The station scores a direct hit on the grid: a tiny pink circle cut unequally into four. Getting off the train near the back, I have likely already covered three squares before I leave the platform. But I am not convinced, so I make a spiral orbit of the station, crossing the railway twice more before heading into the town.


Ware's high street must have once been packed and lively with coaching inns. We are a convenient day's ride north of London along the Great Cambridge Road. Now only a few still trade, though several older buildings still retain the arched passages which would once have led customers into their miniature worlds of hay and horse musk, roast meat and smoke.


I meet the Hertfordshire Way following a dismantled railway along the river Ash. I wonder where the railway might once have gone, whether it was a dead-end branch or a trunk route, but its secrets lie in another place, on another map.


The path curves gently as it heads south. I have learned to look out for those stretches which by fortune run along grid lines. When the path veers left, I share a square with Ballard's Wood and Thirsty Spring; when right, I tick off the missionary college at Easneye, unseen on its hilltop almost a kilometre away. I do not suspect it yet, but the weather improving, I will pass through thirty squares today: a record haul.


At Fillets Farm I pass two men in work clothes chatting by a barn door. It is now mid-December, and it occurs to me that I have not seen anyone working in the fields all year. Modern agriculture is dominated by machinery, humans swallowed by their tools. Much later I discover that much of the farm has been converted into offices: the people who work the land are once again elsewhere.