A peaceful history in Puckeridge

PUBLISHED: 17:13 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:34 20 February 2013

The White Hart pub

The White Hart pub

The village of Puckeridge hides a rich history and a real sense of community, as Jessica Clark discovers

ONCE a bustling inn stop boasting around eight pubs and a prime position on the route to Cambridge, the pretty retreat of Puckeridge instead now thrives with community spirit. The largest village in the parish of Standon, Puckeridge sits between the A10 on its left and the River Rib along its right, surrounded by rolling hills and fields. It's more than a stone's throw to the nearest town, six miles from Ware to the south and 11 miles from Stevenage to the west, but that is a small price to pay for the privilege of waking up to picturesque countryside each morning.

Richard Stacey, 37, has lived his whole life in the village, now residing at Lunardi Court, Puckeridge. His passion to be so involved in the village has spread from helping run the former annual firework event and the local Scout group to being chairman of the Parish Council. The main attraction that has kept him from ever leaving is the natural beauty of the area.

He says, 'Why would I ever want to leave? You have everything you need here, I wake up and it's peaceful with lovely views, how many people can say that?
'We've got fantastic local shops and pubs and we're still not far from the nearby towns and London. There have been changes but we've dealt with them pretty well.
'I love the village and want to be involved in what goes on. It's well balanced; we've got a skate park, various clubs, societies and sporting opportunities as well as scenic walking routes, so can cater for young and old. It's just a great place and I'd never be tempted to leave.'

Behind the quiet village is a colourful history which dates as far back as 300BC when Celts from northern Europe first settled in the area. They built the trade roads from Puckeridge to St Albans, to Colchester and to Baldock but the town was later occupied by the Romans, and then Saxons who gave the village its name 'Devil's Hill'.
Tony Harris, 80, a retired chartered civil engineer, moved to the village around 31 years ago with his wife. He admits that after some brief research into the village's history he soon realised how interesting it was, and even wrote a paper on it for the Amenities Society. He explains, 'Puckeridge can boast a fascinating history. 'It was always an attractive site, nestling in the valley of the Rib, protected from extremes of weather, well watered and very fertile. 'For the last 1,000 years Puckeridge has made its money from wheat and barley. The linear village street - marking the old main road to Cambridge - was the trunk road for the grain wagons trundling to London.
'The village was a long line of inns, it was the focus of the village and how people made their money, which is
one of the reasons we don't have many central landmarks. 'Luckily, we still have two very old 'hostelries' from those days; the Crown and Falcon and the White Hart, still welcoming travellers with good food and the best local ales.'

The village's Roman heritage is still partly undiscovered, with parts of the old town underneath the new housing. Though a major excavation was carried out when the M10 was built, pupils at St Thomas Of Canterbury Primary School still carry out small archaeological digs and discover about the past of Puckeridge. A claim to fame for the village that most residents boast of is that it is mentioned twice in the famous Diary of Samuel Pepys, the MP whose fascinating insight into the 17th century was published in the 19th century. He noted that he stayed in the village in both 1661 and 1662, taking a rest stop in The Crown and Falcon where he undoubtedly took the chance to update his records.

But although the village keeps a grip on its past, the present and the future is still embraced by Puckeridge. To keep up with the busy lifestyles of villagers, many of whom commute to London each day for work, one lady in Puckeridge took on technology and launched a village website.

Gloria Ganz, who moved to the village around 15 years ago, designed it with the help of her son after she became housebound and began to lose touch with village happenings. She says the site soon received a positive reaction and is now a popular lifeline for the village, helping residents stay in touch with local news and information. She says, 'Just a quick walk along the High Street shows you how friendly and warm people are here.
'I wanted to make sure I would still be part of the community spirit, I couldn't miss out on that.'

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