Rural Heritage Society


We publish below the contents of recent newsletters. In the fullness of time, we will include copies of previous newsetters from the archives.

Click here to read the Spring 2002 edition

Click here to read the Summer 2003 edition

Click here to read the Spring 2004 edition

Click here to read the Spring 2006 edition

Click here to read the Spring 2008 edition

Click here to download a PDF of the 2010 edition



At last a RHS Newsletter! Many apologies for the lack thereof over the past two years but you all know what we have been doing and we hope that you consider our efforts in that direction worthwhile. Thank you for your patience and for coming to the launch. We enjoyed the party and hope you did too. As you are probably aware the book is now available from the Village Shop (Thank you, Nash) and also the Aldbury shop. We are working on other outlets, including The Book Stack in Berkhamsted as we have plenty available for sale - Christmas is coming - presents have to be bought!

During the past two years we have continued to look at the majority of planning applications and commented on several - mainly in vain, I regret, but we continue to put pressure on the Planning Department.

The Annual General Meeting is on Thursday 13 June, starting at 8.15 pm, in the Village Hall. This will be followed by our speaker, Dr Lee Prosser from the Hertfordshire Archaeological Society. Dr Prosser has spoken in the Village before and this time he will be talking about developments in the Chilterns, notably the recording of old buildings, in particular, redundant farm buildings, including some local examples. He is and excellent and knowledgeable speaker and shows beautiful and interesting slides. The meeting ends with wine/fruit juice and nibbles, as usual. We very much look forward to seeing you.


by Gerald Humphreys

Among my many files there is one entitled "Planning Inspectors and their Inconsistencies" and another with the title "U-turns and Dacorum Planners". Both received entries arising from the dismissal of the appeal by developers seeking to build on the site of the Deer Leap Swimming Pool.

The Inspector started his decision letter with an outline of the policies in the Dacorum Borough Local Plan that are pertinent to the case. Prominent among these is Policy 5 which, together with Policy 6 asserts there is to be no development in Lt.Gaddesden. Oh, really? What about the Deer Leap Garage to mention only one contravention? I return to this point later.

Then follows a description of Ringshall and Lt.Gaddesden. Ringshall is described as 'close knit, primarily nucleated' - does that mean we Ringshallians are radioactive ? He makes the point that Lt.Gaddesden and Ringshall are different and that (sic) "The site, and the entirely undeveloped gap in particular, separates the two settlements and is fundamental to the character and appearance of the Chilterns AONB". What tosh! Lt.Gaddesden and Ringshall are effectively joined; one can't argue otherwise.

The Inspector then repeats the mantra that "it is a well-established planning principle that a development proposal should be determined on its individual merits." This is the well known cop-out which absolves planners from considering the implications of a particular proposal and where it might lead.

The appellants asserted that the development on the site of the former Deer Leap Garage set a precedent for their application. Refuting this according to the above principle the Inspector stated amongst other things that "no evidence has been provided to indicate that the business was a going concern and could be maintained as an employment site". Not so. A trip to Companies House showed that the garage was indeed a going concern - from which it followed that it could be maintained as an employment site. The Society provided this evidence to the Dacorum Borough Council - maybe they did not provide it to the Inspector. Probably not.

The real gem occurs towards the end of the Inspector's decision letter where he talks about part of the site being included in the Ringshall Conservation Area. He asserts that the "mature dense vegetation along the boundary to the B4506.....would effectively screen the proposed development from the B4506 and from the dwellings [opposite]". He concludes that "The development would not adversely affect, and would therefore preserve, the character and appearance of the Ringshall Conservation Area". So that's all right, then. But previously he had stated that the development would "seriously affect the character and appearance of this part of the AONB".

So here we have an inconsistency within an appeal rather than between appeals. An example of the latter occurs where the Inspector refers to part of the site being within the Ashridge Historic Park and Garden. He concludes that "The proposed development, given its position, would have no effect on the historic interest of the Ashridge Park", whereas the Inspector presiding at a previous appeal concerning the site refused the appeal on the grounds, amongst other things, that the National Trust had an (impractical) scheme to restore the original drive to Ashridge....

OK, so there is some fodder for the file on Inspector's Inconsistencies. What about the U-turns and Dacorum Planners ? That's answered in just one sentence. All the planning arguments marshalled by the Society and others who opposed the closure of the Deer Leap Garage and the building of houses on the site were used by the Borough Council's planners to oppose the development of the swimming pool site!!!!

I have another file entitled "I never thought I'd live to see the day"........but I'll tell you about that some other time.

Postscript to Pitstone

Whilst on holiday in Derbyshire earlier this year, what should I see but one of Castle Cement's bulk-carrying cement lorries. It was in pristine condition as if straight off the production line. And emblazoned along the side in large capitals was the message - "Castle Cement - Caring for the Environment".

Pull the other one - it has bells on.......


by John Leonhardt

In 1999 there were three walks:

March 14th: Roman and Belgic sites in the area between the Bridgewater Monument and Ivinghoe Common.

May 16th: Flowers on the Green and Cromer Wood

July 11th: Luck Lane and Hudnall Common

In 2000 there were no walks

In 2001 there was one walk only.

November 4th: Village Pond and Cromer Wood, reported in the Walks Report page of this website.

In 2002:

January 13th: Parts of Thunderdell, Aldbury Common and Old Copse.

March 24th: Ringshall Drive. A walk looking at the old Cedar trees and comparing the cottages in the park with their 1930s photographs. A small group came on this walk on a pleasant day. There is no plan to write any report on this one.

May 19th: A walk from Hudnall Common along most of St Margaret's Lane, down to Nettleden and up through Nobody's Bottom.


Do you have any interesting local knowledge that you would like to pass on?

Do you have an interesting building or grounds that you would like to show members round? Do you know someone who has? - RING ME ON 843550.


