I live on the edge of St Albans, a town with plenty of ancient history, yet positioned just a short hop from London, plus Heathrow and Luton airports. All of that connectivity being irrelevant at the moment, I’ve been taking my permitted exercise on local streets and pathways, and giving my cameras their daily outing too.
I live on a main road, that links to the M25 and M1, but a 10 minute walk past my local pub, gets me onto a quiet lane that looked especially good when the early spring blossom emerged.
From here I can join a series of footpaths that take me pretty directly into town. And there are woods and side paths that allow plenty of wandering, in circles and figures of eight. I now know these paths better than ever before, and know where to expect pheasants, butterflies, mice and voles. Plus, the bluebells have been particularly effusive this year.
This little fellow is particularly hard to catch, and when I do spot him I am never armed with a long lens. So this shot is a serious crop (thank goodness for all those pixels!)
After the bluebell wood, we are reminded of the existence of city life, with the traffic on the A414 whizzing beside us. We’ll escape the noise by popping over a handy footbridge, into the farm fields on the other side.
But, I’ll warn you now, it is never a quiet crossing. Even throughout lockdown, I have still not seen this road without traffic.
Now there’s a pleasant walk across the fields waiting for us, passing Sue’s seat, and sometimes giving us a massive cloud delight. Some new signs have appeared recently, explaining the importance of agriculture and homes for the wildlife. I think the lockdown has brought many more people out to this area, both on foot and on bike, and the farmer is needing to shield his ground.
Now we have a route choice. The most direct option cuts up through some gullies between houses, and drops onto a path alongside a good stretch of the old Roman wall. But social distancing is difficult on those narrow passageways, so we’ll turn left, skirting the field we just crossed and then following a residential street towards Verulamium Park.
There is a lightly wooded area on our left, allowing us to avoid the hard pavement, and it then drops us close to a pedestrian crossing to the park.
We’ll head straight across the park from here, which will drop us down at the lake. On our way there’s a chunk of Roman wall and a small, odd-looking building. This is closed at the moment, but it houses the most wonderful Roman floor mosaic. It is made of 22,000 tesserae laid in intricate floral patterns, and beneath the mosaic lies a hypocaust.
From here, we can now see the Cathedral, and the lake is just hiding behind the trees down below.
The lake has been incredibly busy during lockdown, and skirting it to the left as we arrive is usually the least crowded option. A small bridge leads us across the lake, and on a “free day” I recommend turning left here to visit the museum. But for now, we’ll turn right, with the lake on our right and head towards town and the cathedral.
At the far end of the lake there is a small but densely-vegetated island, known as Heron Island. There is a reason for that name, and this is the perfect time of year to make a close inspection (with binoculars if you have any). The herons and egrets are busy nesting and often, in the old normal, we have a team from the RSPB here to help us spot them. I have to admit, they seem extra well-hidden this year, but I’m sure some of the youngsters will soon be big and brave enough to pop over to the mainland.
Anyone in need of a rest? We are close to one of the UK’s oldest pubs, a very friendly hostelry that welcomes dogs and provides both food and drink. Needless to say it isn’t open at the moment, though it is acting as pick-up point for food.
So, I’m afraid it’s find a bench or patch of grass for a brief rest and a drink from the good old water bottle. Don’t stay too long though, as the police are good at moving people on – though we are just moving into our phase of permitted sunbathing, here in England, so resting will be easier.
That said, I’ll abandon you here for the week, and we’ll continue the walk next Monday… I’ll meet you outside the pub: Ye Olde Fighting Cocks.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 11 May 2020
Posted as part of Monday Walks