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Martlets Development

Plan CompositeThe Parish Council have had a meeting with a property developer called Stonebond Properties Ltd who are hoping to build 18 houses on the field between Martlets and Levenage Lane. The company know that this is a significant development for a village the size of Widford and they want to be as open as possible with the residents and the Parish Council. Stonebond are proposing a good mix of housing from one bedroom flats to a 5 bedroom house.
They recognize that this development would be outside of the village boundary and as Widford is a Group 2 village planning permission should not be granted. However, as they pointed out, East Herts District Council have failed to secure the 5 year housing supply that is required by their own 2007 Regional Plan and, as a result, their current planning policies are not valid in all situations. The NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) is very clear that where Local Plans are out of date in terms of housing supply, there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

The Parish Council are trying to arrange a meeting with East Herts District Council to better understand the situation. The development is at an early stage and no formal application has yet been made. Stonebond have offered to attend a village or Parish Council meeting to answer any questions.
Martlets Plan
Martlets Schedule
Martlets Constraints
Martlets Briefing Note

The failure East Herts District Council to secure a 5 year supply of land for housing has clearly rendered many of the policies in the 2007 Plan invalid and the village boundary and conservation area are, for the moment, meaningless. This has been confirmed by the planning approval which has recently been granted to the application for development of the land to the West of Wilmoor.

Why Widford beats living in London….

ANOTHER TERRIFIC evening was had by one and all in this year’s Safari Supper. Having now attended my third Safari Supper in as many years, I think I’ve either ‘made it’ or I look like someone who can’t say No to Gilda; either way, it is a delight to pen a few words about the evening.
SupperSo, where to begin? The food. I hope like me your evening was an epicurean extravaganza: canapés to die for, followed by a smorgasbord of delicious and effervescent salads to complement some amazing Chinese chicken (at the Dickinsons), all topped off by an array of delicious puddings and cheese. Please can whoever prepared the out-of-this-world fruit meringue publish the recipe?!
Next, the setting. Although the weather toyed with spoiling the event, let’s face it – in reality us Brits love a speck of rain and it did nothing to deter the enjoyment and garden-based evening. And what a selection of gardens there are in Widford. Obviously living next door to Monty-Don & Carol we are motivated at least to mow our lawn, but hard to match the stunning setting Goddards provides, with its magnificent pond and folly.

The company. Now I am not adverse to grabbing anyone and chewing their ear off (not meant literally, of course), essentially that’s what I do. Clearly the Safari Supper gets everyone talking, and it is a super way for long-term Widfordians to catch up as well as for all of us new folk to get to meet everyone.
On a more serious note, the one theme running through the evening was the sense of community. It is really something that people not only open their doors, but go to such great lengths to welcome others. To a relatively recent incomer to the village, it has been a highlight of moving out of London. The neighbours we had in London were very nice, but you would just never get to know them beyond the superficial. It is evenings such as these that really make you appreciate the wonderful community that Widford has.
Lastly, on behalf of the trekkers I say thank you to all who made the evening possible, particularly the hosts of starters and main courses and the pudding providers, and to David & Nadine for providing such a fitting finale to a superb evening.
But most importantly thanks to David and Judith for their never-ending energy in organising the event. We are already looking forward to next year. James Helme
Postscript: I have not yet worked out if it is a compliment to be referenced as “Chilli’s owner”. Slightly worrying when your dog is evidently better known around the village than you are…

God speed the plough……

WE ARE SO lucky to live in a village within thirty miles of our great sprawling capital city, London, and yet be able to experience the seasons through the agricultural calendar.  Many of us follow with interest the times of the year when the words of the old country ballad still resonate “to plough and sow, and reap and mow” and we witness the outcome of all that activity.  As we walk our dogs, we ask each other “will the newly sown crops get their roots well-established before winter sets in, will the rain ruin the crops, and will we get good weather for harvest?”

TractorI wanted to record those post-war days, which will so soon vanish from living memory.

Fred de Voil was one of Widford’s last ploughmen and his widow, Jackie Devoil, is now indisputably a Village Treasure.  Jackie has shared with me her memories of their world just post-war.

Fred was born at 6 Northview Cottages, Widford on 12May 1928.  He was the much loved only child of Walter de Voil and his wife Agnes, born Agnes Godfrey, who came from Stanstead Abbotts. Fred went to school in Widford and, like so many children at that time, left school at the age of fourteen and chose “to be a farmer’s boy” by going straight on to the farm owned by Captain Frank Pawle.

Fred’s first job was to be a general farm-worker, turning his hand to anything that needed doing.  The hours on the farm were long and hard, particularly at harvest-time.  It was during the War years that Fred and Jackie met; she was one of forty Land Army girls billeted in Walnut Tree House, and their marriage on 15 December 1951 surprised no-one.  Captain Pawle allocated them a cottage (Ainsborough Cottage) and an allotment area for growing food.  The odd pigeon or rabbit were welcome additions to the family menu.  The cottage was very sparsely furnished, and Jackie would draw water from the well and heat it on the kitchener [cast iron stove].  In 1952 their son John was born, to be followed by their daughter Ann.  Jackie’s first job each day was to pack up Fred’s “beever” – his food for a ten o’clock break.  (In the middle l960s I was often invited to join the Felstead family for “beever” – cake and a cup of tea.)

In those days the ploughs were horse-drawn – Captain Pawle’s horses were Big Prince (the stallion), Little Prince and Dolly.  The horses would work in teams of two, and at meal breaks their nosebags would go on before the ploughmen could eat. When Fred was ploughing near the woods he would ask Jackie to put in an extra sandwich for the stag, who would join him for his break and be hand-fed by Fred.    Ploughing teams competed against each other, particularly in Essex, and on occasions Fred would be in the winning team, but competing or not, he liked nothing better than a trip out to see a ploughing contest.  Fred loved the horses, and although he was sad to see them retired to Priory Meadows after the advent of tractors, there was no doubt that he loved the tractors more.

Between the mid-sixties and the end of the seventies, Fred was a towering figure in the lives of the Luck boys, then living at Eildon, Nether Street.  In those days there were no fences between the cottage garden and the big field behind, and the children would stand patiently waiting for the tractor to make its circuit, the highlight of their day being to stop the tractor to give Fred a can of lemonade.  They all had a small toy tractor with a “Fred” figure seated on it, and many were the frantic searches for “Fred” at bed-time.  In 1973 Ben was born on 20 August to the sound of the combine harvester rattling past the cottage windows, and ever since we have compared harvest times with the date of his birth, labelling them “early” or “late” in comparison.

We still miss the sight of Fred in his blue overalls making his way about the village; he played the church organ, and yet was much in demand on Saturday nights to play the piano in the pub; patient and kind to his adoring fan club in the village, and a dearly loved and loving husband and father, Fred died in 2001; he never retired and his working life spanned a time from horse-drawn ploughs to computer-driven tractors.

F Luck

Photograph of Fred and his tractor taken near Halfway House in 1993

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…)