Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Juneathon 2011 Day 21: Quoting Cobbett

2011 Streak Day 172/365:  Walk - 3.1 miles, Time - 1hr, Weather - same as last couple of weeks, changeable
Not wishing to be out Cobbetted by Tom I thought I ought to set down what was said in Rural Rides about my area
Of Hemel Hempstead itself he says:
"Hempstead is a very pretty town, with beautiful environs, and there is a canal that comes near to it, and that goes onto London. It lies at the foot of a hill. It is clean, substantially built, and a very pretty place altogether."
Nobody would use those words now to describe the New Town. With over 82,000 people it is not as small as all that (it is the second largest town in Hertfordshire) and the quality of the building of the New Town is neither substantial nor pretty. However the Old High Street remains intact and as you can see from the photo it is quite picturesque. Pevsner even described it as one of the most attractive in Herts.
However the paragraphs of Rural Rides that described the land between Redbourne and Hemel are also interesting. Cobbett was much taken with its attractiveness, especially the trees.  "Very fine oaks, ashes, and beeches … make the fields look most beautiful. No villainous things of the fir-tribe offend the eye here."
He also described a local system of agriculture that left a border of grass around a ploughed field to bear grass for hay making so that "every field has a closely mown grass walk about ten feet wide all around it, between corn and the hedge. This is most beautiful!. " 
"And thus you go from field to field (on foot or on horseback), the sort of corn, the sort of underwood or timber, the shape and size of the fields, the height of the hedge-rows, the height of the trees, all continually varying. Talk of pleasure-grounds indeed! What, that man ever invented,under the name of pleasure-grounds, can equal these fields in Hertfordshire?"
Now that particular system of field management might be long gone but we still have the trees, irregular fields and the hedge rows. It is still pretty and it is the pleasure ground I explore.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

'Villainous things of the fir-tribe'....good job Cobbett never lived to see the introduction of leylandii