Spring sunshine by the river Gade

The park beckoned us to enjoy the lovely sunshine today. In my garden the primroses and crocus celebrate the spring.

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We strolled past the bowling green admiring the willows glowing golden by the river.

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The river Gade is swollen by recent rains but hasn’t flooded the park as it did last year, when it recreated the lake that was here in the 18th century.

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The elegant bridge was once part of the driveway for Sir Astley Cooper, and there is a lovely view of the church from it. We follow the river back towards the town.

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A strange warning call alerts us to the beautiful thrush sitting in the tree above our heads. We aren’t sure if he’s yelling at us or at the magpies in the next tree.

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Wild cyclamen or kingcups are all along the banks of the River Gade. They sway in the sunshine and reflect its light in the shadows of the trees.

On the mound at the end of the Jellicoe water gardens, there are crocuses and primulas.

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More blossom and flowers greet us all along the serpentine path.

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In the formal gardens, the snowdrops still bloom but the daffodils and crocus outshine them.

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Walking to Piccotts End


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 ochurchf this tower. A ‘new’ house ,built in the early 19th century when this one was knocked down, is now the register office.gate

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.kingcupfield

 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.

oldinnpilgrimbadgePiccotts End is a lovely old village, once on a Pilgrim route to St Albans. Many of the houses used to be inns and their walls still have the little badges that pilgrims collected on their way.


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.



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A Sunday stroll in February




A mallard dozes in the February sunshine

A mallard dozes in the February sunshine

The Hemel Hempstead Jellicoe water gardens are coming to life after a wet and windy week. Walking along the serpentine path by the River Gade , we pass drifts of shimmering snowdrops nodding in the leaf litter under the trees.

In the culvert by Bridge Street, a  male mallard dozes in the February sunshine, resplendent in his mating colours.   He is conserving his energy after the chaotic weather throughout the month


Black headed gulls squabble with the canada geese over bread that children throw. Neither the birds nor the children have noticed the signs forbidding them to feed the wildlife. It is an age-old pastime.


Crocus flowers reflect the bright sunshine below the arches of the formal garden.


Robins fiercely contest their territories all around in the bushes and trees, with cadenzas and trills that soar and swoop. Each bird copies his rivals with his own amazing enhancements. Other birds dart about in the tall cypress trees, but they are too elusive to photograph.  The moorhen rests by the silent fountain.

We cross over the new bridge: the underpass is flooded after the heavy rains.

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A tree has snapped in half and taken the fence with it.

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On the water meadows more snowdrops grow in clumps and the fast flowing river Bulbourne sparkles in the sun, joining the Gade at Two Waters.

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We cross the meadows and climb up the hidden path between the gasometers into Roughdown Common. A red kite soars overhead calling to its mate.

A rabbit scuttles into the bushes. bunny

catkins lonetreeUp on the hillside, a tree makes a lovely silhouette against the blue sky and the catkins waft in the breeze.

floodedfield sheep1Crossing through the glade, we walk down to the moor, where sheep graze and seagulls paddle in the flooded fields.


In the paddock near the Boxmoor Trust HQ, tiny lambs are finding their feet.

pussywillow sheep3We walk up the path to the old barn, noticing pussy willow and more sheep on the way.



The view at the top is breathtaking; we pause to admire the hedges we helped to trim a few weeks ago. 



Birds sing all around in the woodland.

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We make our way down and stroll back along the canal arriving home for a lovely late lunch.

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