Across the Great Divide

Helham Green

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We travelled to the other side of the world to find Helham Green and its neighbours. They are in Wareside parish, just east of the Greenwich Meridian. Wareside village is a two-pub hub for the surrounding hamlets but the local primary school is in Reeves Green and the church is nearer to Babbs Green. Wareside district is famous for its treacle mines!

Helham Green isn’t marked on Google Maps but the link above goes to the satellite view and the green is at the apex of Scholar’s Hill. Jess the Jack Russell and I got there along a wooded path from Babbs Green that crossed the course – sadly dry – of the Nimney Bourne and climbed gently for a few hundred yards into the hamlet. On the way we found another photogenic fungus.

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Helham Green has a secluded feel. It’s a collection of larger cottages – and we thank the owner of one for the free marrow – a whitewashed terrace with a terrier that’s a better host than mine, and a run of brick houses.

The old village pump is not the familiar variety with a pump lever but an elegant cast iron apparatus with a wheel to turn to lift the water.

The Ordnance Survey marks a disused pit just outside the hamlet – former treacle mine?

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Friend’s Green

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The old tiles look sturdy and heavy to bear but notice the apparent fragility of the roof frame. The beams at the crest of the roof are bowed. You can see they have been cut from trees, unlike the precision cut timber you’d buy from a yard today. The timber frame of the building to the left is visible, whether because it always has been or because rendering has been stripped away to please potential purchasers of what looks to be another farm building conversion. This is at Friend’s Green, just beyond Damask Green (which has its own blog entry) outside Weston. Behind the farm is the old park land of the big house at Weston. Friend’s Green is not marked on the map but lies on the road coming south out of Weston, before the turning to Warren’s Green, which lies on another side of the former park land on the way to Hall’s Green (posts to come).

Shaw Green to Cumberlow Green

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The green at Shaw Green is a couple of hundred yards south of the cluster of houses and farms, next to Shaw Green cottages, a paddock through which runs Shawgreen Way, a broad path although one that was blocked beyond the green by a fallen tree when we last went through. But the delay working out how to negotiate the fallen boughs gave me time to look around at the creepers curtaining the way and the gloss left on dead wood by the recent rain.

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The path now runs out at Cumberlow Green where the farm is on the T-junction of the lane from Cromer to Rushden and the winding road from Baldock to Buntingford.

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Two greens on the Mimram

Poplars Green and Archers Green

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I love the little River Mimram. Its name is so ancient – pre-Celtic – that its meaning isn’t known. It rises near Whitwell and, along with the Beane and the Rib, joins the Lea at Hertford. Over-extraction and increasingly dry summers sometimes reduce it to a trickle in places and there are fears for its long-term survival. But when it bubbles through reed beds and over a gravel bottom, it is one of our most charming chalk streams.

It flows under the Digswell viaduct and runs through a shallow valley with Tewin to the north and Welwyn to the south. The B1000 to Hertford tracks it for several miles. And that’s where we find Poplars Green and Archers Green, the latter unmarked by Ordnance Survey. Bericot Green, above the river to the south, I’ve yet to visit because I couldn’t find the footpath signs.

Two families were picnicking and paddling near this bridge at Poplars Green, ignoring the ‘get off of my land’ style signs – good for them.

The couple of houses stand hard on the road and suffer the traffic.

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Archers Green is a little off the road with heathland and woods above. It too has a pretty bridge. The land around the farm is being developed for housing, presumably actual or faux barn conversions. And access to the river is marked by depressingly familiar proprietorial notices.

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Norton Green

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The pond in Norton Green’s Watery Grove hosts newts and frogs and toads. Purple Emperor butterflies are reputed to visit the tree tops of the common. The sunflower mural on the end of a row of cottages cheers a trip – and here’s the rub – southwards on the A1M.

The hamlet is just yards from the howling cars and rumbling trucks. The only thing that can be said for having the road there is that Norton Green has just about kept its independence from Stevenage, unlike Symonds Green which fell on the other side of the route surveyors’ line. A pedestrian underpass and a quarter of a mile of tarmac provide access to and from Stevenage. The pub marked on my Ordnance Survey is no longer there.

