Area Guide: Welwyn Garden City explored
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There’s far more to Welwyn Garden City than just John Lewis, as Spencer Caminsky discovered...
Founded by English urban planner Sir Ebenezer Howard, Welwyn Garden City combines the natural elements of a rural area, and the commercial and residential elements of an urban one.
To counter the unsanitary living conditions of the Industrial Revolution, Howard advocated for the creation of the ‘garden city’: a utopic, more natural urban area.
Completed in 1920, Welwyn Garden City was Howard’s second project after Letchworth Garden City. The results clearly exemplify Howard’s vision; parkettes are scattered throughout, and porches are covered with flowers and buds. In the town centre lies a green where regular events such as garden fairs and film screenings are held.
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The most attractive properties in Welwyn Garden City are known to be found on the West Side, an area lined with neo-Georgian detached and semi-detached cottages.
For something different, the Panshanger housing development is home to a range of properties including the modern ‘Span’-style homes, popular in the 1960s.
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According to Rightmove, the average price for a property in Welwyn Garden City during 2017 was £393,827 - up 6 per cent on 2016 and 21 per cent on the 2015 average of £324,503.
Homes currently on the market in the town include a four-bed semi in the West Side location of Dognell Green for £725,000 and a one-bed flat on Fretherne Road, in the heart of the town centre, for £235,000.
Plans are currently being considered for more premium housing options in the town. Welwyn Garden City was once well known as the home of Shredded Wheat, but the old factory has been demolished to make way for what could be 1,500 new homes, a wellness centre and new employment spaces.
Welwyn Garden City boasts an array of transport options. The town centre is five minutes from the A1(M), and the M25 is 20 minutes’ drive.
In terms of public transport, bus services link the city to several areas around Hertfordshire and North London, local areas such as Stanborough lakes, as well as Heathrow airport. Trains also run every half an hour to London King’s Cross, the journey taking 25 minutes.
The good transport options make Welwyn Garden City an ideal commuter town for those needing to travel into the capital.
There are many strong primary schools in Welwyn Garden City, notably Applecroft and Templewood. These schools are very highly ranked; both received an ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted, and Applecroft ranked joint 114th in the Sunday Times list of the top 250 state primary schools in England.
The town has several secondary schools, each with various specialties: while Stanborough School (‘good’) specialises in maths and computing, Sir Frederic Osborn School (‘requires improvement’) focuses on sports. Another popular option is Monk’s Walk School, a specialist science academy (‘good’).
Several notable stars have called Welwyn Garden City their home, such as former England goalkeeper David James, singer and Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon, and DJ Jaguar Skills - the latter two both attended Monk’s Walk School.
The town has also been used as a location for the 2013 film The World’s End, starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Martin Freeman.
Sport and leisure
Welwyn Garden City is home to a wide range of sports clubs.
Welwyn Garden City FC, founded in 1921, are based in Herns Lane. The ‘Citizens’ managed to win the Spartan South Midlands Premier League last season and will be promoted.
The town also boasts a rugby club, Welwyn RFC, local cricket and bowls clubs, and three different golf courses, one of which golf star Nick Faldo was a member of.
The majority of sporting facilities can be found at Gosling Sports Park, which houses indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a dry ski slope and a fitness area.
Welwyn Garden City prides itself on being “a great place to shop, eat, live and enjoy”, as stated on its official website. Besides John Lewis, many name brand shops line the town’s streets, including Debenhams and Marks & Spencer, plus a good number of independent businesses. There’s also a cinema, soft play and roller rink.
For a more premium dining and leisure experience, the award-winning Auberge du Lac at Brocket Hall is a short drive away. Dating back to 1239, this classy venue is used as a lodge and restaurant, and can be hired out for weddings.
Comments from the locals
Anne, 25, from Welwyn Garden City, said: “I think the centre of town looks really nice, but could do with having more shops. The Howard Centre feels a bit sparse compared to the larger selection of shops in St Albans or Watford.
“It’s a very good location for getting into London, so even if the centre of town is a bit quiet you’re never too far from something to do.”
Ian, 51, who worked in the town, said: “I found it quite convenient to take a quick trip to the train station and be able to get to a meeting in London in under 30 minutes.
“This convenient train access makes having a suburban office with far cheaper rent accessible to businesses of all sizes.”
Welwyn Garden City’s good primary and secondary schools, sporting facilities and leisure centres, and transport links to London and beyond, appeal to parents looking for a commuter town to raise a family in, as well as adults looking to settle down in a more natural setting.