A few days ago on a mild Spring afternoon, I was pottering in the garden admiring the Brimstone butterflies and searching for a Small Tortoiseshell on the grounds that enjoying wildlife is a good deal more interesting than gardening, when a very large bumble-bee crash-landed a foot or two away from me and ended up on its back- with its legs waving feebly in the air.

Clearly, it was Babbitty Bumble...........straight out of Beatrix Potter.

It/she was never going to be able to take off from her inverted position. In any case, I suspected she was overloaded. So I did my best to turn her over with a piece of dried grass. With my help and a great deal of effort on her part to combat the grass holding her down she turned over.

Then, to my surprise, she took off flying very low for the first foot or so whereupon she pulled back the stick and climbed to twenty feet, did a right hand circuit of the garden and departed, apologetically., on Olney 1B.


After Babitty had departed, my ears were assaulted by an imperious squawk. It was the cock pheasant which frequents the immediate locality demanding his supper. I addressed him thus :-

"Jacket potato, runner beans, red cabbage, Shiraz cabernet....and thou" He sidled uneasily away.

With apologies to Omar Khayam.


by Lyn Hyde

I seem to have spent a great deal of my life in Little Gaddesden Churchyard. I certainly expect my ashes to blow about up there when I’m dead, just as my veil did in our wedding photos, making it look as though I had a puff of smoke billowing from my head.

My father was Church Warden for many years and his father before him, my Great Grandfather was Sexton which involved lighting boilers, lanterns and all kinds of other duties.

As a small child we used to go regularly during the summer to ‘do’ the graves. My father would get home from work, have supper then my parents and I would walk across the fields from No.10 carrying shears etc. to tend the family graves and it seems a large selection of others. In those days people expected to look after their own family graves as most people buried there had family still living in the village (how times have changed).

Those who were not local often asked my father as Church Warden about someone to cut and tend the graves, and because even then there were not many people willing he would end up offering, and my mother would become more and more exasperated.

So it was that the Churchyard was my early years playground. Like the chairs in AA Milne’s Nursery Chairs, “One of the chairs is South America, One of the chairs is a ship at sea, One of the chairs is a cage for a lion, and one is the chair for me”, the graves were woven into my imagination.

The three wooden crosses in the box hedge were special, one had the nursing badges of its occupant (sadly stolen years ago) and she deserved regular flowers, picked from the rest of the church yard. The hedged enclosure was a little house. The angel headstone for a 2 year old required daisy chains.

The Talbot box tomb was, I have to admit, the stage for my early thespian extravagances, the rest of the gravestones and the hills beyond a natural amphitheatre. I was Mary from Frances Burnett Hodgson’s ‘Secret Garden’ in the then wild bit overlooking Church Farm, its low growing trees made a wonderful camp whilst the snowdrops that grow there were a part of the fantasy. There were several wooden grave markers which were a part of my cross country jumping course when my reading tastes advanced to National Velvet and Jill’s Ponies etc.

Later my friends and I had tame chickens which were towed around the village in a sort of seed box on pram wheels. We took them all over the place, but a favourite spot was the church yard as, we reasoned, the worms there would be better - how ghoulish children can be.

In teenage years I recall night-time walks up to church and dares to walk around the church alone. I had no qualms about this, I had simple confidence that if any ghosties or ghoulies existed they would be no match for my ranked ancestors, indeed who would have had the effrontery to challenge my Grandfather?

My Father was almost a daily visitor to the church, locking and unlocking etc. and its wildlife was a part of our mealtime discussion. First cuckoo heard, snowdrops and primroses, bat droppings in the church, a silly blackbird nesting in the mowers, moles digging, owl pellets, foxes and badgers glimpsed. He would always find me a Linnets nest in the spring - its a long time since I have seen one of those, even though I look in the same places.

I still enjoy a walk up to Church, a stroll round the graves revives so many memories of villagers past. The views are just the same and there is a certain quality of light, and the presence of a breeze even on the stillest day. A good place to go to gain perspective on life.

The views expressed within all RHS Newsletters are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the Committee.


As ever, a plea for prompt payment of subscriptions - 2 per person.

Please drop at least two pounds (cheques are quite acceptable!!!) into Lyn Hyde at 22 Little Gaddesden (or your nearest committee member). If you are not yet a member and would like to join please do the same. Very many thanks.

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At the well attended AGM in June, the Committee was re-elected en bloc for the fourth year - details below. Our speaker, David Fletcher, CBE, gave us a fascinating talk on various aspects of canals, boat lifts, refurbishment of derelict canals and other watery matters, illustrated by splendid slides. The evening ended with wine and delicious nibbles, as usual. We would welcome new members onto the committee so please telephone Lyn Hyde if you would like to join us.

Sales of the book have, naturally, slowed for the moment but copies are still available from all committee members and the Village Shop. Peter Grainger continually up-dates the web-site and if you have anything you would like put on the site, please telephone him on 265694.

The committee continues to meet regularly and planning applications are monitored and, if it is felt necessary, comments are made to the Borough Council. If you would like us to help with planning applications, please do not hesitate to contact a committee member.

Committee Members

Chairman - George Godar. The Old Rectory. 842274
Vice-Chairman - Anne Wooster. Vine Cottage. 842469
Treasurer - George Godar
Secretary - Gerald Humphreys. 28 Ringshall. 842228
Minutes Secretary - Lyn Hyde. 22 Little Gaddesden. 842267
Local Development Officer - Mary Fletcher. Beverley House. 843462
Publicity - Peter Grainger. 66 Old High Street, HH. 265694
Gaddesden Diary Reporter - Anne Wooster
Footpaths - John Leonhardt. 21 Little Gaddesden. 843550
Membership Secretary - Lyn Hyde
Newsletter Editor - Anne Wooster


by Eve Ouseley

On some recent television and radio programmes, Bill Oddie has stressed the need for gardeners to incorporate a conservation area into their gardens for the protection of wild life. I need not bother I have one, have had one since we moved into a new house 52 years ago! Wild life - deer, badgers, snails, slugs, etc which have eaten all the NON-WILD life plants, gooseberries, raspberries, vegetables, a complete rose bed and other innocent flowers. They left the daffodils alone, except they trod them down to get at the other stuff.

