Date = 30th April 2018
Run Number = 1793
Venue = The White Hart Tap
Location = St Albans
Beer = Castle Rock Harvest Pale Ale; Salopian; APA
Hare/s = Mr X
Runners = 14
Virgins = 0
Visitors = 0
Newies = 0
Aprčs = 0
Hounds = 0
Total = 14
Membership = Holy Trails!
The weather forecast leading up to this evening was nothing more than a ‘portent of doom’ – it was going to be torrential Rain for all of the day, something that meant that the Hare decided that he would delay setting the Trail until the day itself in order to prevent it being washed away! He needn’t have worried as the dark clouds never materialized, it was just over cast with a slight chill in the air.
Arriving in the car park it was hard to believe that this was the last day of April, even my Lil’ joined the likes of Milf & No Eye Deer in wearing a woolly hat & donning a pair of gloves, a contrast to the Hare who was in shorts & a tatty old H4 sweatshirt, he was fairly warm having just been around the Trail before their arrival, the sweat patch on his back where his backpack had been belayed this fact.
After the RA had said that the Old GM wasn’t going to be here today, but the Old GM was now the new GM, while the New GM was the old GM, all of which confused the Pack as Fliptop called the Circle together, getting the R*n number correct in the process, something he claimed he probably wouldn’t do again in the future!
Mr X stepped up as the Hare, he said that the Trail was ‘As long as it is’ there would also be short cuts, a Held CHK & a few other things in between to look out for, so, as the Pack set off up Keyfield Place he added to those who remained that he forgot to mention ‘The Water Crossing’ in the Circle! [Oh well! – Ed]
Tent Packer & My Lil’ had already seen a part of the Trail as it ran through the passageway at the end of the dead-end of the road, running by the Beehive & then turning right down London Road. Passing the various shops to the next Crossing before the Farmer’s Boy Pub, once Wanktlers had led the Keenies of Milf, Lemming, Fliptop, Tent Packer & Mother beyond the Pub he marked a Short Cut for TBT OBE down Watson’s Walk.
The FRBs passed an old abandoned mattress on the pathway, which had ‘zzz’ written beside it. Mr X said that he was sure if Sparky had seen this he would have gone back to fetch it home, but he wasn’t! Wanktlers ran on by the Odyssey Cinema (Formerly the ODEON) & then just on the corner that the Great Northern Pub sits on, he would find a Bar CHK there. The Hare was pleased to see that the having been caught out, the Keenies were intent on searching over the road & not back to the set of steps leading down the passageway before the restored Cinema.
My Lil’, who was slightly behind the other Keenies got to see Wanktlers turning back from the Bar CHK, so using his local knowledge he took to the flight of steps, encouraged by the Hare & Kylie who were right behind him. Mr X explained to Kylie that the Odyssey Cinema was restored to its former glory by the people who own the Rex in Berkhamstead & restored that to its Art Deco beauty.
Opened in 1908 as the Alpha Picture Palace, Sparky would have paid two old pennies to get in to watch a film & if it was a Matinee you got to have a cup of tea as well. Later on it was destroyed by Fire & replaced by the Art Deco Building that is there today. Renamed the ODEON, it sadly closed in 1995 - the last film shown there was Waterworld before Rank, the then owners closed it to encourage the public to go to their new multiplex in Hemel Hempstead. The building became derelict for many years but was saved from redevelopment & now it’s rather plush inside. Mr X admitted the last film he saw there was Turner & Hooch but that’s another story.
Once down the steps the Trail turned left & then right to come out on to northern arm of the T-shaped dead-end of Paxton Road, the Pack were soon on their way up the trunk of the T as the old Victorian terraced backstreet rose up to meet Watson’s Walk. The Trail turned left on to Watson’s Walk to head southbound down to the CHK by the roundabout where the Old London Road runs from east to west.
TBT OBE had left the CHK he was supposed to wait at for the Keenies & was on his way down Cottonmill Lane, but My Lil’ knew of a footpath that runs off of this junction & he picked up the Trail on this. So, he called everyone else to join him, including TTB OBE who was now ‘On Trail’ he remained there while the rest of the Pack would run down the alleyway footpath to come out on to Riverside Road, there the Trail would almost double back by running up Riverside Road to Cottonmill Lane.
The Hare had marked the Trail around the corner & down Cottonmill Lane, by the time the FRBs had emerged out on to this, TBT OBE was no longer in sight as he had found the next CHK on the roadside & was On Trail heading away beside the river Ver to the east on to Sopwell Gardens, a green Space by the remains of the old Sopwell Priory. The Rest make their way down on the opposite side of the old St Albans Swimming Baths, now home to the local Sub-Aqua Club were Slug learnt to dive!
