View northeast on the Icknield Way, between Clothall and Wallington.

Hertfordshire, United Kingdom


- Baldock to Therfield via Wallington -  

  The wall plaque on what was once the home of George Orwell in Wallington.



A  new challenge - A variation on a walk from Baldock to Royston in a day - part 4 - what about the clocks?

My route on the first of the two walks at the end of October would take me from BaldockGM through RushdenGM, SandonGM, TherfieldGM and RoystonGM whilst the subsequent ramble on the morning of Saturday 6th November, followed the villages of BaldockGM, ClothalGM, WallingtonGM, Shaw Green, RushdenGM, SandonGM and ending short in TherfieldGM, in reality, a variation, that of including the Icknield Way from Clothall and the village of Wallington, where George Orwell (1903-1950), born Eric Blair, had lived from 1936 until 1948. Colleague Annie Brinsley, who was accompanying me on the walk was the one to inform me of this, having existed in ignorance on the many occasions I had cycled through this very village.

The path from Wallington Road reached the church of St Mary and the kind, elderly lady who had been arranging the flowers introduced herself as Mary Corkhill, who lived at the thatched cottage I had so long admired on The Street in the village. She recognised my accent and told me of South Africans who had just moved into the village.

She joked that she had been born Mary Angle and as sweet and kind as she was, that was the very image she projected. Despite her ripe age, her mind was sharp and clear and indicated that she had known the previous owner of the house on the A507 Clothall Road Annie and Dougie had recently purchased. She offered Annie apples from her garden, which she duly collected the next day.

At the junction of Wallington Road and The Street, on the opposite corner to the thatched cottage where Mrs Corkhill now lives, George Orwell took over tenancy of the cottage turned into a village shop, known as 'The Stores', on 2nd April, 1936. He needed somewhere where he could concentrate on writing, and once again help was provided by Aunt Nellie who was living in the cottage, with almost no modern facilities in a tiny village.


He spent hours working in the garden, exploring the possibility of reopening the village shop, where he kept chickens, geese and goats. On the 9th June 1936 George Orwell married Eileen O'Shaughnessy in a simple ceremony at St Mary's. He retained 'The Stores' until 1948. However, during this time he was often away. In 1936 he went away to fight for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. He was back in Wallington by July 1937. He then wrote 'Homage to Catalonia' which was published in April 1938. In that year he started work on 'Coming up for Air' but in March was forced to go to a sanitorium in Kent because of tuberculosis. After the outbreak of the war the Orwells mainly lived in London and the cottage was closed for the duration. Orwell saw himself as a democratic socialist who avoided party labels, hated totalitarianism and was to become more and more disillusioned with the methods of Communism, whose ideals had attracted him in the first place. It is this view that was the basis of 'Animal Farm', a political satire and one of his most popular works, which he wrote between Autumn 1943 and April 1944. Although Orwell was away from Wallington when he wrote 'Animal Farm', the rural setting of his cottage must have influenced the way he chose to portray his political ideas in the book. Many of the scenes are thought to have been placed in the Great Barn at Manor Farm which still stands today and the fictional village in the book where 'Animal Farm' was based was called Wallington.


Looking back along the Icknield Way on the path from Clothall to Wallington.


'The Stores', once the home of George Orwell, from 1936 until 1948.


St Mary's Church in Wallington, North Hertfordshire.


The flower-lady in St Mary's Church, as we entered; Annie with Mary Corkhill; St Mary's.


A farm just outside Wallington;


Autumn in Wallington.


On the path between Wallington and Shaw Green; Between Shaw Green and Rushden, the path is waterlogged in places.


