Peter Rabbit, Wildhill, Hertfordshire
This is a visit to Hertfordshire and the countryside that inspired Beatrix Potter to write some of her beloved children’s books, including Peter Rabbit. Every summer, as a child, Potter came to stay with her grandparents at Camfield Place, a house that her grandfather built in 1867. It probably had a vegetable garden just like Mr McGregor’s. We are looking round the nearby woods and fields for rabbits and their burrows. See if you can find one in the sandy soil under some tree roots just like the one Peter and his sisters lived in. We are also foraging for edible wild plants to eat just as Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter would have done. The sorts of things we hope to find are: dandelions to put into salad, stinging nettles to make soup, elderflowers to make cordial, and wild rose petals for jam making. As there are plenty of blackberry bushes, if you visit in the autumn it should be possible to have blackberries and milk for your tea just like Peter Rabbit’s siblings unless like poor old Peter you have a tummy ache and have to be sent to bed with some camomile tea. If you’ve got sharp eyes you might also see lots of animal tracks, and some wild animals: we saw a deer, rabbits and lots of hedgerow and game birds. Another thing to think about whilst you are here is conservation as Beatrix Potter, as well as being a great storyteller and illustrator, was an early campaigner for conservation. She donated some of her earnings to the fledgling National Trust. So think carefully about the environment as you walk around. Don’t pick anything you shouldn’t and don’t leave any litter.
Distance 8 km / 5 miles
Terrain Easy, well-managed paths, a short bit on tarmac lanes plus a rather rootbound wooded path. If you’ve got very little ones a walk to the brook and back would be enough.
Walk the Walk
START nr Woodside Lodge, Wildhill Road, Hertfordshire (OS Explorer Map 182 grid ref: 249 068)
1 Walk down the footpath that runs down the right-hand side of the house. This starts off as a well-defined gravel footpath – it looks slightly like private property but soon becomes a woodland path. At a split in the path keep left.
2 At the tarmac lane go straight and walk on 200 m / 220 yards.
3 After a bend in the road take a right signposted ‘public byway’ off the road into the woods. Follow this path, heading straight on.
4 Keep looking through the trees on your right over the fields until you can see Camfield Place, Beatrix Potter’s grandparents’ house, in the distance.
5 Just after you’ve been able to see the house there is a wooden kissing gate on the right. Turn right and follow the path around the field. In the autumn this is a great place to pick blackberries.
6 Cross a small bridge over Wildhill Brook and walk alongside the brook listening out for the sound of it babbling – you might have to stand completely still to hear it. Look out for the numerous animal burrows and build a fairy garden among the moss-covered riverbanks. This would be a good spot to have a picnic.When you arrive at the next bridge turn back and retrace your steps. Come out through the kissing gate back on to your original path.
7 Turn right and follow the track as it climbs slightly uphill. Keep going straight until you come to West End Farm and a tarmac lane. Veer left and continue. See if you can spot the Victoria Regina post box.
8 Just after the bend in the road you will come to the Candlestick pub. Stop here if you’re short of supplies (see below for details); if not turn left on the footpath just before the pub. Walk down the hill following the footpath as it drops back to join the main path. At the main path turn right and retrace your steps all the way back to the lane.
9 Turn left at the lane and walk down to the bend in the road, then take the footpath on the right signposted Green Street and Wildhill Road. This is the same path as before, and will take you all the way back to your car.