Ware, Stanstead Abbotts and Great Amwell

It was a lovely sunny Sunday morning and given the perfect conditions it would have been almost criminal to have not gone for a walk.  We did have to take into account Debbie’s hayfever (although her new tablets seemed to work a treat), and so chose a six and a half mile walk which was almost entirely beside water, rather than walking through woods or fields.  It did not take too long to drive to Ware, mostly ignoring the directions from the satnav as we drove in the direction of Hatfield and then beyond, and once we got to Ware we drove towards the town centre and looked for the church which was the starting point for our walk, and then the nearest parking to that, which just happened to be free of charge on Sundays – result !

We walked over to the very impressive 15th-century church

Church number 1 - Ware

Church number 1 – Ware

and war memorial and then walked down the main road, impressed by the wide range of timber-framed and brick buildings which carried historical plaques in some cases, and were quite fascinating.  We crossed the bridge over the River Lea, immediately turned left onto a tarmac path which followed the river, and then kept along the riverbank past Hardmead Lock

How wonderfully English

How wonderfully English

and then Stanstead Lock.  It was flat, straight and easy going, perhaps too easy going because that seemed to make it ideal for cyclists, who zoomed past us with a far too constant regularity.  We prefer our walks a little more secluded than this, to be honest.  Once we were past Stanstead Lock we took the next turning off the riverpath to the right and turned left over the bridge to take us into Stanstead Abbotts, another town with some interesting and varied architecture.  We walked all the way through to the other side of town and took a left bend to bring us to another very impressive 15th-century church,

Church number 2 - Stanstead Abbotts

Church number 2 – Stanstead Abbotts

which was well worth the detour.  We took a quick break under the cherry trees and then walked back into town for a pub lunch of burgers and chips.  It was good to break up the walking in this sun.

We retraced our steps through the town and continued over the bridge this time, then over a level crossing before turning right on to the New River Path.  This was another flat, straight and easy going path, but this time without added bicycles, and it followed the path of this conduit.  We kept along this path to Great Amwell, and though we could have carried straight on, the guidebook instead took us over a footbridge and up some steps through the trees to another church.

Church number 3 - Great Amwell

Church number 3 – Great Amwell

This one is Norman, dating back as far as the 11th-century, with a 15th-century tower, and was again well worth the detour, not least for the churchyard full of fascinating monuments and a set of stocks.  We came out of the churchyard and took the enclosed path opposite, coming down to the road and the main path again, across from an island surrounded by weeping willows which is home to an urn erected in 1800 to commemorate Sir Hugh Myddleton, who built the New River between 1609 and 1613.

The island, the weeping willows, the urn...the cardboard cutout

The island, the weeping willows, the urn…the cardboard cutout

We continued along the New River, encountering a mother duck with nine ducklings,

Shinequack !!!

Shinequack !!!

and just enjoying the sun as we were the only ones walking along this stretch of path.  When we reached the road we crossed to the other side, took an enclosed path to the railway line, where I noted the Samaritans sign on the gate, were careful crossing, and soon came out at the River Lea again, retracing our steps back to the car from there, and on this leg encountering a dog on a canal boat with his own lifejacket.

It was still hot when we got back to the car so I went off in search of ice cream, being drawn by the sounds of Ware Brass, and then finding the local lido which obliged with a couple of 99s !  Then it was just a matter of driving home, and we timed it just right, getting in just as Andy Murray won the second set on his way to his three-set win at Wimbledon.  A brilliant way to cap a lovely day out.

You can see more of my photos from the walk here.

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