Yesterday we took a favourite walk to the garden centre at Piccotts End which does very good coffee. The sun was shining brightly and the crocuses bloomed everywhere. These are in my front garden.
In 1539 King Henry VIII granted a charter to make Hemel a market town. Also it is said that when he visited Hemel Hempstead with Anne Boleyn he stayed at the Bury in Gadebridge Park, all that remains is the charter tower. Local history has it that Henry VIII handed down the charter for the town of Hemel Hempstead from the upper window of this tower. A ‘new’ house ,built in the early 19th century when this one was knocked down, is now the register office.
St Mary’s church was started in 1140 and completed about 40 years later. The recently restored spire looks wonderful in the spring sunlight.The old walls of the Bury now surround a formal garden.
Robins sing all around to claim the best spots. We stand clear of the huge branch which broke off a beech tree during the recent storms. Its bursting buds still look alive.
The first kingcups light up the hedgerow in the lane. A horse drinks from a large puddle that has made a new pond in his field.
The 15th century Piccotts End Farm still sells duck eggs. Its smithy is also a remarkable reminder of the recent past. I love its uneven floor plan and beautiful structure.
Across the road, the old almshouses conceal their treasure, the amazing medieval murals depicting biblical scenes, rediscovered in 1953 hidden under panelling, and thought to have been hidden in the puritan era to protect them, but rarely available to see.
A lottery bid is under way to make a museum so that everyone can view them. The building had many uses including Sir Astley Cooper’s hospital in the 19th century, but historians believe that in medieval times it was a pilgrim hostel belonging to a local abbey and the paintings would have encouraged pilgrims in their quest to see the shrine of St Alban.
The old watermill operated until the 1980s but a disastrous fire in 1991 destroyed much of its outbuildings and roof. The main building has been rescued but it has been converted into attractive apartments. The river Gade still rushes past but no longer powers a mill.
We are nearly at our destination. A good thing too, as the clouds are bubbling up over the hills. We have a pleasant coffee in the garden centre before returning home laden with rock plants.