15 May, 2010

A delightful 10 mile walk in the Herts Chilterns. Tring, Aldbury and Berkhamsted.

A day out with additions as recommended by a friend on a pleasant night out.

I haven't been in Tring since 1994, when, as a naieve Estate Manager I visited my employers head office in this pleasant chiltern town, part of the land belonging to the Rothschilds. Tring station is one and a half miles from the town near the Grand Union Canal and the original plan was to walk from the station to Aldbury, then back to Tring and down the Grand Union canal to Berkhamsted. It didn't turn out like that as it looked wet over Aldbury, so I turned first to Tring.

The road to Tring is an avenue of chestnut trees and these make for a pleasant walk although the drivers are utterly mad. My first port of call was St Peter's and St Paul's church which was serving tea and coffee. I had coffee with the rector who had been in post around 7 years, and we chatted about the old vicarage that had been my employers head office, with their coat of arms still above the portal

Not sure I agree that the vicar who built it had delusions of grandeur, but that's one view. I think that there would have been servants and probably a large family with a few aunts and cousins to fill the place. The church dates from the 15th century and has a rood painting above the chancel arch painted in 1899 to replace the ten commandments.

After church a walk up the high street, with a large conservative club and a larger baptist chapel. Tring has a natural history museum, the collection of Lionel Walter Rothschild which consists of rather depressed looking stuffed fauna and plaster casts of animals, all displayed rather dustily. I suppose they're not easy to clean. Still this is a good way of getting near to the creatures without being kicked by a cassowarie, who can disembowel a person with a single kick. Lord Rothschild hept these on his estate along with zebras to drive his carriage and giant tortoises from the galapagos islands. After a look round all six galleries I left and, after a very helpful encounter at the Tourist Information office in Tring, set out to walk to Aldbury along the road past Tring station, a distance of 2 and a half miles (running total 4 miles). I called in first at the memorial gardens to those killed in world war II with its sentinal tree overlooking a free form pond with ducks.

At Aldbury the Church of St John the Baptist contains the Pendley chapel with a parclose (stone) screen and an altar tomb with effigies. This is the only parclose screen in the chilterns. There is a curious wild man on the tomb at the feet of the Knight.

The church is near a pleasant village pond overshadowed by the stocks, with a sign exhorting visitors not to touch the ancient monument, although I'm sure people do, especially as the sign can only be seen one way. Many of the houses here belong to the Duke of Bridgewater who built the Grand Union Canal and whose initial and coronet appear carved in stone on cottages that could not bring shame...

The Valiant trooper pub on the way to the Grand Union Canal provided a stop for refreshment and then I headed off over fields to the canal.

A rare picture of me sitting on the banks of the canal

The walk by the canal in the heat of the day seemed long - around 5 miles to Berkhamsted measured by Grand Junction Canal milestones measuring distances to Braunston (running total 9 miles).
Berkhamsted is home to a minor public school where Graham Greene's father was head teacher, and has a mile long high street. (Total ten miles.)
Berkhamsted was home to Dean Incent, dean of St Pauls, founder of the school at Berkhamsted and assistant to Thomas Cromwell at the dissolution of the monasteries.

Berkhamsted was also a port and this curious victorian warehouse is the remains of that era on the Grand Union Canal

I always like Hertfordshire whenever I go - it probably helps that I go in good weather - but today was a good day out even if the ten mile walk was tiring.

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