Wanktlers, Milf, My Lil’, Lemming were followed on by Mother & No Eye Deer along the riverside edge of the Green space to the next CHK, this was beside one of the ‘Dog Steps’ on the edge of the Ver, these small cleared areas allow dogs access to the river while preserving the banks of The Ver, which is one of only around 200 chalk streams in the world. The UK is home to around 85 per cent of these, which makes this habitat both nationally & internationally important.
A little further to the east on the riverside walk & the Pack were quickly on behind TBT OBE who was already down the railed-in Fenny Walkboards that had chicken wire to act as an anti-slip device. Unfortunately in TBT OBE’s excitement at running ahead of the rest & relieving his ‘FRB glory days’ when the world was filmed in Black & White, it meant that he would be first to the T at the end of the long snaking wooden structure.
This area used to be much more fun, when the Hash ran this area before the raised wooden platform between the Alder & Willow Trees, it was just a footpath through the ‘wet woodland’ by the Ver, it would have been far better if it was like that now & the Hash had to come back through the wetland, but it’s now a part of a nature reserve & the lottery funded structure helps to protect this.
The Keenies returned to find an arrow leading them off over toward the old ruins of the Priory to the south, though before reaching that they had to follow the Trail through the long arch of woven willows which form a snake like tunnels that the Pack, well not Lemming & Mother, had to crouch down to pass through this willow guard of honour before coming out on to the open green space & on behind Kylie, who had taken up a short cut from the last CHK to enter the ruins of Sir Richard Lee’s home, which he made from the ruins of the old Nunnery after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Monasteries. The house was again plundered for stone & masonry later on.
Having made their way through the stone & brick remains of the former Lee House the Pack crossed the green space to get over to Cottonmill Lane once again, a CHK was found on the end of the green ditch to prevent unauthorized access to the area. It didn’t take long for the likes of Wanktlers & Tent Packer to pick up the Trail over the roundabout junction to take to Prospect Road, on their way down this the loud scraping sound could be heard as cars travelling too fast would hit one of the many traffic calming devices, all put in to try & prevent this ‘Rat-Run’ from being used. It doesn’t work!
The route did have quirky bollards by the speed ramps, each had a light on the top which made these look like three foot high lighthouses. Out at the end of the rat-run as it joins the busy Holywell Hill road, some were slightly delayed getting over to the opposite western side, via the traffic island at the lights by the entrance to Westminster Lodge sports Centre.
The Keenies were held up long enough for TBT OBE & Kylie, who were not to be that far behind, to catch up as the Trail was finally found up Holywell Hill road where the Dust broke off of its northerly route to head out along the side of the Ver. Running westward through the green space toward Verulamium Park, home to the remains of old Roman Walls of the City of Verulamium, a Roman city sacked by Boudicca in 61 AD.
Just before the more gentle slope of the old earthen rampart to the old Roman City, an arrow directed the Hash over to the bank of the Ver, where the river leaves the ‘Fishpools’ of the Abbey, here the Pack had to use the stepping stones to get across to the opposite bank by the old mill.
While everyone else got across the stepping stones, the RA was impressed by this, Mr X who had already been over the one at an acute angle, the one that was lapped over with the river water & the loose one while setting the Trail, but having had a pint before setting off as Hare on the second time around, he just waded through the water.
Thankfully before getting his feet wet, the Hare had the sense to add a ‘TBT OBE’ with an arrow through the Bar CHK the rest had not reached, it was also at this point that Sludge caught up after his late start & he too was allowed to take the safer option.
Up on the edge of the old Monastic Fishpools, built to supply the monk’s with their Friday fish, a CHK was found. The Keenies all went wrong, leaving TBT OBE with Sludge to make their way around to the Fighting Cocks as the Hare marked the CHK in a style he learnt from Fliptop, by bending over then after mocking the way he was going to mark things, he would throw the dust backward between his legs toward the Ye Fighting Cocks.
Wanktlers was vocal as he bemoaned “I told you it would go that way!” on his return, while Milf was impressed with Ye Fighting Cocks, one of the Pubs which claim to being the oldest licensed Pub in the UK, see the Guinness Book of Records. A beautiful round wattle & daub lime washed building has some history behind it, it has links to the meeting of MP’s here that would lead up to the execution of Charles I. Mr X explained about the Friday 13th Stop here were some ‘Cock Fighting’ took place with Saddlesniffer & Bouncer doing battle wearing large pink inflatable penises!
TBT OBE was first to the next CHK, just a short way to a tree in the southwestern corner of the green space below St Alban’s Cathedral, he was advised to hang around while the rest made their way ‘On Trail’ to the opposite southeastern corner at the bottom of the green hillside. A CHK was found by the Oak tree, this had Wanktlers & My Lil’ searching with Lemming on the footpath that runs along the outside of the bottom edge of the local School grounds toward Holywell Hill, they would come back when Tent packer had found the Trail & called “On!” as he began heading northward up the hillside toward the Abbey.
