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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 The NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) is very clear that where Local Plans are out of date in terms of housing supply, there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development.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…)

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)

Old Friend would like to meet… new friends!

LET’S BE honest – old friends are great:  reliable, trusty, usually there when we want them. They accept us and we them, warts and all! The trouble is, with work, family and other commitments, it’s sadly so easy to take them for granted or even ignore, neglect or forget them.

Now, old friends don’t just have to be people … The ‘old friend’ in the title is the reason  more than some of us, young or old, were attracted to Widford in the first place and few will deny she remains our best known and loveliest landmark. We mean of course the 12th century building, surroundings and history that make our Village Church – quite literally – ‘historic’ and unique!  The problem is that she, like all old buildings, is constantly fighting a battle against decay and it probably won’t come as much of a surprise to hear that the Church’s own coffers  are constantly struggling to pay for the works required.

This applies to Widford as much as it does to many fine churches, chapels and cathedrals across the land. This was also to some extent the case some 30 years ago when a group of unpaid volunteers in the Village set up an independent charity called The Friends of Widford Church, whose purpose was, and remains to this day, the preservation of the Church’s historic building and environment by raising as much additional funding  as possible.

Monies raised through membership subscriptions, donations and many fund-raising activities have helped fund work as diverse as replacement stonework for windows and doors, and for the War Memorial lychgate, clock repairs, remedying dampness in the chancel wall, an archaeological dig during which Saxon remains were discovered and the creation of a headstone for the grave in which they were re-buried; and, most recently, expenses entailed by the acquisition of land to extend the cemetery, and the hedging around it.

“SO WHAT’S NEW?” you might ask. Well, the Friends and our small group of voluntary committee members have received an infusion of new people and new ideas. These ‘new’ people, whether new to the Village or in some cases longstanding residents, have joined up for a variety of reasons such as “growing concern over the building’s increasing and visible decay and its urgent need for help” (Jo K) to “wanting to preserve probably the first and certainly the finest building we saw when moving here” (Richard & Kerry B, David A).  Others simply “love the Village and want somehow to make a worthwhile contribution to all that’s best about it”.

What is not new is the kind of people we want to join us as Friends and supporters: our appeal goes out to everyone in the Village and elsewhere, old or young, whether or not you are church-goers, Christians, holders of other faiths, agnostics, atheists or whatever. We have to ‘do our bit’ to fight to preserve our history for this generation and those that will follow.

Fine words alone are not enough, though, so we are re-launching the Friends with a host of exciting events appealing to all tastes over the next 12 months.  A refreshed website will, we hope, go live fairly soon, with up-to-date news of events, projects to be funded, a history page, contacts  and galleries doing justice to the Church buildings and other Village views.  A new colour pamphlet promoting the Friends has been printed and will be dropped through letter boxes shortly.  Door-to-door collections for subscriptions and other donations from existing and new Friends will begin again soon.

The last fund-raising event, ‘Down Memory Lane’ on Friday 21st September, was very successful and we are planning more things in the run-up to Christmas.

For more information please contact Peer Towers (Membership Sec) tel: 842265; email: membership@friendsofwidfordchurch; or David Austin, Richard Bearman, Jill and Michael Buck, Gilda Deterding, Mark Dunstan, Jo King, Frances Luck, Sara Saunders.

A parting thought:  Old friends who are taken for granted or feel ignored or neglected often slip away or disappear for good.  Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to our historic old friend!

David Austin  Chairman, Steering Committee

                          Friends of Widford Church – Preserving Historic Widford   Reg. Charity no.278965

Where there’s a WELL there’s a way ……

IN THESE times of hosepipe bans and “drought” (even of the wettest sort), we should all be reassured by the information below.  This is reproduced from a document, provided by Derek of Oak Cottage, that was drawn up during World War 2 by Widford’s own “Invasion Committee”.

Over 30 wells are listed here, most of which will be known to current owners, but others may not!  Maybe some long-term village residents would be able to locate where today we might find the wells that used to belong to Mr McClelland or to Mrs Fish or Mrs Dyer?




Nether Hall
Honeysuckle Cottages, Nether Street
Elia Cottage

Wann’s Cottage Totman’s Farm
Bourne Cottage
Nurseries – large tank capable of supplying many people.
“Bardon” – very deep well,worked by petrol engine. This
engine is out of order – could probably be
repaired, if petrol were forthcoming to work it.

