Salute to our unique PC Clerk

BERYL HOLLYLEE was appointed Clerk to Widford Parish Council in 1972, following in the footsteps of her mother who had been Clerk for the previous 30 years.  At the end of this month, after 43 years, Beryl is standing down.


All of us in Widford, and particularly her past and present Councillors, owe Beryl a huge debt of gratitude for the all the time, energy and enthusiasm she has put into this task. Her knowledge of the village is immense – every footpath and bridleway, the houses and their history and the people who live here.  Her knowledge of the ins and outs of local government – Highways, Planning etc – has been invaluable to all members of the Parish Council over the past 43 years.

During this period she has dealt with numerous changes in local government and adapted to the many changes in work practice and communication technology that have so dramatically altered the working life of a parish clerk. Many of us joined our Parish Council with little understanding of local government and were always grateful for the help and guidance given to us by Beryl. Her knowledge and experience have provided the continuity to enable the Parish Council to function.

We, the past four Chairmen of the Parish Council, would like to thank you, Beryl.  You will be sorely missed and we wish you well.

G Penny, R Taylor-Young, L James, I Brett

Photograph of Beryl taken in the Village Hall on 12 May by I Brett



Beattie’s Laundry in Widford

THIS ARTICLE is extracted from Mrs Beattie Dorken’s original that appeared in Widford’s parish magazine many years ago.  It is now part of the Widford Archives. As a three-year-old in 1900 Beattie Hatton came with her parents and six older siblings to live in the White Swan (in the photograph, with the thatched barn that was used as a bowling alley – now Swan House and Swan Barn).  Her father ran the pub and also did a fish round. Her sister Jennie went off to learn the laundry trade and in 1904 the family set up in business, moving to Medcalf Hill in 1927.  The laundry ran in Widford for 46 years, and then for another four in Hunsdon, before it finally closed down in 1954.

 ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ LaundryDIRTY CLOTHES were collected in hampers from the larger houses in the area. I can remember there used to be four or five from Blakesware.   Water had to be fetched from the river, down Pegs Lane, in a large tank on four wheels pulled by a horse. We used to get port wine barrels from Benskins Brewery in Bishop’s Stortford, and saw them in half to make large tubs in which to soak the clothes. Soap flakes were made by shredding up large 3lb blocks of bar soap. The clothes were then ‘possed’ (pushed down) with a poss stick. After soaking they were wrung out and anything that was extra dirty was taken to be scrubbed. (more…)

Zipping down the Playing Field

1WHAT A lovely summer we have had this year. I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did. During the long school holiday it certainly made things easier for those who had to keep children (or in our case grandchildren) entertained. Despite the days out, swimming, cinema etc etc, there were still many hours to fill. Of course they would have been quite happy to sit on the sofa for six weeks glued to their various gadgets but that being strictly limited we constantly dragged them into the fresh air, whether they wanted to go or not. And that was where the field in Bell Lane came into its own, with space, swings and the all important zip wire. They loved it! All I had to do was relax on a bench calling out occasional comments like ‘Wow’ and ‘It’s not bleeding so stop yelling’ – and several hours would pass like a dream. So thank you to the Committee who keep the field in such good order, providing our children with a safe environment in which to have fun and let off steam. I am surprised more people don’t take advantage of it. I am also wondering if that zip wire would take my weight.

M. Clark 

Wildflowers in Widford

This piece was written by a Mrs V I Daintree sometime in the past. We do not know who she is – apart from having the surname of a known Widford family – or when she wrote about the village wildflowers. Maybe there are readers out there who can tell us?

wild-flowerWITH ITS HEDGEROWS, streams and woods, its pastures and cornfields, Widford provides ample opportunity for the study of wildflowers, and altogether about 250 varieties can be found. Some are rare like toothwort and broomrape, both parasites growing on the roots of trees. The green hellebore, the beautiful butterfly orchid and its close and insignificant relation, the twayblade, the dainty crimson vetchling, herb Paris, the star thistle and henbane are other uncommon plants.

January makes a slow start with hazel catkins and dog’s mercury in the woods, followed later by golden dandelion, celandine and coltsfoot. The pink of elm and alder catkins show along the river. Towards the end of March great blue and white patches of violets appear on the railway banks, the first primrose and delicate wind flowers are coming out in the woods, the blackthorn bushes and wild plum are smothered in white blossom, and the bees are busy round the pussy palm. In banks and hedgerows many common plants can be found – red and white deadnettle, groundsel, shepherd’s purse, ground ivy, chickweed and Jack-in-the-hedge with its strong smell of garlic. With the warmer weather the flowers appear thick and fast, amongst them cowslips (or peggles as they are called locally), daisies and buttercups.

Nature Notes

AS YOU READ this you may be just in time to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. This takes place on the same weekend each year – 26 & 27 January in 2013 – and is a vital snapshot of how bird species are doing. This annual survey means any trends can be easily seen and acted upon if necessary.

Feeding the birds has never been more important than during this severe weather.  The help you give them may ensure they survive the winter.  In the severe winter of 1963 half of our birds perished in the freezing weather. Naturalists believe birds learn where food is available and return to these places at the same time each year. The birds bring their young to gardens they have learnt will have food available and so the information is passed on through generations.

As the birds come into breeding condition the feeding you do now will give them the best start.  Of the wildlife that we see in our gardens, birds are capable of the most movement. Many types of wildlife will be born and live their whole lives in a garden and many other birds will choose to feed and nest in our gardens. A suitable nest site, whether natural or ‘artificial’, is just as important for birds as providing food – without one, birds won’t be able to bring up a new brood.

We may think our gardens are separate from our neighbours but to birds they are linked habitats. The size of a garden is not thought to be important, each garden providing a selection of food and habitats. As more land is built on so it becomes vital that areas of garden are not reduced further.

Rural gardens are thought to be even more important than those in urban areas. This is because areas of intense arable farmland are not seen as either food sources or nest sites, and therefore the opportunities for birds and other wildlife are dramatically reduced.  Without gardens many species may no longer exist. There are more ponds in gardens than in the wild; without themEast Angliawould have lost its frogs and toads.

Other birds find our gardens important for food but nest elsewhere. These visiting birds inform us that there are other nest sites available close by. These are the birds that require deciduous woodland and include owls, sparrow hawks, nuthatch and woodpeckers.  Other birds such as pigeons and starlings can be seen flying in flocks over the fields, but only a few of these will visit each garden at a time. On occasions we know birds exist, even though we do not see them. This time of year is when tawny owls start to call to defend their territory, so listen out for them at dusk.

We have had a few rare birds sighted around the village. On the cow meadows a little egret and both barn and tawny owls have been seen. Ginny Brett contacted me to say she had had a long-eared owl in her garden; on advice that these are not native to the UK, the RSPB informed her that it might have escaped from a collection. You may have seen what an eagle owl looks like when Van Hage’s Garden Centre had a resident there.    Janine Wignall

(photographed in Janine’s garden)