Olympic torch route, day 50: Hertford welcomes careful torchbearers

Excitement as the Olympic torch comes through Team Colours’ home county in Hertfordshire!!!

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Olympic torch route, day 50: Hertford welcomes careful torchbearers” was written by John Mitchell, for guardian.co.uk on Saturday 7th July 2012 06.00 UTC

The Olympic torch is coming to Hertford – better check the front page of the Hertford Mercury, to see what the impact is going to be on our leafy, suburban idyll. “Still no lollipop lady for danger crossing!” shrieks the headline, doubtless concerned for the safety of the torch convoy.

“Paint us a picture of Hertford,” they said. One castle, three rivers, about 100 coffee shops, everyone has HD television and there are not enough lollipop ladies. It was also the site of the first synod of the English church in 673. The castle was reconstructed by Henry II in 1170 and, in 1536, parliament moved there to escape the plague.

The castle is now a humble, unkempt, grassy mound – but it could prove strategically advantageous in 2012 as a vantage point from which to watch the torch relay, as it negotiates its way through our historic, narrow streets.

Will the lack of lollipop ladies play havoc with its passage through hordes of ambitious young parents, earnestly pushing their treasured offspring round the Shire Hall (built 1771) in overpriced, high-spec baby buggies? These aspirational locals have moved here not to escape the plague, but the far worse threat of attending state education within London’s North Circular road.

Elizabeth I was regularly in Hertford and, on one 16-day visit in 1561, spent the extraordinary sum of £1,975 – presumably on HD TVs, as she wouldn’t have needed a baby buggy. More eminently still, our Shire Hall was the setting for the trial in that epic 2005 EastEnders storyline “Who shot Phil Mitchell?” Phil went on to marry Stella at nearby Fanham’s Hall – from where she plunged to her death in “the most shocking soap wedding of 2007”. Still, how was she to know that a mere five years later, the Olympic torch would be passing by?

From there the relay heads out of the town centre, bypassing such charming districts as Bengeo, Little Molewood, Dicker Mill and Cold Christmas – epithets that suggest Enid Blyton was in charge of naming the local districts. Instead it wends its way along the Ware Road towards Chadwell Springs, source of the New River, which is neither new nor a river. A spectacular feat of engineering, this artificial waterway was opened in 1613 to supply London with fresh drinking water. It drops just five inches a mile on its way towards Islington, 22 miles away.

And how will the torch affect our family? Well, we’ve cancelled the daughter’s netball fixture and are heading to Pete and Sue’s on the Ware Road, with Mick and Pat and Rachel and Patrick. Mandy will be getting out her pissaladière and Pete will have fetched the canapés from Waitrose. Our Dartington crystal goblets, brimful of sauvignon blanc, will be held aloft in tribute to the passing torch from the comfort of Peter’s finely coiffured front lawn. We’re careering headlong into a 21st-century Abigail’s Party, only with Adele substituting for Demis Roussos.

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