June 26 – A geocaching day near St Albans

Harpenden, Kimpton, Ayot St Lawrence and Shaws Corner

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Susan and Peter had a busy morning planned before they leave for France tomorrow and had gone in their own directions. They were meeting in Harpenden for lunch with their daughter and grandchildren and so we offered to take Peter there so that he did not have to go by train. When we arrived in Harpenden the three of us visited St Nicholas’s church. It had an unusual box arrangement around the organ which allowed for paintings to be hung on it. It also had a lovely carved altar frontal in the chapel and a painted ceiling in the chancel and sanctuary. It had some lovely stained glass windows and a monumental brass. On the wall was a folding triptych which was a copy of a 15th-century painting by Rogier Van der Weyden. 

As we still had some time before their meeting we walked up the hill with Peter to introduce him to geocaching and made a nice quick find behind a green box for phone connections, a favourite spot in the UK. He found it very interesting and is going to have a look for some caches in France. After we met up with Susan and said hello to her daughter and grandaughters we headed off to seek out some more church micros. First, we went up onto the roof car parking for Sainsbury’s car park and found an “Off Your Trolley” cache. We do not do many of these caches as supermarket car parks tend to be too busy but Mike found it in the first place he looked which was good as I would not have looked there first.

At Kimpton, we went to St Peter and St Paul church where we found a Grade 1 listed building started in the 1200’s. There were lots of nice stained glass windows and a lovely processional banner. The prie-dieu and the reredos were both intricately carved in wood. The Millenium tapestry was a hooked wool map with pieces of tapestry representing the various clubs and groups from the village attached all around it. It took us a while to find all the numbers for the geocache. After the first circuit of the churchyard, we had only found one of the required headstones. We sat on a seat beside the church and found another number on the seat. On contemplating the names we realised we could see another name from where we were sitting. All we had to look for then was the surname Ivory. We had found one but it was not the right one, After a much longer search Mike finally found another one, still not the right one but we had the right area now and he soon had the right name. Now finding the box was another thing. We looked at the wrong side of the road initially. Then we tried the other side of the road, still nothing. Finally, after nearly giving up several times Mike laid his hands on the box. Thank goodness!! We hate having to miss out on a church micro especially when we have spent so much time on it.

The new church of St Lawrence, in Ayot St Lawrence,  an eighteenth-century, neoclassical church was commissioned by Sir Lionel Lyde and designed by Nicholas Revett. The altar and the chancel are at the west end which is not the usual orientation of churches. The church has an apse and a lovely painted and gilded altar frontal. As we drove around to the village we passed a National Trust property which was the home of George Bernard Shaw. We were keen to visit but it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Guess which days we have off work? We will have to keep it in mind for another time. George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950) was an Irish playwright, critic, and political activist. Shaw’s Corner was built originally as the rectory in 1902 but the Shaw started to rent the house in 1906, fully furnished from the Church of England. In 1920 he purchased the house and extended the garden. On his wife Charlotte’s death, Shaw handed over the property to the National Trust but he continued to live there until his death at the age of 94 in 1950. In 1951 the house opened to the public.

In the village we found the ruin of the old St Lawrence church and on a track, halfway between the two churches was the church micro which had an excellent hint and I found it very quickly while Mike was taking a photo of the early 19th-century Georgian Ayot House. For a time it was as the home of England’s only silk farm but that has now moved to Dorset. Beside the old church, were two semi-detached houses with magnificent gardens full of roses and other flowers. I just had to take a photograph!

Our last stop of the day was at Codicote where we were able to find a village sign cache and a church micro at St Giles church. We also saw a blue plaque on a former inn which used to be a hostel for pilgrims on their way to St Albans Abbey.