Reasons to love Datchworth, Bramfield and Woolmer Green
PUBLISHED: 09:10 19 September 2016 | UPDATED: 09:11 19 September 2016
The neighbouring villages of Datchworth, Bramfield and Woolmer Green between Stevenage and Welwyn GC have much to offer the day tripper
Datchworth, Hertfordshire’s first Fairtrade village, lies between Knebworth and Watton-at-Stone. Villager Sara Miller says, ‘It’s a fairly small but very friendly village with a surprising amount of clubs and activities. People get to know each other through the school, the church or one of the sports clubs and it makes for a strong community.’
Brothers Jamie and Tom Bainbridge bought The Tilbury in Watton Road in 2014 after Jamie left his role as front of house at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck. They incorporate carefully thought out service and stylish decor with an experimental a la carte menu as well as traditional pub grub. Self-taught head chef Tom’s recent specials have included barbecued herring with apple and horseradish custard. He said, ‘It’s very satisfying that people are seeing what I’m doing with food and what we’re doing customer service. When you speak to people and they’re having a great night and enjoying good food and good wine, it’s a very rewarding job.’
The brothers also run the Old Post Office Tea Rooms across the road from the Tilbury. ‘It’s a good English tea rooms where you can get a decent breakfast with homemade baked beans, lunches and afternoon teas with homemade cakes and pastries,’ Tom said.
Opened by Sarah Crump in 2013, We R Cakes vintage tea rooms offers tea and cakes in a charming setting, sharing a barn with Mardleybury Art Gallery. Sarah makes wedding and birthday cakes to order, and offers full afternoon teas with 48 hours notice, these include a selection of rolls and sandwiches, scones, cakes and chocolate strawberries. Bookings for private functions are available too. ‘I get a lot of local people come in, and get a really lovely response,’ she said.
Datchworth Museum, based in an old blacksmith’s forge last used in 1953, has a wide range of exhibits, from skeletons and fossils to household appliances and photos. The museum is open on the afternoons of third Sunday of each month until November.
Other historic sites are the Whipping Post on Datchworth Green, which carries the messgage, ‘This whipping post was last known to be used on July 27, 1665, when two vagabonds were publicly flogged here,’ and All Saints, a 12th century church with a unique spire that can be seen from miles away.
Today, a different type of whipping can sometimes be seen in the summer on Datchworth Green - for those quintessentially English afternoons, this is a lovely spot for an afternoon of cricket.
A short drive south from Datchworth is Bramfield where the church of St Andrews has been at the heart of the village since the 11th century. Church warden and Bramfield resident, Dorothy Abel Smith said, ‘It’s a delightful church that stands in a beautiful place and forms part of the long history of the village. We have to work hard to maintain it, but we do get lots of support from villagers.’
According to records at St Albans Abbey Thomas Becket was the first recorded rector of St Andrew’s in around 1142 before his rise under Henry II to Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. After his murder on the orders of Henry in 1170 over the primacy of the chuch over state, the church, and particularly its Saxon well, became a place of pilgrimage where travellers went to be healed by the holy powers of the saint. A pond in the village, known as Becket’s Pool, is said to be have been used by Becket and his monks to brew beer. Other historians dispute that Becket was ever in the village - putting him in France at this time and then London. It’s possible he had the title and a deputy undertook his role.
Bramfield farmer and diarist John Carrington’s memoir of his life from 1798 to 1810 was published by the Hertfordshire Record Society in 2015. He recorded using Becket’s Pool to make harvest ale as late as 1800.
The attractive Grandison Pub in Bury Lane, was bought and renovated by Aaron Clayton in 2009 after a seven-year closure. Aaron said, ‘Because of the nice location, we wanted a premium pub so we completely refurbished the place. Our chefs cook quality fresh food from scratch. We also have a fantastic outside area.’
Walter Clibbon, a notorious pie-maker-cum-highwayman, was shot by a local farmer Ben Whittenbury, after Clibbon targeted him. His burial site is marked by Clibbon’s Post on Bramfield Road between Bramfield and Datchworth. Cibbon’s body was taken overnight to The Horns pub in the hamlet of Bulls Green near Datchworth. He is said to haunt the ancient building.
Woolmer Green was established along the Old Great North Road - now the B197 - the main route between London and the north. The village is worth visiting for its two former coaching inns.
The Chequers is a family-run pub owned Marian Darter and husband Nick, with son Ben Francis, as head chef. An unsual attraction here is the large garden with a mini-zoo. This features chipmunks, owls, meerkats, goats chickens and rabbits. A stonesthrow along the road is one of the oldest buildings in the village, The Red Lion, which was refurbished this year.
In 2012, part of the village hall grounds was declared a Queen Elizabeth II Field in Trust and the Woolmer Green Community Orchard and Wild Flower Meadow was established. It’s been maintained by resident and parish councillor Jenny Hawkins since 2013. She also looks after the many planters in the village. She said, ‘People are amazed at the different wild flowers Britain has. We have 239 different flowers - a whole field of them.’ Flowers include yellow rattle, goat’s beard and wild pansy. ‘Our little village is small but it has lots of wildlife. It’s a friendly village and we like to do this for the people who live here.’
One of Woolmer Green’s most notable former residents was Harry MacDonald, a woodcarver who, in the 1930s, made carvings at the front and on the side of his cottage to drum up business and carved an entire model village in the grounds of his barn. It was a landmark until it was demolished following his death in the 1970s.
The three villages have plenty of pathways and walking routes for those wanting to get out and explore. David Kay, founder of Herts Weekend Walkers, said, ‘It’s a very good area to walk in. From Woolmer Green to Datchworth, and on to Bramfield there are paths all over the place - you could go out every day of the week and take a totally different route and never repeat yourself.
‘Getting out is great for mental and physical health, and, there are some lovely views there and lots of interesting features to discover.’