Good Friday History Walk, 2016
Article by Trevor Baker in Journal 44, Spring/Summer 2016, page 18:
I run a health walking group in Abbots Langley. I’ve told you this before, and you may recall the article that I wrote for Journal 42 (page 8) entitled ‘A Walk Back in Time’ in which I described our New Year’s Day walk in 2015 through the streets and countryside around our village.
The Hertfordshire Health Walks are organised by the Countryside Management Service in County Hall and I sent a copy of the article to the co-ordinator, Isabel Crosier, and thought nothing more about it. At one of our regular leaders meetings, she took me to one side and asked me if I would be willing to lead another history walk in Abbots Langley as part of their Walks & More programme. This is a regular programme of activities aimed at inspiring people to explore the Hertfordshire Countryside. Naturally I said yes.
Then in September last year she contacted me and asked for a date in 2016 that I would be prepared to lead the walk. I had not given the matter much thought, so when she suggested Good Friday 25th March at 2:00pm, I said yes.
Three months passed during which a brief description of the walk appeared on the Walks & More website together with a date and time, although at that stage I had not fully considered where we would go and what history we would see. I think it was in January that I had a sudden realisation of the potential magnitude of the event. You see, I had agreed to Good Friday! Suppose the weather was nice? What if more people than usual turned up?
Shaken out of my complacency I started to plan. Before long I had a route mapped out and then I started to prepare a history fact sheet of all the landmarks we would pass in St Lawrence Churchyard and the Leavesden Hospital sites in the Country Park. Next I asked Isabel about the number of people to expect. The average number of walkers on these events is about 20, but she speculated that the Easter Holiday slot and the indications of interest so far expressed might suggest that 50 or 60 people would come. I could not handle that on my own, so I recruited Delva O’Regan and Geoffrey Flanders as guides so that we would be able to lead three separate groups.
It was then that things started to go viral. Details of the Good Friday History Walk appeared on all the notice boards in the Parish and in Three Rivers, it began to attract publicity in the press and it was featured in Abbots Langley Matters. I began to appreciate how big it had become when people stopped me in the street to talk about it. Not only that, but I began to receive emails from complete strangers asking about the walk. I speculated that on a good day up to 100 people could come. But I felt that Delva, Geoff and I were well prepared, and by that time I had also recruited the services of Lesley Brooks and Derek Sayell as additional guides.
Good Friday dawned warm and bright. I undertook a last minute reconnoitre of the route in sunshine and shirtsleeves. It was obvious that we were going to get a very large crowd that afternoon.
The guides and the back-up leaders duly arrived in the Causeway Car Park at 1:30pm and we waited for the public to arrive. Someone volunteered to stand in the High Street to guide strangers into the car park. He told me later that it was like the Hertfordshire County Show with cars queuing in both directions and droves of local people walking to the event from every street corner. By 2:00pm we had recorded 183 people before we were overwhelmed and were forced to abandon the register. The multitude was split into three groups of between 60 and 70 people; over 200 in total. Could we cope? Yes we could, and the separate groups set off in different directions to explore the history of Abbots Langley.
I can describe another time the route we took and the history we presented. Suffice to say, the appreciative audiences were captivated by the rich tapestry of life in the village from Saxon England to the present day. Delva even managed to take her group back in time to the Stone Age! The participants came from far and wide, some of them visiting the village for the first time. Abbots Langley Local History Society had been well and truly put on the map.
At 4:15pm, exhausted but elated, the guides and back-up leaders retired to the Royal Oak for refreshments, and several from each walking cohort joined us. We all talked about our experiences in the different groups, the people we had met on the way and titbits we had learned from others. It had been a wonderful experience. What a good Friday.