Hertfordshire, United Kingdom


- Baldock to Ashwell -


A modest walk to a little gem of a village, on a misty day in Hertfordshire.


Sunday 27th March, a grey, misty Hertfordshire morning at the tail-end of a British winter. I took the train from Royston to Baldock with the initial intention of walking back via Wallington, Rushden and Therfield, on a route I undertaken before. The weather being somewhat downbeat and not really conducive to a canter in the countryside, I scoured the map for an alternative. My attention was drawn to a significant track heading north-east but on the opposite side of the A505 to my previous route. This was the Icknield Way, which led to the village of Ashwell. Apart from the fact that I had not walked it before, it offered  me a number of alternatives back to Royston. From Ashwell I could walk Ashwell Street, a grass track on the eastern side of the village. once a Roman Road, that I had cycled many times or cut the walk short by taking a train from Ashwell-Morden station. Two cross-country motor cyclists roared had passed me on the dirt track leading down into the village, where it joins the western end of Ashwell Street. I did not find the track between Baldock and Ashwell particularly inspiring, the landscape across ploughed, muddy, predominantly open farmland, relatively flat and devoid of any truly noteworthy features. This was more than made up for by the time I reached Ashwell itself, the picturesque village comprising a number of beautiful, historic cottages and buildings. Ashwell's St Mary's Church spire is visible from a afar, particularly along Ashwell Street. I entered the beautiful church via the 15th century timber-framed Lych Gate and was taken by its sheer size. I was in the process of photographing the Forresters Cottages up the High Street. Built originally in the 14th century as just the central hall, two cross-wings with jettied gables were added in the 15th century. Struggling to find the best possible angle to photograph the cottages whilst trying to position St Mary's Church spire so as to form a backdrop, a resident in the process of carrying out renovations emerged from one of the homes of the semi-detached complex and began chatting to me. Also having a keen interest in photographing the village, he retrieved and showed me a small collection of old sepia photographs he had been collecting. Leaving the village in haste sometime around mid-afternoon, I headed off down the grass track of Ashwell Street. Though the map indicated several small tracks leading off from this, I was unable to find a way through that I was hoping would lead me towards where Ashwell Morden railway station was located, without having to resort to using the tarred country road heading south where it joins the A505. I waited almost 45 minutes for the next train to arrive, still managing to reach Royston before dark set in.






Crossing farmland shrouded in mist along the Icknield Way from Baldock to Ashwell.






Up the High Street of Ashwell's historic High Street.


Ashwell is a village and civil parish situated about four miles north of Baldock in Hertfordshire. It was once a Roman town or station, under the name Magrovinium, borne out by the fact that Roman coins have been found. At the time of the Norman survey it was a market town. It has a wealth of architecure spanning several centuries. The parish church dates almost entirely from the 14th century and is renowned for its ornate church tower which stands at 54 metres, and is crowned by an octagonal lantern with a leaded 'spike'. The church also contains some medieval graffiti  carved on its walls which highlights the plight of survivors of the bubonic plague pandemic known as the Black Death. The village itself is mostly in a fine state of preservation, from the medieval cottage to the fine town house, plastered or timbered, thatched or tiled, in Tudor, Carolean or Georgian brick. 'Scheduled' listed buildings include the St. John's Guildhall of 1681, and the carefully restored Foresters Cottages, Chantry House with its 15th-century window, the 16th-century town house (now a local museum), the Maltings (now converted into flats), and a small brick house which was first built in 1681 as a school by the Merchant Taylors. Ashwell Bury, a large Victorian house, was remodelled by Edwin Lutyens in the 1920s. Ashwell also has a village lock-up that was used to detain drunks and suspected criminals. The village used to be home to a number of local breweries and, accordingly, a variety of public houses in its past, but currently has just three pubs: The Rose and Crown, the Three Tuns and the Bushel and Strike. Ashwell Springs, a natural feature of the village, is a Biological Site of Special Scientific Interest, consisting of a series of freshwater springs, which forms a source for the River Cam, which bypasses Cambridge. The cool water of the chalk springs contain a rare species of stenothermic flatworm associated with cold surface waters or subterranean groundwater.


Mill Street, Ashwell, near St Mary's Church and the Tudor-style Ashwell Museum.


The interior of St Mary's Church, Ashwell.



The exterior facade of the ancient Gothic Church of St Mary's, Ashwell.



Ashwell Museum's Tudor facade visible in this series of photographs.



Views up Ashwell's High Street.




Elegant 15th-century Tudor-style cottage up the High Street, adjacent to the Forrester's Cottages, with St Mary's in the background.

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Links to other websites:

St Mary Mary's  medieval church graffiti - webpage