But turn your back on the A1M and you can walk around the edges of the woods bordering Knebworth House park. Walk all the way around the woods and you can find your way into the deer park.

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Rush Green

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This is the Rush Green on the road from Hitchin to Codicote – there are at least a couple of others. There’s a working farm there, overwhelmed by a clutch of body shops and metal bashers and a vast graveyard of scrapped lorries, impressive in its own way and visible from the hills overlooking the shallow valley of Langley Bottom.

Between Sperrin’s Farm and Letchmore Farm, the byway Dyes Lane leads to the private woods on the northwest side of the deer park at Knebworth House with turnings off to Norton Green or Langley or through Burleigh Farm and into the deer park.

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Woolmer Green

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I took a diversion when I spotted some strange shapes in the distance and came upon an artist’s studio in a farmyard on the edge of Woolmer Green

The village straddles the old Great North Road and you’d think nothing of it – a bit of Knebworth gone astray or a chunk of Oaklands (bizarre place that is) stranded on the wrong side of the railway. Passing by on the train, it gets a nameplate sign despite having no station – perhaps a relic of the war time halt for troops training in woods around Mardley Heath.

But it’s an ancient crossroads of the Great North Road and the Roman road from St. Albans to Braughing. Turn off the main road and you’ll find a village pond and clutch of pretty cottages hidden among the newer housing. Footpaths lead off to Datchworth and over the top of the railway tunnels to Welwyn North.

Woolmer Green has its local characters:

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Mangrove Green

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What links a hamlet on the very edge of Hertfordshire – Luton’s outskirts lurking a field’s length away – to sub-tropical swamps? Nothing. The name Mangrove Green derives from ‘thicket in common use or possession,’ from the Old English  gemǣne , ‘common,’ and græfe, says the Survey of English Place Names, not from the mangrove (a word likely taken from the Portuguese mangue).

One of the pleasures since lock down has been walking up from Lilley Bottom to the villages and greens at the top of the western slope, with skies mastered by wheeling and keening Red Kites and Buzzards. Pre-virus, the air was ripped by the howl and rush of Easyjet and Buzz Airlines flights out of Luton. The airport’s sullen sleep is bad news for employment and council service provision in the town but a good omen for all the householders with Stop Luton Airport Expansion signs in their gardens.

There’s a pub on the green, the usual barn conversions in the lane that leads past the farm to views across the bottom towards Lilley and Offley. An old brick wall, overgrown by brambles on the stretch abutting Mangrove Green, and dilapidated in parts of its long run down to the bottom, marks out the estate of Putteridge Bury.

For a brick-built chapel, a corrugated iron church and a village school you walk the couple of hundred yards to Cockernhoe, a route infilled in the last century with functional housing.

Coleman Green

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Coleman Green, not to be confused with Colemans Green, near Breachwood Green, comprises the John Bunyan pub and a handful of cottages surrounded by woodland and a hollow lane leading to Ayot Green and Welwyn.

The association with Bunyan, Puritan preacher, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, and Parliamentary trooper during the civil war is the preserved chimney of a cottage where he lived for a while.

The hollow lane yielded this beautiful fungus.

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Wateringplace Green

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I’ve given up trying to take a photograph of Wateringplace Green, so I’ve settled on a couple about it. It’s near Moor Green and just yards off Back Lane, the stretch of one-time Roman road that runs from Hare Street to Cherry Green. The ponds may have provided water for drovers’ stock moving down the lane as well as local farmers. They are a pretty muddy affair these days. Not a hope of finding it on Google Maps – Ardeley is about the best it can do, so use the OS.

What I always remember about Wateringplace Green is the scattering of ancient oaks like the one part-pictured above. There’s also a derelict cottage of no great age that adds some melancholy to the place. You’d have thought it ripe for renovation and gentrification but there has been no sign of any work in the years I’ve been walking past.

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