We left the village of Wallington turning right down a dirt road after leaving the church grounds, where we picked up the path we hoped we lead us towards Shaw Green. We entered a Nature Reserve known as Wallington Common and due it being a dense wood without landmarks, we were uncertain as to our precise whereabouts but kept going nonetheless. We then arrived at a road and some cottages, which I recognised from a previous occasion I had pushed my bike along the bridleway due to strands of thorn bush which had been trimmed off and lay on the pathway. Still unsure, we enquired from one of the cottage residents and he duly pointed us in the direction of Rushden. We reached a tree-lined path and I knew that if we continued along it, we would eventually reach Munches Wood and locate the path leading off to Rushden just prior to it, as I had done the week before. We stopped at the bus stop in Rushden for lunch and a tea and a couple came by to hang balloons and notice informing guests of a birthday party at the local church. We then climbed the road up into the village and continued past the many old thatched farm cottages, some of Tudor style, until we reached the church of St Mary's, adjacent to which was where the children's birthday party was being held in the church hall.


Old farmhouse typical of Rushden; The Rose and the Crown, Rushden, probably once a pub.


At the gate leading to St Mary's Church, Rushden, Hertfordshire.


St Mary's Church, Rushden, Hertfordshire


Thatched cottage, Rushden; Cottage window; A novel appeal to motorists passing through Rushden along Treacle Lane.


Although a very small village, Rushden has a colourful and varied history and was mentioned in the Domesday Book, the record of the great survey of much of England and parts of Wales, completed in 1086 and executed for the Norman King, William the Conqueror. The size of the village has doubled since 1086 when there were only 100 inhabitants. The nave of the church of St Mary was built in 1350 and later the tower. In James I's reign as Tudor king of England and Scotland after the forced abdication of his mother Mary Queen of Scots, the depression caused the gentlemen and yeomen to start selling to the London City men while other poorer people began buying common fields. Outlying bits of farms were sold by the big landowners. Between 1603 and 1618 nearly the whole village changed hands. Between 1650-1660 there was an influx of inhabitants and a population of 200.


Annie on the path leading out of Rushden.


View towards Southern Green en route from Rushden to Broadfield Hall.


Sunlight through the forest, close to Broadfield Hall.


Wood Farm near Green End,  at dusk; The Fox and the Duck finally reached after nightfall.


Annie and I returned to Treacle Lane to continue our walk, passing the tongue-in-cheek road sign which read: "Please drive slowly. Free Range Children". As the road peters out giving rise to a path along a line of trees turning one way and then the other until it enters a forest, we retraced my steps of the week before. Not wishing to end up in Southern Green again, I opted for the path leading to the right where it divides, which emerged at a clearing on the edge of a very muddy, ploughed field. Noticing a footpath sign in the distance we crossed the field (as designated on the map). At a row of trees we discovered a wooden bridge, the location of which we had mistaken on the map. Broadfield Hall Farm came into view however in reality we couldn't find an easy way across the land to it, so we returned to the bridge, instead picking up a farm track which we knew led to the tarred road running past the farm. Turning north, we then walked to Broadfield Lodge Farm, passing the outbuildings. 

We seemed to have lost time relative to the previous week and I was conscious of the fact that we were losing daylight. By now we increased he pace significantly as we marched on via Friar's Wood and Beckfield Farm to Sandon, where I finished my remaining tea. By the time we had reached the Icknield Way and its junction with Kelshall Lane track just south of Therfield, it was almost dark. I had completely forgotten that since the previous week's walk, the clocks in the UK had gone back an hour, meaning that it would be dark around five in the afternoon! This oversight meant that Annie wasn't keen on doing the last section of the walk from Therfield to Royston, a duration of at least 45 minutes. She then phoned her daughter, who was in the town of Hertford at the time with a friend, to fetch her at The Fox and the Duck in Therfield. The astounded inn-keeper welcomed us as we entered the pub and requested drinks. Annie then prepared a text message on her mobile phone to provide Sophie with directions however the signal in the pub was poor. Just as she opened the pub door, Sophie and her friend had just pulled up, so we had a good laugh about that. We hadn't even begun to down our drinks, so they also ordered. I gratefully accepted a lift to my home in Royston, though I could probably have walked the distance in the dark quite easily. It was cold however and therefore I had no real desire to do so. I had been left with an obligation to complete the walk at a later stage at Annie's request.

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