Inspired by last weekend’s visit to Ewelme Watercress Beds, today we decided to pay a visit to a fully operational watercress bed. E Tyler & Sons have been farming watercress at Sarratt in Hertfordshire since 1886. Today theirs is the only remaining watercress farm on the river Chess.
More on that later. Our walk started in the pretty village of Chenies with its Tudor manor house. The route took us through a wheat field and water meadows before climbing a steep hill to reach the village of Sarratt. With vague memories of reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I was half expecting to see a secret training camp for spies (or at least a gateway with a ‘Top Secret – Keep Out’ sign.) Sadly not.
What I did see was the Church of the Holy Cross; a lovely church dating from the late twelfth century, with a rare saddleback tower roof set at right angles to those of the chancel and nave. Looking at it, I thought that it had probably escaped the ministrations of the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott who had a hand in the restoration of so many of our local parish churches. How wrong can you be? According to the church guide booklet, he not only directed a major programme of restoration here in 1864-6, but actually worshipped at the church.
After pausing for a cheese ploughman’s at the Cock Inn, our walk took us downhill again, re-joining part of the Chess Valley walk. After a while we reached the watercress beds; an incredibly pretty spot. An even prettier sight for my eyes was the ‘shack’ offering fresh watercress and refreshments for sale via an honesty box. Although it was not that long since lunch, it would have been a pity not to take the opportunity to sit on the thoughtfully-provided bench and enjoy a tub of local Beechdean ice-cream, before packing a bag of watercress into my camera bag and setting off home to look up suitable recipes.