Welwyn Garden City – a local’s free range guide

“As the parent of a toddler and the founder of a Welwyn Garden City Estate Agency, I really enjoy living in Welwyn Garden City. I’ve found there are huge advantages, not least is the fact that there’s so much to do with my three-year-old son, Zak, when he’s not at nursery in the Shire Park business complex, which is only about a 10 minute walk away from where we live.

Virtually over the road is a big park with a brilliant playground which Zak loves. He’s got loads of energy so it’s great to take him up there to play and let off steam. On nice days, we can walk a bit further into Sherrardspark Wood and enjoy exploring the natural environment.

A lot of people walk their dogs there which is great as he loves saying hello to them. The footpaths mean that, when he was younger, I could even take the buggy with us – though on wet days some of the paths can be really muddy and I have got the wheels stuck a couple of times!

Occasionally, we walk through the woods as a family to have a Sunday roast at the Red Lion Pub in Digswell. It’s just far enough away to work up an appetite on the way there… and to walk off your lunch on the way back!

One of the places he really likes is Stanborough Park. It’s great in the summer when we can hire a pedal boat (it has to be one of the dragon ones – or ‘dinosaurs’ as he prefers to call them) on the lake. I’m also looking forward to the time when he’s big enough to go water zorbing so we can both have a go! And the park gives him plenty of space to run around, explore the nature trail, or sit still (never for long though!) and have a picnic.

Wet days in WGC are also easy to fill thanks to the entertainment complex at Campus West. There’s a pay and display car park attached to it, though if you arrive after 11am, you can park on the roads a short walk behind it for free.

My son’s favourite bit of Campus West is the Soft Play area; mine’s the café! There’s a very reasonably priced three screen cinema where they show lots of children’s films in the daytime (with a bar for adults at the evening shows).

There’s also a roller skating rink which is very popular with teenagers, so when he’s old enough, I’ll probably enroll him for roller skating lessons there too. My tip is to get a Zebra Card which gives you good discounts on everything available at Campus West so you can save quite a bit of money in the long run.

When it comes to things to do for grown-ups, Welwyn’s got lots to offer. Shopping is a major activity, and we’re blessed by a lot of open green space parallel to the Howard Centre, including the Coronation Fountain which has pink water every October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The Howard Centre is a small mall with many of the big chain stores in it. But we also have many other shops, cafés and restaurants – at the moment, my favourite one is a recent addition to the town, Bill’s.

Just before Christmas, Welwyn even bucked the trend when Waterstone’s opened up a new branch! And many East Herts people like shopping in WGC because we’ve got a large branch of John Lewis, as well as a branch of Debenhams and a Waitrose, all virtually next door to each other in the town centre.

Another popular shopping spot is the Galleria outlet centre in next door Hatfield. The Galleria is also home to the mainstream cinema and a number of restaurants and fast food outlets which are great for young families and teenagers alike.

Welwyn Garden City is very popular with commuters because it’s only 25 minutes to King’s Cross by train. My office is based in Luton, but it’s easy to get to by going across country which has the dual advantage of avoiding the busy main roads and having lovely views to look at. WGC is virtually on the A1 and relatively close to the M25 which is good for me as I often have to travel all over the country for client meetings.”

 

Useful links for WGC ‘chickens’

Things to do

The many parks, woods and footpaths around Welwyn Garden City make it a great place for dog lovers. There are plenty of activities for the more sporty types, including a dry ski slope, and a fishing lake for the less athletically inclined.

Things to do with the kids

Cinema, theatre, soft play, roller skating and art gallery

The play’s the thing

Where to eat

Keep fit, sport and spa

The gentleman’s game (sponsored by Big Black Hen)

Fore! Nick Faldo’s home golf club

Ssssh

Read all about it!

 

Education

According to Ofsted reports at the end of 2015, schools in Welwyn Garden City are improving, with many in the ‘good’ category and aiming for outstanding in the near future.

Schools and nurseries

 

Shopping

Shopping is one of the main activities in Welwyn Garden City with the Howard Centre providing a central focus of mainly chain stores. There are two major supermarkets in the town centre itself, and plenty of other shops and supermarkets in the areas close by.

The Howard Centre

“City shopping in the country”

 

Ebenezer Howard and Welwyn Garden City

Welwyn Garden City wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for Ebenezer Howard who was the founder of the garden city movement.

In his 1898 book ‘Tomorrow, a Peaceful Path to Real Reform’, he outlined his vision of a utopian city which gave people the chance to live harmoniously with nature, thus reducing the alienation of humans from nature. Many of Howard’s garden city principles are still being used in modern town planning today.

WGC was the second garden city (after Letchworth) to be built. In 1919 Howard bought 1,458 acres of the Panshanger estate for £51,000. The Second Garden City company was formed on 29 April 1920, with a capital of £250,000, after which building work began, with Handside Lane the first road to be completed.

This goes to indicate the attractiveness of Welwyn Garden City to those contemplating making the big move. As an experienced real estate agent in the city, I have come to realise that properties sell quite fast when compared to other cities outside London.