The latest leg of our walking group’s ramble along the Lea Valley saw us in Hertford, not far from the Lea’s source. Here it is joined by three other rivers – the Rib, the Beane and the Mimram, which have all contributed to the town’s prosperity. Hertford has a long history, so there was a lot to see.
Today, they contain offices and sheltered housing, but two painted statues of boys in traditional uniform still decorate the gates.
Today, the park is a green and peaceful oasis. The Lea flows through it, while geese and ducks waddle along its banks in hope of scraps from picnickers.
Much of the town’s prosperity came from the river. Hertfordshire was a major corn-producing area, and a mill beside the Lea was recorded in the Domesday book. The brewery industry still flourishes there: we could smell the yeast well before we crossed the Mill Bridge and reached McMullen’s brewery, a family business founded there in 1827.
Then it was time to return to the station, happily just around the corner. We didn’t quite make it to the Mimram, the Beane, or the Rib, but perhaps that’s for another day.
An interesting historic fact that I didn't discover until later:
This peaceful little town saw the trial of the last person to be condemned to death for witchcraft in England. In 1712 Jane Wenham, who had a reputation of being a 'wise woman', complained to a local magistrate that a farmer had called her a witch. She was offered a shilling as compensation, but wasn’t content with this, and when a servant of a local clergyman who had acted as mediator fell ill, the servant blamed her and said she’d seen cats with Jane’s face – a claim supported by other villagers. Eventually Jane was brought to trial, and although the judge ridiculed the idea of witchcraft, the jury found her guilty. The judge had by law to pronounce a death sentence, but later was able to use his influence to get her a royal pardon. It wasn't until 1736 that the laws against witchcraft were repealed.