leg just before the green includes a short stretch of shallow hollow way where the number of tree species indicates just how old the route is. Other paths from Sootfield Green lead to Offley or past West Wood where the bluebell show in the spring is as good as the locally renowned Hitch Wood (though there’s no public access to West Wood).

A dog breeder uses the field behind the house at Sootfield Green but that doesn’t deter Muntjac deer, and the odd hare can be spotted nearby.

Peter’s Green and neighbours

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Life continued in Peter’s Green during lock down. Fresh fish and the pub being spruced up for re-opening.

I wasn’t gazing through the window of an Edwardian lady’s boudoir, just passing Peter’s Green village hall where the needlework classes may be a bit on the specialised side.

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Perry Green backs directly on to Peter’s Green and the divide is not discernible to a stranger but the Baptist Church – again evidence of the strong non-conformist tradition out in the greens – declares itself to be of Perry Green. It has some handsome old ironwork railings to keep the heathens out and the Godfearing in.

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From Peter’s Green we wandered over the fields to Chiltern Green.

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The remains of the green at Chiltern Green comprise some scrub where two country roads meet. There’s a farm and a couple of houses right on the green and the row of cottages shown below lie a little further down a lane. Heading back towards Peter’s Green, I liked the bark on a felled cherry tree, and we disturbed a local.

Levens Green

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It’s good to see a green being used as a commons. At Levens Green we found this pony grazing the west end of the grassland in the centre of the hamlet and two more tethered at the east end.

After the disappointment of Potters Green (previous post), getting to Levens Green was a pleasure. It’s easy on the eye without being chocolate box lid pretty – a few houses of various shapes and sizes and a couple of farms.

But one building does stick out. The initial reaction is ‘what on earth is that?’ It certainly doesn’t blend in with its neighbours. Yet, while it demands attention and you may like it or not – I’m undecided – it’s not an eyesore. But what is it? With its size, thin grey brickwork, tall and narrow windows and curved construction, my guesses were the self-aggrandising offices of a financial adviser for the well-heeled of East Herts or a trendy new crematorium. But as there is no corporate or council signage and no pin on Google Maps, I suppose it must be residential. Let me know if you know.

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For the record, Old Hall Green is a mile to the east of Levens Green but we gave it a miss. Passing by, it was dominated by the unprepossessing buildings and the grounds of a private school.

Potters Green

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Potters Green (on Whitehill, just to the east of the golf course on the map) was depressing. The stroll from Levens Green to the north was enjoyable – down a track, over a meadow and through a newly-planted extension to an ancient wood.

An old cottage at Potters Green is pleasant enough but overshadowed by half a dozen hulking, newbuilds. One, inevitably, is styled as a barn. I doubt a single brick or bit of timber – yes, of course, all the houses are part-boarded – has been within a hundred yards of a farm. But it was the architects’ ploy to add a hint of variety to the dull uniformity of the development. Obligatory BMWs and Chelsea Tractors slouch in front of double garages. And, naturally, the mews is gated.

No surprise there’s a golf course just over the way.

Walking down Rowney Lane to Sacombe Green (see the previous post), there’s a mock Tudor entrance to something or other. Beyond that is another redeveloped plot in the grounds of Rowney Priory. It’s better than Potters Green and the old Clock House is a handsome building. But the all-money-no-taste of Potters Green had soured my mood and it was difficult to see beyond the fake Edwardian lamp post and fake village pump.