When we moved into this newly built house, wise old gardeners and farm employees, who lived in the other 26 council houses, said to Les "You won't grow anything there, mate, all the rubbish from the first 26 houses was dumped there, where the last four were built." They were right. Our house bordered directly onto woodland originally belonging to the Ashridge estate and now the property of the National Trust, therefore we had tree stumps and trees left in the garden.

Les came from sterner stuff - his grandfather had been a nurseryman and his mother tended her garden until she died at 86, growing her own vegetables, fruit trees, loganberries, etc. So my husband sat down with pencil, ruler and paper and plotted the layout of the garden, followed by planting vegetables, fruit trees, herbs and lawns. The garden was an awkward shape in three parts, front, side and back. The back eventually produced a meadow grass field, easy to mow. The front had to be cleared to rubble and turves put down. The garden was lovely for the boys and then their small sister. They enjoyed playing in it and so did their cousins, who visited us from Portsmouth. BUT - the old men were right, nothing much grew, apart from the apple trees. Then we went in for pets. Over the years we had bantams, ducks, geese, rabbits, a tortoise, cats and dogs and an aviary, with zebra finches. Until we fenced the garden off from the woods, we even had visitors come to see us on horses and our daughter would turn up with a friend when she had gone out riding. The front garden was lovely and I originally had a very fine rose bed. My sons had bought me rose bushes for birthdays etc - the very same which the deer ate which such relish!

Leslie insisted on having a conservation area for the butterflies and, after he retired, he became a Radio Ham and used the trees, now very tall, for his aerials.

The point of this narrative is to explain how my garden was appreciated on one occasion.

About 40 years ago, my nephew, a young student teacher in London, asked me if he could bring a coach load of London schoolchildren, with four teachers, to stop off at my house for some refreshment etc. Of course I was only too pleased to say yes. They arrived and I served squash and cups of tea. This meant that 44 individuals formed a queue for the only lavatory in the house which meant coming through the kitchen, the living room and, finally, up four steps. The children had a lovely time rushing round the garden seeing the animals and birds. They thought it was a farm.

Little Gaddesden was a different place at that time. I had contacted Ashridge, the Manor House and Mr Vicars Bell at the School, for permission for the children to visit, which they did, and Mr Bell provided them with some more refreshment too. After they departed and I had cleared up, I considered I had had a happy day and all the little ones sent me 'thank you' letters and drawings when they returned to school. So, though I now view the garden with despair, as I am no longer able to maintain it properly, I think what joy it was to my own family and the young Londoners.

My conservation area is now filled with nettles, wild garlic, bluebells and colourful weeds - which, as Les insisted, are not weeds, but flowers growing in the wrong place.


by Lyn Hyde

My poor husband has just suffered a couple of hours of 'The Two Towers', whilst I sat thrilled with its dedication to JRRT's books.

My introduction to Tolkien came during my childhood at Little Gaddesden School when Vicars Bell was headmaster. Each class had a book 'on the go' read at any appropriate time of day, after lunch or nearing home time, in winter whilst we defrosted and dried out after playtime, in summer in the orchard under a tree.

There were just three classes, Infants, age 5 - 7 ish with Elizabeth Taylor (in fact she bore a great resemblance to Mia Farrow) an American from Richmond, Virginia. Her deep south accent bought to life Braer Rabbit and the Epamanandos stories. By the time we reached the middle class age 7 - 9 ish, Jenny Thomas was waiting with Beowulf, The Chronicles of Isguard and all of Greek Mythology. But my favourite was The Hobbit, sometimes read by Miss Thomas, often by Mr Bell, complete with his pipe from which he could produce smoke rings (what would Ofsted say). Vicars Bell was a terrific showman, very theatrical and wrote not only the books about the village, but also plays and children's stories. We didn't need a vivid imagination, it was Gandalf himself and we were his little hobbits from the shire, enchanted by his tales and frightened by his quick change of mood.

We often played at being hobbits, walks in the woods were infested with Orcs, ordinary riders out for a hack we knew to be of 'The Nine'. The Sweet Chestnuts were the Ents, Ivinghoe Beacon the barrows and the pine plantations with their silent carpet of pine needles were Mirk Wood with all it perils - a simple walk could be so exhausting - Ashridge House was Lothlorien, Bridgewater Monument was a tower belonging to some "baddie", which involved our getting along Princes Riding and Monument Drive without being seen, and Incombe Hole, or the old well shaft in Hoo Wood, was the Crack of Doom.

Sadly Vicars Bell left the year I moved to the top class, but my sister Jenny remembers that in her day the book was voted for democratically and seems to her to have alternated between Huck Finn and the Hobbit. When Tolkien published the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, in 1962, she went to W H Smith and blew three guineas on the original grey dust jacketed set with the eye on the spine. Bearing in mind she was a living-in student nurse and was paid the princely sum of 10 per month, this was a huge investment. My parents were appalled, but she still has the books, read many times - at least once to me when I was about nine (the battle of Mordor gave me nightmares) - and by me some time later.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the Return of the King - I don't think Arnie is keen.


by Rus Westmacott

The aims and purpose of the Society are not as well understood as they should be. Many people, particularly non-members, some of whom immediately turn to it when they feel threatened, see it as merely an organisation to object to planning permissions. As can be seen from this Newsletter, the Society's activities are wide and varied. At a time when fewer and fewer residents are aware of the history and natural environment of the Parish, the Society has an increasingly important role to play.

