Area Guide: Gustard Wood
- Credit: Archant
Once thought to be a vast area of woodland, Gustard Wood remains mostly rural today - somewhere to walk, rest and golf.
Gustard Wood takes its name from the Old English for gorse or juniper. Both grew there, on Gustard Wood Common. Medieval commoners had the right of pannage (feeding animals in a wood) which indicates that the area used to be entirely made up of vast forest.
The area is situated north-east of St Albans, past Wheathampstead and Harpenden. It is comprised of Blackmore End and Lower Gustard Wood, and is mostly rural, featuring lots of green land. This land makes up the Common, the local golf course and the fields of Blackmore End. The residential parts of Gustard Wood feature properties on roads such as Lamer Lane, Lime Avenue and Firs Drive.
Examples of property in the area
On Lamer Lane, with a guide price of £2,495,000, is a 6 bedroom detached house for sale discreetly positioned at the end of an extensive private drive. This property is an impressive coach house with generously proportioned annexed accommodation and a comprehensive amount of home office/studio space, set in beautiful grounds exceeding 3 acres (sold through John Curtis, call 01582 934112).
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Old Acres, Harpenden Road, is a spacious country house which also comes with a separate annexe and stunning views to the rear over the Lea Valley. Priced at a GP of £1,875,000 and sold through Strutt & Parker (01582 934090).
A charming 16th century detached family home overlooking Gustard Wood Common is currently for sale in the region. Refurbished to an exacting standard this house offers superb accommodation with a separate ‘bed and breakfast’ feature (GP of £1,750,000, again sold through John Curtis).
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Mid-Herts Golf Course
At the end of the 19th century the Common and the forest were owned by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners who grazed sheep there. They agreed to use the land for a golf course. Nine holes were ready for play by 1893, developed into an 18 hole course in 1923 by James Braid, famous golfer and course designer. This became Mid Herts Golf Club in 1936. It’s one of England’s earliest golf courses.
The course is compact with gentle undulations and is par 69 for men off both the white and yellow tees and 72 for ladies. It’s a remarkably challenging course and one that requires accuracy and will fully test your golfing skills. It plays 6060 yards off the white tees with 5 challenging and varied par 3’s. The putting surfaces are true and quick with intriguing breaks. Three holes feature two-tier greens. The heathland course drains well and allows all year round play. The course appeals to the golfer who likes to be presented with challenges and options in order to achieve a good score.
There are several places where accuracy is needed in order to avoid the penalties of encroaching trees, thickish rough and out of bounds.
Elsewhere there are opportunities to gain advantage with long hitting. Well made greenside and fairway bunkers are strategically positioned, requiring skill at both long and short recovery shots, the manicured aprons allow the golfer to profit from a strong short game.
Except for special events there is no need for golfers to book tee times. There are four starting points on the course, which allow for 2 and 3 or 4 ball games to commence at specific times off different tees and cleverly distributes players.
Tee-time bookings can be made for matches and societies.
On most days, you can just turn up and play and members are welcome to join one of the swindles. Golfers can normally expect to complete their round in 3 hours 30 minutes, after which they can enjoy a well-earned rest in the clubhouse.
The Tin Pot Inn Guesthouse
Nestled in the heart of the countryside of Gustard Wood is a unique 16th century former pub with self contained accommodation that offers travellers the warmth and hospitality of a by-gone era. No longer an pub, the rooms have their own outside entrance and en-suite bathroom, beautifully decorated in country cottage style and arranged on two levels.
Downstairs, the comfy sofas, TV and complimentary tea and coffee, make it easy to relax and unwind. There is plenty of closet space, fridges and internet access, and every bathroom has an electric shower so there is never a shortage of hot water!
The Tin Pot is a site of historic interest, originally a farm, and the main part of the building remains virtually unchanged since the 16th century, adjacent to common land with masses of footpaths and nature walks to be explored through unspoilt countryside.
St Peter’s Church, Lower Gustard Wood
The church was opened in 1910 as an outlying daughter church in the parish of Wheathampstead, serving the growing communities of Gustard Wood and Blackmore End. The cost of the building was provided generously by Mrs Laura Pearce, of Tunbridge Wells, in memory of her late husband, a former vicar of Ayot St Lawrence. In the 100 years since, St Peter’s has become a much loved landmark and place of Christian worship, and has enriched the work of St Helen’s, its parent church, in the process.
The first reference to Gustard Wood is in about 1272 when it was written Goshamstedwoode. Later it was recorded as Gosthampstedewode, Gustamwode, Gustewood and more recently Gustard Wood. The meaning really depends on the “t” near the beginning. If the “t” came later the place name it would be the equivalent to the Old English for “Goose Homestead Wood.” However if the “t” has always been in the pronunciation but was not recorded in 1272, it was probably “Gorst Homestead Wood”. The main reason this has been debated over time is the fact that “Gorst” is the Old English for gorse or furze or juniper - of which there are several on the lands.
During WWI the largest of the auxiliary hospitals was the Federated Malay States Hospital at Blackmore End, which provided 214 beds in the house and grounds and was funded by supporters both in Britain and abroad.
Gustard Wood was not short of drama during the 19th century, with the Herts Advertiser reporting of assaults and even murders in and around the region. Notably, Thomas Wheeler, the Marshall Wick killer, originated from Gustard Wood.