When I was in Provence, I saw lots of beautiful, purple fields of lavender but, without exception, I saw them at something approaching 300kmh, as my train sped uninterruptedly past; strict adherence to pre-published timetables apparently more important than any leisurely aesthetic appreciation of natural beauty.
However, the memory of that flashing glimpse of purple haze persisted and, once back in England, I decided to hunt out a lavender field that I could actually visit; that I could stand in; breathe in; admire.
My Google search revealed the lavender field most convenient for me; the slightly less-than-romantic-sounding Hitchin Lavender.
I took a train from St Pancras to Hitchin, a journey of 25 minutes. From Hitchin Station, it is a further 45-minute walk to Hitchin Lavender, which is located close to the picturesque village of Ickleford. On a warm. August day it is a pleasant walk, which grows increasingly countrified, and the better for it.
I met few other walkers on the route, a circumstance that was explained when I arrived at Hitchin Lavender: most visitors arrive by car and, on a Saturday lunchtime in peak lavender season, there were a lot of visitors.
There were queues for the carpark; queues for the café; queues for the toilet; even queues to enter the actual field of lavender. I attempted to get all my queueing over in one initial burst; finally emerging with an entrance ticket, a brie and fig roll; a small tub of lavender ice cream; and an empty bladder.
The £6 entrance ticket to the lavender field also came with a paper bag and a pair of scissors, the idea being to snip away at as much lavender as you can fit in the bag. The scissors and bag had me worried. I had already seen the vast number of people who had entered the lavender field before me; with all that snipping and bagging, would there be any lavender left for me to visit; breathe; admire?
I need not have worried. The lavender field was huge; stretching to the horizon on a gently rising slope. I chose a row, which appeared untenanted to the distance, and stepped into the purple.
I soon had company. But it was company of the most convivial kind. A beautiful yellowhammer strutted along the path ahead of me, occasionally disappearing among the knotty lavender trunks, re-emerging again when I showed signs of not keeping apace. There were bees and butterflies aplenty, species I was not sufficiently savvy to identify.
I soon forgot the snippers and baggers and selfie-takers in adjoining rows, lost in my own private world of nature.
Reaching the summit of the lavender field, there were extensive views across the surrounding countryside. It was a nice spot to stop and sit and enjoy my brie and fig roll and, to a lesser extent, my small tub of lavender ice cream, which tasted exactly like it smelt: pleasant, but with a hint of cleaning product.
I left Hitchin Lavender with an empty bag and virgin scissors. Why snip and bag what is best left alone to admire in all its natural splendour.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny will not a snipper nor a bagger be.