Amongst other things its educational role qualifies the Society for charitable status. The present constitution and objects of the Society were submitted and received approval from the Charity Commissioners in 1981 when new rules were adopted.

The main objects are:

1. To promote high standards of planning and architecture in or affecting the parish.

2. To educate the public in geography, history, natural history and architecture.

3. To secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest.

In order to achieve this, the committee may promote research and publish the results, act as a co-ordinating body and co-operate with local authorities.

Surveys, maps and plans may be made, published and distributed. Meetings, lectures and exhibitions can be held. Public opinion may be educated, informed or advised. There are also powers to raise funds, receive gifts and borrow money.

One of the most interesting matters mentioned is that the Society should promote civic pride in the Parish. This rather legal phrase means that there must be encouraged a community of interest. All who live in the Parish have received something of value passed to them by earlier generations of residents. Many of those earlier residents, from Bridget Talbot onwards, have felt passionately that there was something of value in the environment of Little Gaddesden which must be passed on to future generations. The Society has an important role to play in this and tries to be guided in its public and private decision by this ideal

This article was first published in a RHS Newsletter in 1989! but its statements remain true today.

5. RHS WALK - 20 OCTOBER 2002

by George Godar

On a dull, wet and cold Sunday afternoon, 7 intrepid walkers and 2 dogs, led by John Leonhardt, met at Great Gaddesden Village Hall for a walk which John had intended would provide us with interesting views of Ashridge and Little Gaddesden from the Gaddesden Row and Studham side of the Gade Valley. Despite the best efforts of the weather to thwart us, we achieved our objective.

We started on up the track by the side of the Village Hall and then crossed an open field towards Great Gaddesden's version of Hoo Wood. John explained that the word "Hoo" in this neighbourhood seemed to be used for a promontory (or "carbuncle" as some would say) on the side of a hill projecting into a main valley. On the opposite side, Little Gaddesden also has a "Hoo Wood" which we saw later on. Before entering the wood, we had looked back at Great Gaddesden, noting St Margaret's Copse and Hill Wood (both on the hill slope between the Leighton Buzzard Road and St Margaret's Lane), with the tower of the Amaravati Temple just visible behind the trees. After some beating through the undergrowth, we found the continuation of the footpath in the wood and did some contour walking, downhill of the house known as "The Hoo".

We walked through the woods, across the drive from Hoo Lodge to The Hoo, and along the side of the field until we got to Bradden Lane, just by Hatche's Farm, across the lane and along a track running more or less parallel with the Leighton Buzzard Road, with Widmore Farm and Widmore Cottages behind us. On the right we passed a field the sub-soil of which John believed had once been owned by a brick company who had considered removing the clay beneath. As far as he knew, only a small area had been worked, although the map referred to this area as the "Old Quarry".

At the end of the track, we looked across the valley again, through the rain-induced mist, with the sharper eye among us being just able to glimpse the Bridgewater Monument, far in the distance.

With a few turns, we kept along the hedge line until we came out on Pedley Hill at Barwythe, close to the junction with the road from Studham to Jockey End. We cut through the Studham Sports Club playing fields to Common Road where we turned west, walking above Studham Common towards Dagnall, past the picturesque Adelaide Cottage and Studham Hall Farm, a large house within which is preserved a small Norman building which was presumably the original farm some 900 years ago.

The party then moved down the hill towards Dagnall with the promised (if sometimes obscured by the elements) unusual views across the valley towards Lamsey Farm, Well Farm, Little Gaddesden Church and the Bridgewater Arms on the top of the hill opposite, with Ivinghoe Beacon to the right.

At long last, skilfully avoiding the puddles in the dips in the road and the bow waves of the passing traffic, we reached our strategically placed cars which would take some of us home and some back to Great Gaddesden to pick up the cars we had left at our starting point.

After such a wonderful autumn, it was a pity that the day we had picked for the walk was so wet and misty, but we had finished the walk under John's capable leadership and had still managed to view our own village from a new perspective across the valley. Once again, many thanks to John!


by John Leonhardt

Over the years quite a few trees planted on Ivinghoe Common at Ringshall have been dedicated to particular people and events. As there are no signs to identify these trees, we asked John Wilson to show them to us on our Society walk on November 24th. Many of our members will remember when John Wilson was Head Ranger on the estate from 1957 until he retired in 1991. He lives at Ringshall.

The list below refers to the locations shown on the map which will be added to this site shortly (in the meantime, a copy is available from any member of the committee):

1. The Adrian Hadden-Paton Memorial Arboretum (Marked on the map as Quercus, Tilia, Aesculus, Fraxinus and Nothofagus)

This spreads over a large area of Ivinghoe Common. It was established in 1989. It is a collection of species world-wide of the 5 chosen genera. Each tree is within its own wooden guard, and one of its corner posts bears a code number in blue indicating the species. As might be expected, not every tree has survived, and in fact some were stolen when they were young, but a large proportion of them are well established and some are now very vigorous trees.


Code numbers on the posts are prefixed D. All Quercuses are Oaks. There were 155 planted. They belong to 49 different species plus 6 additional sup-species, cultivars and hybrids. This is a very impressive number, considering that there are only 2 species of Oak native to Britain, but throughout the world there are about 450 species. The collection includes evergreens such as the Holm Oak and the Cork Oak (from which cork is harvested in its native Portugal), some with brilliant autumn colour such as the Scarlet Oak and the Red Oak (See also No.2 below) from North America, some with leaves that look more like willow or chestnut, and one with huge leaves about three times as long and wide as an English Oak. The common factor by which they are all recognised as oaks is the acorn.


Post numbers prefixed B. All are Limes. 24 trees, members of 7 species plus an additional subspecies and a hybrid. World-wide there are 50 species. The collection includes the two native British species (the Large-leaved and Small-leaved Limes), and four species from Mongolia, China and Korea.