Ainsborough Cottage Goddard’s Cottages Goddards House
Yew Tree Cottages
Medcalf Hill

“The Bourne”
Maple Tree Cottage
Combe Villas
Dorken’s Bungalows Mr.McClelland’s

Mr.Patmore’s yard – adjacent to the Green Man Public House
Ginger’s Stores [now belonging to Oak Cottage,in good working order]
Swan Public House Mrs.Fish, Bell Lane
North View Cottages
The Victoria Inn

Adams’ Farm -(Mrs.Daintree)  Walnut Tree House
The Rectory
Living’s Farm (Widfordbury)
“Widford Rise” – worked by a windmill


2012 Rural Insight Survey

The Rural Services Network is undertaking its second survey into the views and experiences of rural people in England. Last year as part of the Rural Insight Survey it generated over 1300 responses. The results of the survey can be viewed at

We do hope you will assist us with the development of this survey which will provide a really important data source. Responses will help us to both chart the key issues in rural England and consider how the views and experiences of rural people about living and working in the countryside have developed over the last 12 months.  The survey can be straightforwardly accessed by clicking on this link.

If you would like any information about the survey or have any queries about its questions please contact: Ivan Annibal

Parish Council, Chairman’s Report 2012

THE UNCONTESTED election for the Parish Council held on 5th May 2011 resulted in the return of Jill Buck, Wendy Camp, Frances Luck, Jenny Miller and Ian Brett. Elections for East Herts District returned Mike Newman with the largest majority of any councillor; and Roger Beeching won the Hertfordshire Country Council seat. Both councillors routinely attend our Parish Council meetings and are of great help to us, for which we are most grateful.

Our allotment gardens continue to flourish. Almost all plots are now worked. The gardens are managed by a committee of two parish councillors and three allotments holders elected at the Allotments AGM. The annual fees paid by the gardeners pay for the water supply and upkeep of the grounds, any surplus being used for capital projects to improve the facility. Although owned by the council, the allotments are financially self- supporting. A “work party day”, with barbecue, last summer did much to keep the grounds in good order.

There was some doubt, due to current public finances, as to whether Parish Paths Partnership would survive, but it has and will now be administered by Groundwork Hertfordshire. We held our annual meeting with Herts Countryside Management Services in October and agreed a work programme for this year. We have also agreed funding for two more benches to be placed by our paths this summer.

The squeeze on public funds will seriously affect the budget for policing in the coming years. At a meeting in December to discuss rural policing, the new Chief Constable for Hertfordshire reported that his annual budget will fall from £220 million to £180 million in the next three years. While this will inevitably lead to cuts in service it is hoped that rural policing will continue to receive its current level of support.

East Herts Council is now half way through its Local Development Framework Consultation. The Issues and Options consultation is complete; the Council will deliver its Preferred Options document this summer after which there will be a brief consultation period before the proposals go before an independent inquiry. With the East of England Assembly abolished and its Regional Plan ended, planning will return to local government, so East Herts Council’s deliberations will have profound implications for us all, not least their decision on Harlow North. Our Parish Plan Survey, and responses to the LDF consultation, confirm the overwhelming local opposition to this proposed development. The Parish Council, a mandated member of Stop Harlow North, will continue to campaign on your behalf.

Changes in government regulations have necessitated changes to the remuneration and conditions of our clerk who is our sole employee. The additional costs are reflected in the increase in our precept for 2012/2013.

However, a great deal of the community work carried out in the village is voluntary. It is very encouraging to see Helen Giles’ brainchild, the Women of Widford club, thriving. Started in January 2011, WoWs meet monthly for a drink in the pub and arrange other interesting activities. Also thriving is Brenda Morrison’s Tuesday Teas. The Village Hall has a new, young and enthusiastic management committee. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will provide an opportunity for all of us to meet and celebrate in a day of fun and games on our Playing Field on Saturday 2nd June followed on Sunday 3rd by a church service of commemoration.

Finally, my thanks for all their help and support to my fellow councillors – Jill, Wendy, Frances and Jenny. And to our hard working clerk, Beryl Hollylee, who will celebrate this year forty years of service to our village.                                                              Ian Brett Chairman