Area Guide: Batford
- Credit: Archant
War stories, walks and a river beast - for a small suburb of Harpenden, Batford gives us plenty to talk about...
Batford is located at the bottom end of Harpenden. Once a village in its own right, it is now a suburb within the Harpenden area. This attractive spot on the River Lea is home to Batford Springs, the local nature reserve, which runs alongside the river and the village green (with its small play area for children). The large red brick building at the southern end of the suburb between the river and the Lower Luton Road was originally a water mill.
Batford hosts a variety of property including some attractive high-end homes and listed buildings. For example, you’ll find homes on Hollybush Lane priced at around £1.5 million, Crabtree Lane at £1,650,000 and an equestrian facility with five bedrooms on Holly Lane with an acre of land to it. On Westfield Avenue a one-off development can currently be found for sale, offering a fresher style of architecture.
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Batford Nursery is a very popular Local Authority funded Nursery School, offering free places for 120 children. They offer a 3 hour session, either morning or afternoon over 5 days and provide a rich and varied curriculum offering excellent partnership with parents and carers.
Primary schools available to Batford residents are: Sauncey Wood Primary School, Manland Primary School, The Lea Primary School and Nursery, Crabtree Junior School, Crabtree Infants’ School, High Beeches Primary School, St Nicholas CofE VA Primary School and The King’s School.
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There are regular bus services passing through. From Welwyn Garden City town centre a bus runs towards Harpenden, which is routed through Batford. The number 657 is the university bus that everyone can use.
History and urban legend
During WW2 a large prisoner of war camp was located in Batford adjoining what is now Common Lane. Prisoners were present there until about 1947. When vacated, the camp buildings were used to house local people who were waiting for housing (being in short supply at the time). Within a few years, a large housing estate was built on the site of the POW camp by the local authority.
The River Lea has a quaint history. In the Roman era the Lea was a wide, fast flowing river, and the tidal estuary stretched as far as Hackney Wick. Evidence of a late Roman settlement, dating from the 4th/5th centuries, has been found. Somewhere between 878 and 890 the Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum was drawn up using the course of the Lea to define the border between the Danes and the English. In 894, a force of Danes sailed up the river to Hertford and built a fortified camp there. Alfred the Great saw an opportunity to defeat the Danes and ordered the lower reaches of the Lea drained. Improvements were made to the river from 1424, with tolls being levied to compensate the landowners, and in 1571 there were riots after the extension of the River was promoted in a private bill presented to the House of Commons. By 1577, the first lock was established at Waltham Abbey and the river began to be actively managed for navigation.
On 5 August 2005, a Canada goose was pulled under the river’s surface very quickly, as observed by some boat trippers. Several cygnets also mysteriously disappeared. The goose’s attacker was speculated to have been a crocodile, as a pike would probably not have been able to take such large prey. On 13 December 2011 a similar attack occurred and it was presumed that the creature was still at large. Other suggestions for the predator have been a snapping turtle or a wels catfish, but the existence of any creature of the deep in the Lea is very much an urban myth.
Many years ago there was a train route which ran from Hemel Hempstead through Redbourn and on to Batford, known as the “Nickey line”. This railway is now a pleasant footpath and cycle track.
A popular route for walkers starts at All Saints Church, up the slope to the outskirts of Leasey Bridge Farm providing lovely views across the valley, along the river, passing through the grounds of Brocket Hall, through woodland and over to Stanborough Park (a large area of parkland with two lakes).
Amenities and things to do
Batford has a Tesco Express/filling station, a Co-op supermarket, and a fish and chip shop. The pubs of Batford include The Malta, The Gibraltar Castle and the Marquis of Granby. On the Lower Luton Road there are other shops and elsewhere you’ll find Balti Village Indian takeaway, the Carmen Salon, Emmaus Batford and The Shop By The Park.
Churches in the area include Crabtree Church, All Saints Church (which is on the cusp of Harpenden) and Batford Methodist Church which was built in 1905 and shows the distinctive “modern” architecture of that time. Very close by is Aldwickbury Park golf club which is one of only a handful of golf courses in Hertfordshire that offers play on two golf courses - The Park Course and the Manor Course. The courses have earned an excellent reputation over recent years for their outstanding condition all year round.