Post numbers prefixed C. Known as Horse Chestnuts and Buckeyes. 45 trees, members of 12 species and 5 additional subspecies, cultivars and hybrids. World-wide there are 13 species according to my reference book, so this collection is almost complete. We have no native species in this country. The collection includes the one European species and the rest are about half North American and half Asian.


Post numbers prefixed A. All are Ashes. 55 trees, in 18 species and 2 additional cultivars. There are 70 species world-wide, of which 1 is native to Britain. This being Ashridge, there is no need of the native species in its typical form in the collection, but two of its cultivars are there: the yellow-leaved form `Jaspidea' and the One-leaved Ash `Diversifolia'. The collection includes Asian species from Afghanistan to China, some North American species, and one from North Africa.


Post numbers prefixed N. These are collectively known as the "Southern Beeches", and are quite closely related to the northern Beeches, Fagus. 19 trees were planted, members of 6 species. There are about 35 species world-wide, all from the southern hemisphere. The collection consists of the Tasmanian Myrtle Beech and 5 Chilean species including N. antarctica with tiny heart-shaped leaves and the evergreen N. dombeyi.

2. In memory of Harold Bannister

These were 6, now 5, Red Oaks, Quercus rubra, each in an individual guard, and part of the Hadden Paton Arboretum. The posts are numbered D14.1 to D14.5

3. In memory of Zac Lait

This is entered here, although post-dating the rest of this article, because this tree will also be located in the Oak section of the arboretum. Zac, Betty Lait's grandson, died in a car accident about Christmas time. It will be an English Oak from the National Trust's nursery, with a standard wooden guard. The planting ceremony is expected to take place on March 14th 2003.

4. In honour of Winston Churchill's 80th birthday.

On this day in 1954 the estate foresters were planting up part of Flat Isleys plantation with a mixture of Oak, European Larch and Lawson's Cypress. They decided to dedicate one of the oaks to "Winnie". There are about 60 oaks in this compartment today, and it is the one nearest to the north-west corner, very close to the end of a line of cypresses. It has a breast height diameter of 33 cm and equals the tallest of the adjacent cypresses in height, about 20 metres. Other details which help to identify it, at least for the present, are a little bushy Beech only 1 metre from its base, and it is 7 metres from the cypress which stands right at the corner of the compartment. It also has a greater girth than the 3 or 4 other oaks standing closest to it. Like the other trees in Flat Isleys it has no post or guard or any sign.

5. Ray Light's trees

These are two Tulip Trees, Liriodendron tulipifera, planted by Ray himself to mark his retirement from the National Trust forestry team. You will see on the map that they are not together, but each one is positioned so that it can be seen from a different open space. Each is planted in the usual square wooden guard. They are now 10 metres or so tall, and have the potential to grow to a great height.

6. The Silver Jubilee Beeches

A group of Beeches near Ling Ride planted for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, originally surrounded by a circular fence which has now been removed.

7. The Hepburn Beeches

A group of four Beech trees, each with its own guard. Close to the tree next mentioned. Owing to the absence of David and Lois Hepburn at the time of writing I have not been able to confirm the following detail, but I believe they commemorate Lois's brother (surname Johnson?)

8. In memory of Hugh Martin

A single English Oak, with the usual guard. Very close to the group next mentioned. Hugh was the husband of Mollie Martin of Ringshall.

9. In memory of Keith Kirkpatrick

A group of 9 Oaks (possibly now 8), enclosed in a wire fence about 8 metres diameter. These are still very young, their trunk diameters being only up to 2 cm and their heights up to 3.5 metres. The "English Oak" tends to be a range of hybrids from the pure Q. robur, the Common English Oak, with long-stalked acorns and almost unstalked leaves, to the pure Q. petraea, Durmast Oak, with almost unstalked acorns and stalked leaves. This group show a tendency towards the Durmast end of the range. Keith was the husband of Ann Kirkpatrick of Ringshall.

10. In memory of Mike McCarthy

A group of 3 Beeches, each in its own guard. They form a triangle quite close to the biggest brick-clay pit behind the Ringshall Cottages. Their trunks are 10 to 15 cm diameter and they are 8 to 10 metres tall. Mike McCarthy was Shaun McCarthy's father.

11. Jim Wiggins's trees

Like Ray Light, Jim was an estate forester who planted two trees to mark his retirement, also Tulip Trees in standard guards. They are just opposite the cottage where he and his wife Doris lived. They are both about 10cm trunk diameter at present. One is tall and straight, 9 or 10 metres tall, the other more bushy and 5 or 6 metres tall.

As usual, John Wilson was full of memories as we walked round. He pointed out a dell of young Ash trees springing up where some shots of a film starring David Niven had been made. (This is off the edge of my map, to the left.) The name of the film may have been "Thirteen", or perhaps "The Devil's Arrow". The pond shown on the map had been completely filled up with mud and debris when John decided to dig it out in the 1960s, a task which he undertook on his own on Wednesday afternoons. On one such afternoon he saw an osprey nearby. One oak marked on my map is not a memorial. It was judged by John to be the best in Ashridge. It is a fine piece of timber, very tall, straight, clean-trunked and stout. It stands on the edge of an old pit around which are several very fine Scots Pines also. The archaeological site, also shown on the map, came to light when a tree fell down, bringing up its root plate and leaving a hole. Angus Wainwright excavated the site and found the remains of a blacksmith's workshop and Romano-British pottery.


by Stephanie Royal

As I delivered parish magazines on Sunday morning, I glanced at the village notice board and my eye was drawn to the poster advertising a walk that very day. "Don't wear your posh frocks .... search for the lost rookery." I vaguely recalled a walk being advertised in an earlier edition of the Parish News and, intrigued by the wording and encouraged by the beautiful weather, I determined to join the walk.

