The first Thursday in September started like any other Thursday in the summer for the group of flint “Wallers” in Cromer Wood, close to Little Gaddesden. They had arrived to make a start on the reconstruction of the inner flint wall of the Horseshoe Track. They broke for lunch at 12.30 as usual and collected in Golden Valley for a picnic lunch. This lunch break was to be a bit different to normal – a celebration of their effort in completing the outer wall of the Horseshoe Track. The group are a close-knit unit of twelve, past and present, and they all met up to share their thoughts and reminisce about the last five years – the time it took to complete this section of wall starting in 2012. There was even a special cake for the occasion, made by John Child to look like a flint wall!
With the start of the inner section of wall it was now possible to get an impression of how the carriageway would look when the inner wall was complete – another five years of work!
The flint wall project was started way back in 2001, when the first fifty yards of the “Black Path” was rebuilt. This was the route used daily by the estate bailiff William Buckingham, appointed in 1800, coming from the Estate Office in Little Gaddesden to meet up with the 7th Earl John William at the Mansion.
There was a direct route leading from Home Farm which allowed carts and supplies to be moved to the Mansion, as shown on the 1762 Estate map, and the rebuilding of the retaining wall for this trackway extending to one hundred yards was started in 2006 and completed in 2011.
With the arrival of heavy waggons to carry greater loads to the Mansion a new route with a gradual gradient was required, so the horseshoe loop was engineered as shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1877, requiring two hundred and fifty yards of flint walling. This would have also provided a safe route down into Golden Valley for the Bridgewater’s carriage – a barouch. The “Wallers” have now completed the rebuilding of the outer wall of this route, and are now commencing the inner wall. So far the group have built some five hundred yards of flint walling in total – a mammoth undertaking spread over fifteen years!
The use of lime mortar for the project which was the standard method some two hundred years ago, has inherent problems with setting thus creating delays. Working in the winter is ruled out along with days of cold or wet weather, but surprisingly so far this year there has been no down-time. The flints are recovered from the original walls, with fresh supplies provided by the Trust. The group have another five years of engagement to look forward to!
Group members, past and present; Ron Cawdery, David Smith, Stephen Pearce, George Morris, John Childs, Barry Salmon , Eric Worth, David Kelland, David Nankevil ,Ray Cox , (Chris Ford, and Peter Finch not shown)
Thanks to Ray Cox for his contribution.