Fliptop, who had broken off to search the bottom hedgerow - scaring the squirrels & the locals alike before taking advantage of his now good fortune to cut off the corner, the Hare did the same as he asked Mother, Milf & No Eye Deer to mark the CHK through toward the Cathedral.
Kylie & TBT OBE would meet the other from their Short Cut up the hillside, where the two Trails would meet on the way over to the western end of the Cathedral, here Mr X pointed out the Grotesque of The Most Reverend & Right Honorable Robert Runcie MC PC, the former bishop of St Albans & then Arch Bishop of Canterbury, up on the Cathedral roof. [A grotesque differs from a Gargoyle as no water pours through it. – Ed]
Robert Runcie is also buried on the northern side of the Cathedral grounds. He is unique in modern Archbishops, for as a Second Lieutenant in the 6th Scots Guards Tank Brigade he landed in Normandy as part of Operation Overlord in July 1944. He fought with the battalion throughout the entire North West Europe Campaign until Victory in Europe Day in May 1945. Towards the end of the war, he earned the Military Cross (MC) for two feats of bravery, in March 1945 he rescued one of his men from a crippled tank under heavy enemy fire. The next day took his own tank into an exceptionally exposed position in order to knock out three anti-tank guns. As a result, he differs from other modern Archbishops of Canterbury, in having killed fellow human beings. In May 1945, he was among the first British soldiers to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
The Held CHK was found on the stone footpath from the abbey ground, running above Romelands. Here the sweets were handed around, while Mr X explained about the burning of George Tankerfield, who was brought from Barnet to be burnt at the stake under the Rule of ‘Bloody Mary’ in the days when a series of Kings & Queens took turns in changing the Faith where Catholics & Protestants took turns in burning each other at the stake.
With the short cuts being used by TBT OBE, no one was that far behind & with the History tour over the Hare allowed the Pack to continue as they walked along the front of the row of cottages to turn on to George Street & head northwestward up the olde worlde shopping street, some of which is medieval. Having reached the level, the Pack were directed by a set of double arrows to pass through a small 1980’s shopping arcade, where there is a record shop, which for the kids out there is a place you can purchase 45’s & LP’s!
The Trail led down a set of steps in the northeastern corner of this small square, here a CHK was found, as well as the Hare sitting on the low wall of the flower bed next to the walled Vintry Garden, the gates to which were closed to prevent the Pack from exploring the ornate gardens the Trail passed through. Tent Packer was surprised that Vines could be grown back in the days when the Vintry was built, but the Romans did grow vines, a practice that was lost until Alfred the Great had bene the Danes & reintroduced the practice in the south of the Country to supply the Church.
Looking around many wondered how the new small shopping precinct could have been allowed to have been built, as it is best described as Prince Charles would call it – “A carbuncle!” compared to the ornate Northern Transept with its stain-glass window & the beauty of the Cathedral just a few yards away.
The RA also pointed out the old medieval cobbled passageway out by the ancient shops, another complete contrast to the ugly pile of bricks in which most of the shops are closed, including what was Radio Days Bar & Restaurant! Anyhow, the Pack ran around the tall red brick wall as it arcs around by the front of the Eastern end of the Cathedral to lead out on to Holywell Hill once more.
Once over the main route out toward Watford, the Trail passed through the coaching entrance to Ye White Hart, a splendid Black & White timbered building of a hotel. The Hash passed through the courtyard, then out through the car park & then the newer but more sympathetically designed homes of Dolphin Yard to come out on to Pageant Road, Sludge broke off here & continued on toward where he thought his car was parked up. The rest of the pack obeyed the arrows & ran on around on to Hart Road as it led by the On Inn & back to Keyfield place.
On their return, the Pack could see Custard & Spotted Dick sitting in one of the Pubs small bay windows, who arrived late & only complete a part of the Trail, but enough to get their names in the book [If only it was there for R*n numbers to be recorded in! – Ed] Poppy seemed to be very entertaining with the kids of the Spanish family in the Bar.
No Down-Downs were awarded, as the RA was the Hare & didn’t really witness much in the way of misdemeanors, plus there was no book to check R*n numbers against, then some set off early & by the time that a ‘little bald grass’ had spilled the beans on Fliptop, then Milf wondering why the Trail was so long on her Satnav before realizing that she hadn’t erased the previous week’s results!
Mr X dropped Lemming in it with Mother, by making out he had questioned whether the crisps were crispy? But Mother was more concerned with her aching coccyx [Steady there Pebbledash! – Ed] – Then the talk changed to Sausage Tossing & Wheelbarrow racing!