I went to the village hall that afternoon to meet up with John Leonhardt and the other walkers. Considering the unseasonably warm and sunny day, I thought there would be a good turnout, but villagers must have decided to stay at home and garden as only John, three ladies from Potten End W I (dressed appropriately with rucksacks and walking boots instead of handbags and gladrags) and I actually turned up.

Undeterred, we set off across the fields, enjoying the fresh air and listening to John's interesting and immense knowledge of the local area. En route we spotted a buzzard and met up with Richard Bagshawe and his dog, Jester, close to Hudnall Common. We made our way to the Common where Richard showed us where he had found examples of microliths - flint tools from the Mesolithic period. He also showed us examples of the local pudding stone, which took on a new light as we discovered that it was in fact a jasper and white quartz conglomerate and considered to be a semi-precious stone.

Rambling deeper and deeper into the woods, we spotted deer, rabbits, a squirrel, various birds, butterflies and bees. Coming close to the end of Hudnall Lane, but still in the woods, we found the skeleton of a deer and a huge, old oak tree whose girth John measured, guessing its age to be about 300 years. Deeper still into the wood we found a beautiful patch of primroses and then , a little further on, we found the rookery. In close proximity we found six oak trees containing approximately 35 nests. Rooks were everywhere and their calls were a sure sign that they were watching us just as closely as we were watching them.

Continuing our walk in a circular route, Indiana John had to use his trusty secateurs to cut away some of the brambles and undergrowth to enable us to follow the footpath. It was a spectacular day, far more than some exercise and fresh air. It was a nature ramble, an archaeological experience and a way to learn about local history in the company of friendly people.

At Hudnall Common we said our goodbyes to Richard and headed towards the Church. John gave the Potten End ladies a tour of the Church while I headed off home. I was tired but very happy that I had made the effort to join the walk and had enjoyed such a lovely afternoon.

Has anyone else in the village got something special to show or say about the local area? I know our friends from Potten End can't wait to come along to the next event, so why not contact John (843550) to arrange that talk/walk


John Leonhardt has arranged an 'Autumn Seeds and Berries' walk on SUNDAY 19 OCTOBER meeting at Ivinghoe Hills 'parking area' (first after cattle grid on BEACON ROAD - Grid Ref: SP 964155. See you there - dogs are welcome.


As ever, a plea for prompt payment of subscriptions - at least two pounds per person (cheques are quite acceptable!!!) to Lyn Hyde at 22 Little Gaddesden (or your nearest committee member). If you are not yet a member and would like to join please do the same.

Very many thanks.

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Our major project over the last few months, magnificently organised by our team, has been to endeavour to establish a right of way across the middle of what is known as Eddie’s Field in Ringshall. This has necessitated obtaining depositions from as many walkers as possible who have used the ‘path’ for more than 20 years and I am very happy to report that all the necessary paperwork has now been completed and the matter is in the hands of the County Council. It will, however, take up to two years for a decision to be made but a big ‘thank you’ to the team for its perseverance.

We have continued to monitor planning applications and have written to object to several recently. We were, however, dismayed to find that the District Council were not bold enough to sanction a splendid modern building on the Nettleden Road. We hope that the higher authority to which the plans have been referred will be more courageous, but don’t hold your breath!

The Millennium Book continues to sell, albeit rather slowly. John Leonhardt and Peter Grainger gave a fascinating talk to the Berkhamsted Citizens’ Society last November on ‘How we made the Book’ at which we managed to sell many copies. If you have a new neighbour could you please let us know so that we can let them know about the book.

Although Eve Ouseley was not a member of our committee, she was a member and staunch supporter of the Society and contributed several articles to our Newsletters. She will be sadly missed by us all. The photograph below is of members of the Parish Council, local children and Eve taken some years ago at the opening of the new playground equipment at the Cromer Close playing field. There is a prize for naming all the people in the photograph! e-mail


The AGM of the Rural Heritage Society will be held in the Village Hall on Tuesday 22 June, starting at 8.15 pm. As we have not yet confirmed our speaker, please watch the Notice Boards for further details. We will be making an interesting announcement at the meeting and we will have the usual wine and nibbles after the speaker, so do please come.


We think we know where seeds come from: ultimately, flowers. We probably know what flowers are for: to make seeds. That at least makes sense from the plant's point of view, though we may have other functions in mind. Between the flower and the seed, however, is often a mystery which we have not considered. The transition may be obvious in a garden pea or a tomato, but what is going on in a stinging nettle or a harebell?

October is a month when many wild plants from trees to grassland herbs are still in possession of their seeds. Our aim was simply to see how many different kinds we could find on a short circular walk around the Ivinghoe Hills. Starting from the parking area by the cattle grid on the road approaching Ivinghoe Beacon, we went south along the Clipper Down track for a while, then bore right and descended, heading back north to the rim of Incombe Hole, then up around the rim until we turned right again and headed south to our starting point, the total distance being scarcely a mile and a half. This took us through some woodland, some scrub, and both chalk and clay grassland.

The easiest seed-bearers to spot are the berries, especially the red ones. Seeing them was not enough, though. We wanted to find out what was inside. Most of us had not looked with curiosity before at the contents of a red Woody Nightshade berry, even less at the black Deadly Nightshade. The former contains about 20 flattish white seeds in a juice which smells of cooked chicken. The latter contains a similar number of rounded seeds, but we could not detect a smell. To crush these very poisonous berries we placed one of each kind in a separate small polythene bag and squashed the bags. These nightshades are among the most attractive berries to find, being brilliant scarlet in the Woody and a very fat succulent glossy black sitting in a 5-lobed calyx in the Deadly Nightshade, which is much less common.

