Hertfordshire, United Kingdom


- Great Chishill -


First walk of 2011 in blustery conditions, via a town that says "No" to windfarms.

Sunday 6th February. With the icy, cold conditions of a British winter now gradually receding into the background, the weather proved unusually warm and my first walk of 2011 beckoned invitingly. Undeterred by the somewhat blustery circumstances, the walk provided me with a timely opportunity to prepare myself for the hiking club's walk in Glastonbury the following weekend. Driving east from Royston through Barley, I arrived in the village of Great Chishill, after passing the large windmill just outside the town. The spelling of the name of the parish has changed over the years. In the Domesday Book, the spelling is Cishella and later Christehela (1068), Christehall and Christeshall (1272), Creshale (1321), Cressall (1594), Creshall (1768) and more recently Chishall and Chishill. Crist is old English for Christ and healh is old English for nook. The Domesday Book of 1086 refers to Cishella which was held by Ulfeih, a freeman, and Little Cishella which was held by Sired, a freeman. William the Conqueror bestowed Cishella to Henry de Farers and Little Cishella to Count Eustace of Boulogne. Four roads converge at the junction where the church of St Swithun's is located, close to where I parked, these being Barley and Heydon Roads (west and north) and May Street and Hall Lane (south and east). Beautiful thatched homes and old farmsteads adorn the village, with the Hertfordshire countryside forming an almost perfect backdrop.

View down Barley Road towards Barley and Royston, in the town of Great Chishill, where my walk started.




St Nicholas Church in Little Chishill, built around the 12th century.



On the Little Chishill road approaching Gipsy Corner Farm, east of Little Chishill.


View of Gipsy Corner Farm (in Essex) on the Hertfordshire-Essex border.


The extensive Gipsy Corner Farm.



Along a path leading away from Killem's Green, near Chrishill Common, close to the point where it joins Harcamlow Way.


Crossing the countryside along Harcamlow Way, this cottage near The Vicarage, near Chrishall, comes into view.

I had walked this area before so I was hoping to carve out a different route on this occasion. My walk took me along May Street towards Little Chisell, cutting across the fields as soon as I had passed May Street Farm. Here I located the tiny parish church of St Nicholas. Not able to find a path across the countryside, I stayed on the road for a while, crossing the border between Hertfordshire and Essex just outside Gipsy Corner Farm. Two kilometres south of Great Chishill, these two counties form a triple point with Cambridgeshire. Upon reaching a row of cottages at Killem's Green near Chrishall Common, the highest point in Essex, Common Lane leads off to the left as Little Chishill Road turns right into Park Lane. Here I picked up a path heading south-east across ploughed farmland, eventually reaching Harcamlow Way, where I turned north. Here I stopped for a tea from my flask and some sponge cake. The wind did not bother me in the least. I was too preoccupied with enjoying the moment. Cutting through Oldfield Grove, the path continued across open countryside west of High Wood, access to which was clearly denied the public by virtue of the sign mounted along the pathway I was on. I reached a farm at Chiswick Hall, the path being deviated around the homestead. Just south of the village of Chrishall, the Holy Trinity Church, which stands on an ancient site that is believed to have once formed the heart of the medieval parish, is strikingly visible from the surrounding countryside.

The Holy Trinity Church, Chishall.


View of the vicarage, the thatched cottage adjacent to the Holy Trinity Church; Entrance and tower of the Holy Trinity Church.



Interior of the Holy Trinity Church, Chrishall.



A pony feeds in the fields on Home farm, Chalky Lane, with the Holy Trinity Church forming a backdrop.


View of the Holy Trinity Church from Chrishall.

Though the Essex countryside is relatively flat, here the Harcamlow way path drops down to the B1039 before climbing steadily up to the church. Adjacent to it lies the vicarage, a quaint thatched cottage. Just as I had entered the grounds and began photographing the stone church, a car pulled up, it's occupant turning out to be a rather kind gentleman, who, upon opening the church doors to offload items for a music concert being held that evening, kindly invited me in to have a look around. I was even shown through a door that led up a staircase to a platform where a rope hung for the ringing of the bells. The church is a fine antique structure, consisting of a nave and aisles, where a piano now stood in the middle of the floor, a chancel, and a stone tower, crowned by a handsome spire, and containing four bells. From the rear of the church, the path continues down to Chalky Lane, which I crossed, and on Home farm, it is well fenced off from a paddock where ponies were grazing. As I stood there, a beautiful white pony wandered over to satisfy its curiosity or perhaps in search of a hand-out. I tentatively yet gently stroked the pony, lest I should have my hand chomped off and as I wandered off, it snorted in disgust! Still in Essex, I headed into Chrishall village and sat myself down on a wooden bench for more tea and cake. The village was listed in the Domesday Book as Cristeshalla, or "nook of land dedicated to Christ".  It is only one of two English settlements whose name contains the word "Christ". Down Palmer's Lane, I found a path running along a fence that led down to the Icknield way path. Crossing open field, a man chased after a dog ignoring his master's instructions and after catching up with the hapless animal, began beating and scolding it. Just before the path reached Heydon Lane, man and dog drove by in an off-road vehicle and with the window rolled down, he casually greeted me with a "Hi, mate", before driving off.

The village of Chrishall where Palmers Lane leads off from the High Street.


View down Heydon Lane as it turns into Chishill Road - the Holy Trinity Church is to the left (out of view), near Heydon Grange Farm.




The Holy Trinity Church in Heydon, partially damaged during the Second World War.


View down Chishill Road in the village of Heydon.



St Swithun's Church, cemetery and clock tower, Great Chishill.


At the junction near St Swithun's, looking down Barley Road; War Memorial at St Swithun's, opposite May Street.



St Swithun's Church, Great Chishill, on the corner of Heydon and Barley Roads.


Down Barley Road heading home to Royston.

Down Heydon Lane and into Chishill Road, it soon became obvious from small posters planted on the lawn or in the front window of almost every home in the village, that Heydon Grange is the site of a proposed wind-farm and that the village is vehemently opposed to the development. I was keen to stop and engage one of the locals to establish precisely why the were opposed to the scheme, yet I thought better of it. Just as well I wasn't wearing my Green-Party T-shirt!  I subsequently discovered details on several websites. Opposition is not unique to this village in particular but is widespread in the United Kingdom. Having read recently in The Independent newspaper that the failure of the current government to achieve widespread support for wind-farms has resulted in the planned construction of waste incinerators throughout Britain, as a source of energy. I returned to my car and as I drove home via New Road past the fields which would presumably be the site of the proposed wind-farm, I could not help but think how people in this day and age could possibly imagine maintaining the unsustainable lifestyle enjoyed by all in the industrial world. Would doubters of the dire need for renewable energy sources rather support having an incinerator on their doorstep in nearby Royston, I wondered? Glancing at the campaign website later, I could not contain my amusement and astonishment upon reading that one of the concerns raised was that of "wind turbine syndrome". Environmental effects of wind power have been the subject of a number of studies into the subject. A European Commission report has found wind to have the lowest external costs, comprising human health impacts, building and crop damage, global warming, loss of amenities and ecological impact, when compared to coal, oil, gas, biomass, nuclear, hydro and photovoltaic electricity generation. Energy derived from wind power consumes no fuel, no water, and emits no air pollution.

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