Verdant, green, bustling and ornate.
These are all words that you could use to describe Welwyn Garden City, the second and last of it’s kind to be built in England.
Sir Ebenezer Howard was the man behind this brave new concept of the ‘garden city’ – his idea was to control the rapidly growing urban sprawl and improve the lives of thousands, by building settlements that blended the best aspects of the town and the country – without any of the negatives.
After successfully adapting the town of Letchworth to suit his concept, Howard was able to raise the necessary funds to purchase land in Hertfordshire to build his first Garden City from scratch.
The town is now nearly a hundred years old and has seen significant development since it’s founding. Although you could argue that the current incarnation of Welwyn Garden City is a far cry from how it’s founder would have envisioned it, use your imagination and you can get a glimpse of what Howard wanted to achieve. The Parkway, a stretch of green land that runs through the centre of the town, remains much the same, complete with fountains, mall and walkways – it’s both ordered and peaceful, a perfect place for a walk.
Where to Walk
Despite almost a hundred years of developments reshaping the town, you can still get an idea of what Ebenezer Howard was trying to achieve when he set out to build this place. Although you could use Welwyn as a base to explore the surrounding countryside, first you should embark on a tour of the town itself. The AA features a great 4-mile route that takes you around Howard’s vision of Welwyn – a must-see for first time visitors.
Where to Stay
There are a wealth of traditional hotels and accommodation options in Welwyn that are sure to satisfy most, but should you wish to buy into Ebenezer Howard’s unique vision of the country and town combined, you should stay at Tewin Bury Farm Hotel.
Set on the outer limits of Welwyn, this converted farm is by no means as rustic as it sounds. Although the exterior suggests rugged design and might put the fear in those who crave home comforts, any doubts will be dispelled after you take a look at one of their rooms. Retaining the original features of the farm buildings, whilst adding modern aesthetics, this hotel would have been right up Ebenezer’s street.
If you’d rather stay in more austere surroundings, then the 18th Century Brocket Hall will be the place for you, prices are steep but the sense of grandeur and the two 18-hole golf courses more than makes up for this.
What to Eat
Ebenezer Howard’s first town of Letchford was notorious for it’s ban on the sale of alcohol. The new residents voluntarily lived in a dry town until 1958, when they turned it over after a referendum. To this day there are very few pubs in that town. Welwyn was not populated under such restrictions though, so there are plenty of places to grab a drink and a bite to eat. Try out the Doctors Tonic for a quiet pint and humble grub. If you’d rather have a taste of the seaside, Lee’s Fish’n’Chips is the local favourite and is renowned for it’s excellent customer service.
What to Do
Whilst there are tonnes of interesting things to see for budding historians, Welwyn might prove to be a little dry for the tastes of children. Saying that, one historical attraction young ones will certainly find interesting is the Roman Baths, it’s easy to imagine the Roman’s stepping into their steaming hot pools and the tunnels that take you there are always a win with kids.
If history really isn’t their bag though, there are a handful of activities that can fill a couple of hours and truly rescue a child from potential boredom. For a couple of quick hours of high octane fun, the town’s dedicated rollerskating rink, Rollercity, is open all day during the weekend and in the evenings on Monday, Thursday and Friday. You can hire skates there, so all you need to bring is a smile, a sense of balance and your dancing moves!