Other poisonous berries were the climbing White and Black Bryonies. Although unrelated, they both leave strings of red berries trailing through the bushes they have climbed on, but the flowers from which they form are, in their season, small, greenish-white and inconspicuous. The berries of the Black Bryony are slightly larger and glossier red, and both kinds contain only a few seeds. The only thing black about the Black Bryony is the colour of the tuber, which I have not seen. It climbs by spiral growth, whereas the White Bryony has tendrils.

Other black berries which contained seeds were the Wild Privet, Purging Buckthorn, Elder (3 seeds in each berry - you'll know them if you've strained elderberry juice to make wine) and Blackberries themselves. The last were by now shrivelled. Red berries found were the hips of Dog Rose and Field Rose (filled with hard furry seeds known as itching powder), the haws of Hawthorn (with stones in them), and Holly. There were also blue sloes on the Blackthorn bushes, orange berries on the Whitebeam trees and there was a solitary small Wayfaring Tree on which the red berries had nearly all turned black and dry.

Now for the seeds that are not found in berries: Well, we didn't find any acorns (too late) or beech mast. There were plenty of Ash keys and a few Sycamore keys. If you split either of these open you find one seed in each key. The Ash seed is long, narrow and brown, and nearly half the length of the key. Another plant with one-seeded fruit is the herb Agrimony. The fruits are the same size and shape as air-gun pellets, with a crown of little hooked bristles

Quite conspicuous were those seed heads which develop fluffy down or parachutes, but not all of them were well-endowed with seeds. A lot of common Creeping Thistle-down seemed to have no seeds in it but there were occasionally a few. It was hard to find seeds in the beautiful golden heads of Carline Thistle, too. Spear Thistle and Corn Sow-thistle did better. Flocks of Goldfinches work their way over thistle and knapweed colonies picking the seeds out, leaving much of the chaff and down behind. Hawkbit parachutes (like miniature dandelions) had seeds. Dandelions themselves were not in seed. The high-climbing Old Man's Beard (Traveller's Joy) had plenty of seeds on the wisps that were low enough to reach.

Dry seeds exposed in a cluster, but without fluff, include the umbels of the parsley family. (To be correct botanically I should really distinguish between a seed and the fruit that contains it. If you have a single seed in a thin dry fruit, it is the fruit you are looking at because the seed is further inside. However, I am calling them seeds because that is how they are commonly perceived.) From the parsley family we found seeds of Hedge Parsley, Wild Carrot and Hogweed. Seed-heads of other patterns, not in capsules, were Nipplewort (only very few late specimens left as most shed their seeds very freely earlier), Her Bennet (with hooks on), Black Knapweed (often very few small light grey hard seeds, or one or none, hard to dig out from a mass of chaffy material), and Yarrow (smaller seeds than Knapweed and also fiddly to separate). Hedge Woundwort had little 4-seeded cups in clusters close to the stem. Wild Basil should have had the same. The dried plants were there but the seeds had all gone.

In some plants there is nothing left of the flowers at this season but the thin thready material that was once their branching stalks. Stinging Nettle and Lady's Bedstraw are like this. Even when in flower there is nothing much to see on the Nettle. Little greeny blobs and dots are the flowers; but those of the Bedstraw are bright yellow in the summer. In October you may recognise these from the dried-up remnants of the rest of the plant, and you then gather some of the thready stuff into the palm of your hand and rub it, everything gradually crumbles away but the seeds. These are small black or grey dots, but nevertheless quite firm and do not flatten. Goosegrass is one of the bedstraws, but the seeds are much larger and more obvious. You don't have to look for them: they will find you. The spherical fruit, like the leaves and the stems, are covered in minute hooks, so effective in hanging on that they feel sticky, and they instantly leave the parent plant when caught. Other plants that need rubbing are the docks. Little rusty-coloured objects, with one to three blisters on, cover the tall branched inflorescences. In the Curled Dock these are about a millimetre long and each one tightly encloses a seed. In the Broad-leaved Dock they are a bit larger and looser. In either case you can rub out little seeds like 3-sided nuts, shiny brown.

It is generally not easy to tell whether a dried grass head still has seeds in it, and they are harder to identify when they start breaking up, so we decided to ignore grasses on this trip.

Lastly there are the seeds enclosed in capsules. Foxglove would have been a good example, but we only found the leaves - too late for the seeds. There was some Wild Mignonette with oblong capsules about 8 or 9 millimetres long containing little jet black seeds. St John's Wort had slightly smaller capsules and much smaller brown seeds. Toadflax had miniature snapdragon capsules but with larger seeds.

So it seems we found 40 different kinds of seeds if you tot all these up, and I am sure there were one or two more which I forgot to write down.

John Leonhardt

4. Gerald has gone to the what's new ??

Readers of this newsletter may remember reading about my totally unsuccessful attempt to work a heavy horse at the Working Horse Trust's farm near Tunbridge Wells. The horse I was allocated was awkward in the extreme but at the most welcome end of the session the excuse was offered that she was 'in season'. Her behaviour a few weeks later at a ploughing match at Dagnall, when she reared up taking her diminutive handler, who was holding the bridle, up with her convinced me that she was one cantankerous horse. So how was a novice expected to cope, for Heaven's sake?

The Sheepdog Experience was different again. I first read about this in the Daily Telegraph's Weekend supplement in the December before last, was attracted to it and, despite my bad experience of heavy horses, put it on my Christmas list...and it came up,thanks to Rita. The Experience consisted of a day at Barbara Sykes' farm at Bingley, W.Yorkshire, working sheep with border collies. No, nothing approaching 'One man and his Dog' - far too advanced. From the start it was recognised that a novice is, by definition, totally inexperienced at working with sheep dogs.

So this year we took a cottage near Pateley Bridge and on the Thursday I set off for Bingley and arrived at Golcar Farm in good time after a drive across the moors in glorious sunshine.

