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Romans in the Rib Valley

From Standon to Braughing and back along the Rib Valley.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 190ft (57m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Tracks, paths, some roads, and former railway line, 5 stiles

Landscape Winding valley of River Rib

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 194 Hertford & Bishop's Stortford

Start/finish TL 396223

Dog friendliness Mostly arable farmland

Parking High Street, Standon (off A120)

Public toilets None on route

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1 Walk south along Standon High Street to the church. At the junction with Paper Mill Lane go left into Hadham Road. Beyond the village turn left at a public footpath signposted 'Frogshall Cottages'. Go sharp left along the edge of a cultivated field and continue as the path becomes a green lane descending to the A120. Turn right, uphill. Before the bend, go left at a public bridleway sign.

2 Follow the green lane, which eventually descends into a valley to bear right, keeping a stream on your right. At the end of the arable field cross the parish boundary to climb away from the stream, with oak woods on your right. Pass to the right of some old farm buildings to a road.

3 Cross to a bridleway sign by the post box. Keep alongside a metal park fence to skirt Upp Hall house. Now cross to the corner of the field into a green lane, initially with woods away to your left, to ascend to a lane.

4 Go left on to the lane and follow this until, passing some cottages, go to the left of No 28, on to a path that passes behind gardens to your right and descends to the road.

5 Here, in Braughing, turn left, then turn right at the Square into St Mary's churchyard. From the church descend to the lane junction with Church End. Turn right down Fleece Lane. This becomes a footpath, which crosses the River Quin on an iron bridge and climbs to the main road.

6 Turn left briefly on to the B1368, then left again down Malting Lane. A footbridge bypasses the River Quin ford. Turn right into Ford Street. Once out of the village turn left on to the B1368, shortly crossing the River Rib.

7 Go left at a footpath sign just before an old railway bridge. Bear right to the former trackbed to turn left on to it - the Roman town site is on your right. Follow the track, sometimes beside it, with the river to the left. Eventually pass a school on your right and bear right at a signpost to cross the trackbed. At a cul-de-sac, Meadow Walk, turn right to Station Road.

8 Turn left along Station Road and left on to the main road, the A120. Pass the former Standon Flour Mills dated 1901. Cross the road at the crossing, then cross the River Rib bridge. Turn right and you are back in the High Street.

It is difficult to visualise a prosperous Roman town in the fields between Puckeridge and Braughing on the west bank of the River Rib. The eastern boundary is roughly along the trackbed of a railway, itself also vanished into history. A look at the OS map shows the site roughly between the boundary north of Braughing Station House and south to a line between the pub symbol and the Sluice. Here Ermine Street changes its alignment. Having headed north east to Puckeridge and along its High Street to the Roman town, it deviated to head north west to Buntingford. Stane Street, from Colchester in the east via Bishop's Stortford, met Ermine Street near the pub symbol, but in medieval times the road moved south to pass through Standon from Horse Cross, possibly because the river crossing at Standon was easier. To the west of Horse Cross on the OS map the parish boundaries follow the course of Stane Street.

Other Roman roads converged here, including one that is now a track and heads south east from Baldock towards the Roman town. It disappears in Hamels Park with its landscaped grounds. Another one from Verulamium (St Albans) merged with Ermine Street 2 miles (3.2km) south of the town site. The present B1368 to Barkway and Cambridge follows the course of a Roman road due north from the Roman town. Interestingly the diversion of Stane Street south through Standon spawned a new settlement at the Ermine Street junction. This was Puckeridge, which was granted a market charter in 1311.

The walk goes through an area steeped in Roman history but there is much else besides. For example, there is the fine, wide High Street of Standon - it used to be the market place. It has two timber-framed pubs and several well-preserved houses. It also has a church at the south - its once detached 15th-century tower and 'Hertfordshire spike' spirelet rear over the Georgian houses. Inside, the Sadleir monuments of 1587 and 1606 are worth looking for. Out in the country, Upp Hall, east of Braughing, is a fine, brick mansion from about 1640 with three, widely-spaced gables. To its north stands a great brick barn, probably earlier in date. Braughing, delightfully dependent on the River Quin and its two fords, has a sound church in which the Brograve monument from 1625 is outstanding. More contemporarily, Braughing Station is now a house but it retains a platform. It was on the Buntingford branch line which opened in 1863 and closed in 1964.

Where to eat and drink

Standon has the Bell in the High Street and, opposite the church, the Star. Standon's several shops include a baker's. The next refreshment is found in Braughing at the Axe and Compasses and the Brown Bear.

What to look for

After St Mary's Church in Braughing you go down Fleece Lane which is ceremonially swept and the funeral bell tolled every year on 2nd October in accordance with the will of Mathew Wall. The ritual commemorates his extreme good fortune - in having two funerals. At his first, a pallbearer slipped on wet leaves in Fleece Lane. Wall's coffin fell and as it hit the ground, he woke up! Saved from the horror of being buried alive, he lived on and raised a family, dying some 30 years later in 1595.

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