Area Guide: The Hertfordshire village of Welwyn
- Credit: Archant
Not to be confused with nearby Welwyn Garden City, Welwyn is a sought-after village.
The River Mimram flows through Welwyn – the name of which means ‘willow’ in Old English, referring to the trees lining its banks.
The village is part of the wider Welwyn Parish, which also includes Digswell, Oaklands and Mardley Heath.
Gina Wallis-Smith, 22, is manager of The White Horse pub in Welwyn. She grew up in Oaklands and has lived on the same road as the pub for the last two years.
She said: “I love it. Everyone is friendly and polite. You walk around and everyone says ‘Hello’. It has a strong community feel – everyone knows everyone and it’s a really nice place to live.
“I went to university in Gloucestershire and came back! It sounds silly but I have a car and don’t use it because you don’t need to go anywhere else. We have everything we need here and I would recommend a move to Welwyn to anyone.”
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Welwyn is an ancient settlement. Sometimes people refer to the newer Welwyn Garden City as ‘Welwyn’.
To avoid confusion, there were plans to change Welwyn’s name to ‘Welwyn Minster’ in 1990, to prevent it being referred to as ‘Old Welwyn’ (which some associate with inferiority or irrelevance). The new moniker was never introduced, as it wasn’t a hit with locals.
Welwyn is steeped in history and retains the Welwyn Roman Baths, which are open to the public. The church dates back to Saxon times and Welwyn later became an important stop for coaching inns, some of which are still pubs.
Vincent van Gogh walked from London to visit his sister who stayed in Welwyn – a milestone celebrated by a blue plaque in Church Street.
Welwyn has been twinned with French village Champagne-sur-Oise since 1973, through the Welwyn Anglo-French Twinning Association.
There are good bus links to Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, St Albans, Hemel Hempstead, Woolmer Green and Knebworth.
The closest train station is Welwyn North, Digswell, about a mile away. Trains go every half hour to London and to Hitchin and Stevenage, and hourly to Letchworth, Cambridge and Peterborough. The A1M passes immediately to the east of Welwyn, the M25 is a short drive away and several airports are easily accessible.
Welwyn St Mary’s Church of England Primary School, off London Road, serves children between four and 11 years. Originally built in 1940 as a secondary school, it was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted at its last inspection.
Oaklands Primary School incorporates Acorns Preschool and Playgroup, and was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.
Sherrardswood is an independent co-educational all-age (two to 18 years) school – with nursery to sixth form – on the outskirts of Welwyn.
State education for secondary pupils is provided by schools in nearby towns, such as Monk’s Walk and Stanborough schools in Welwyn Garden City (both ‘good’).
Sport and leisure
Part of the charm of Welwyn is its sleepiness. There is, however, a tennis club, sports and social club, a bowls club and football club, plus active Scouts, Brownies and Rainbows groups.
A cricket pitch in the village is part of Welwyn Garden Cricket club, while a range of local groups make use of the Civic Centre, for activities as diverse as badminton, salsa and slimming.
Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service opens the Roman remains of a third century bath-house to the public on weekends and bank holidays (from 2-5pm between January and November). It is open every day during school holidays.
The Hertfordshire County Council Library is open five days a week.
Food and drink
The Wellington (‘The Welly’) is historic and offers modern British food and free breakfast for overnight guests, enjoying individually furnished rooms, free WiFi and parking and disabled access.
The Red Lion, Digswell Hill, WGC, is a gastro-pub with beams, wood and stone floors, a large fireplace and Mediterranean-influenced cuisine.
The White Horse, Mill Lane, is a traditional pub with ceiling beams, exposed brick and a leafy garden. Popular for Sunday roast dinners, delicious puddings and great ale, this 18th century eatery serves seasonal dishes, British fish from sustainable waters and sometimes even vegetables from Welwyn allotments.
Gina added: “The regulars are part of the pub; they’ve become part of the furniture. They really care about the staff – it’s so nice. There was a Welwyn Oscars last year for the first time and we won ‘Best Pub in the Village’.
“During Welwyn Week – a week of summer events in the village – we do beer and music festival Pubstock. I live down the road from the pub and it’s not like just living in a house – you’re part of a community.”