First my fellow novice and I were briefed on what the day held in store - the need for balance (see later), the dogs' reaction to the handler's body language.....Eh?...quite...again, see later. The briefing ended with the commands:- 'Away' (go to the right), 'Come by' (go to the left) - I think I've got those the right way round - I didn't always on the day, to my embarrassment. Two other commands:- 'Lie down' - what it says; it puts a brake on the sheep and they stop. And 'Walk on'(back to before 'Lie Down') and 'That'll do' (O.K., stand down - smoke 'em if you've got 'em, etc). Barbara has 18 collies variously rescued and rehabilitated with generous application of TLC. We were due to work with six of them - but not all at once!

And so we started. The first exercise was about achieving balance. What this meant was that the handler, the centre of the flock and the dog must be kept in a straight line. The handler, half a dozen sheep and the dog were confined in a circle about 30 feet across. The handler was on one side of the flock and the dog on the other. We practised 'Away' and 'Come by'. At each command the dog moved around the outside of the circle in the right direction and so did I - sometimes - to maintain balance.

At one point, this body language thing came into play. The dog started moving round without any command. I tried to correct it, which was tricky as I had to allow for the fact that the handler's right was the dog's left and use the unfamiliar 'Come by' and 'Away'. The result wasn't disastrous - the dog continued as it had started and I accused it of not knowing its right from its left. Well, what else could I do ? I was told the dog's behaviour was its response to my body language - unbeknown to me I had swayed sideways a bit...and off the dog had gone.

We repeated this exercise with another dog and it was during this that the dog got a bit exasperated and 'gripped' one of the sheep by a hind-leg. (The difference between 'grip' and 'nip' is that with 'grip' the dog grips the sheep between its jaws but doesn't hurt it - just lets it know who's boss. 'Nip' is what it says - it hurts the sheep but not much but the dog has committed a near-hanging offence. I think I've got that right - there was so much to learn that some things got muddled.

At the time this happened I did not know the difference between 'grip' and 'nip' and it looked pretty serious to me. I was incandescent but managed to keep control.....just. I called the dog over and, between gritted teeth, I grated "Don't even THINK ......." etc. and in doing so I'm afraid I strayed from the instructed path.

In the next exercise the handler learnt to use the 'Lie down' and 'Walk on' commands. He walked backwards, the sheep came towards him courtesy of the dog who applied a bit of pressure at the rear. To prevent the sheep over-running the handler, he waved a horse-whip in an arc to the left and then to the right and so on. To stop the sheep one used the command 'Lie down' - and the sheep stops as I explained earlier.

The responses by the dogs to 'Lie down' showed what different characters they were. The first one obeyed instantly to the command expressed at almost a quiet conversational level. The other dog....we repeated the exercise with two....took a great deal of urging. It would only respond to a bellowed 'LIE DOWN, ......NOW !!!!!!

At one point, when Barbara went for the next dog, she brought back Pip as well. He was blind but still keen to work sheep. It seems that when brought out to the field, he is raring to go.. "Where's the b@!!%y sheep ?" ....and relies on nose, ears and commands. Today, though, he knew he was off duty and was confined to the barn with a hurdle. He wandered around in there disconsolately. I could have brought him home...but that would have been cruel. Similarly with Skye....but I'll tell you about her later.

After lunch we had the grand finale. This consisted of executing a slalom through a line of traffic cones .....walking backwards. (Maybe we might try this at the next RHS AGM). Again we used a whip to avoid getting over-run by sheep if the dog became a bit over-enthusiastic. 'Lie Down' was the defence. It was during this exercise that Skye showed her mettle. She had been introduced to us as the trouble-shooter of pack. She sat quietly watching my fellow novice doing his stuff when things went a bit awry. He went one way, the sheep went another and, in the absence of commands, the dog was non-plussed. Skye could see what was wrong, looked round at Barbara who said "OK, Skye" and she was away like a rocket. In less than twenty seconds she had sorted out sheep, dog and novice and had them all back on course. Then she resumed her place, lay down .....and yawned.

That brought the Experience to an end. The final placings were:- dogs first, sheep second and inexperienced humans a bad third. So what? It was a really enthralling day and writing this has brought all the pleasure of it back again. What a Christmas present! Would I do it again? You bet - when do we go ?

Gerald Humphreys

5. Memories of Little Gaddesden - from Sam Ryall

The view from my kitchen window is very different to the one I remember at the house I grew up in Cromer Close. For a start there's no red-tiled window sill covered in potted plants, no condensation streaming down the small single-pane glass and no Ford Cortina parked outside the front garden. Instead, my second floor flat in Cardiff overlooks a busy road. There's no front garden and no Cortina, but there is a hotel across the road with a big blue neon sign that says 'HOTEL'. I really don't think it could be more different to Cromer Close - unless I lived in a desert or something.

I live in an expanding city where over-priced apartment blocks emerge from the ground like worms after heavy rain - which takes me back to Little Gaddesden. For people of my age, they might remember Muriel Bishop at the village school telling a story about a boy who ate worms. That afternoon, after hearing the story, I tried a couple in my front garden. I couldn't bear the thought of chewing the first one, so I pulled it in half and swallowed it down in two gulps. It didn't taste of worm as I remember, just a bit muddy. I ate the second more slowly, to make the experience ‘official’. When I told my friends at school the next day I was mocked for being a liar. I'm sure Mrs Bishop would recall the story - not my worm-eating.

This memory and many others were re-awakened when I recently came across the Rural Heritage Society website on the internet. I was impressed that people in Little Gaddesden still cared enough to want to conserve their village. For those of us who don't live there anymore, but wish to visit from time to time, it's reassuring to know that it'll be the same place when we return. Now I always read the newsletter and imagine trudging one of the guided walks that appear on the diary page. Vicariously, I read the notes from some of them, putting myself in the mind of the author, remembering the sights and sounds of Monument Drive or the Golden Valley.