Therfield Heath to Sandon circular walk

Today I drove over to near Royston, Herts., to do a walk with my friend Stu. Royston is roughly halfway between our respective homes (Stu is a friend and colleague from my days in Ipswich), and as I’ve walked three long-distance paths in that area it makes a sensible place for us to meet for a walk. In fact, this walk was more or less a repeat of a walk we did about fifteen months ago.

We started at the car park for Therfield Heath on the edge of Royston, setting off just after 10am. We walked uphill through the heath, with me pointing out some of the wildflowers such as Common Toadflax and Wild Mignonette, and then followed a path eastwards along the top of the hill. This continued a long way through bushes and trees, alongside a golf course – in fact we walked along the edge of fairways in a couple of places. Across a road, we soon passed through a small section of beech wood, and then crossed the grassy Church Hill (when we did this walk before, we came at the right time of year to see Pasque Flowers here).

Soon we left the golf course and followed a long line of trees beside a grassy horse gallop. We then turned left on a footpath that went through a large farmyard (Thrift Farm) and continued for a mile or more along a farm track between fields of stubble (passing a rifle range at one point). The path then rose uphill quite steeply between hedgerows to reach the village of Therfield, where we went past the ancient timber-framed Tuthill Manor. So far we’d been following the route of the Hertfordshire Way but now switched to a section of the Hertfordshire Chain Walk, as we continued a short distance across a few more fields to the edge of Kelshall.

We deviated from the Hertfordshire Chain Walk, taking a byway I’d not walked before in order to avoid some field paths that I thouht would be very muddy and might not even have been reinstated after ploughing. There then followed a short lane walk, before a footpath led us to Sandon church. We stopped for lunch beside the village pond in Sandon.

We followed the Buntingford road out of Sandon – a Rolls-Royce went past with the number plate ‘1 SDL’ which amused Stu greatly, as those are his initials! We were soon on a green lane, part of the route of the Icknield Way. Stu spotted a Buzzard nearby, over a field to our right. After half a mile or so, we turned left onto a field path but after following hedgelines through a couple of fields we rejoined the green lane. I spotted a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly – thus far we’d seen some white butterflies and a number of Speckled Woods. Further on Stu spotted a female Muntjac deer very close to the left of the track – annoyingly I’d left my camera in my rucksack. The green lane eventually brought us back to Therfield.

We followed the road to the left, then turned right on a path starting immediately before the village pub. We were soon back on another green lane, a clear track running between hedges – at the start we saw two Red Admiral butterflies.  It was now a nice straightforward walk for a couple of miles all the way back to Therfield Heath and our cars. I thinke we walked about 13 miles or so, and it took around five hours.

It was great to see Stu again, and made a change for me to walk with someone else. We had  a good chinwag about our mutual friends and about the misfortunes of Ipswich Town and (especially) Luton Town. It was the first time that I’d walked in that area since I walked there with Stu last year – it was nice to revisit it again. It was generally quite grey in the morning (we even had a few spots of rain at one point) but was quite bright and warmer in the afternoon. There was quite a strong wind for most of the day.

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