Area Guide: Welwyn Garden City
PUBLISHED: 10:00 21 October 2016
With houses set out along tree-lined boulevards and with wide grass verges on every road, the first home in Welwyn Garden City was occupied just before Christmas, 1920.
As a follow-up to Sir Ebenezer Howard’s earlier experiment – Letchworth Garden City – it was planned to include the positive aspects of city and countryside, avoiding the disadvantages of both.
Referred to by locals as Welwyn Garden or WGC, it has the benefit of being conveniently situated 19 miles from Kings Cross, London.
Scenes from the film Hot Fuzz and episodes of The Tweenies and Holby City were filmed in Welwyn Garden City. It is also the former home of Shredded Wheat, which was made in a landmark 1920s factory until manufacturers moved to more modern premises in Wiltshire in 2008.
Originally, the idea was that all residents would shop at one place called Welwyn Stores, but this was rather impractical and caused resentment.
Commercial pressures meant more competition and variety now exists in the form of many shops and services, as you would find in any town, such as newsagents, supermarkets, post offices, hair salons, cafés, restaurants, clothes shops and the large John Lewis department store. John Lewis Partnership took over Welwyn Stores in 1984. There is, of course, a large hospital, the QEII, which was recently redeveloped.
Applecroft and Templewood primary schools are both ‘outstanding’, according to Ofsted, and specialist science academy, Monk’s Walk, is arguably the best of the secondary schools, which was rated as ‘good’.
Other secondary schools include independent co-educational Sherrardswood, Sir Frederic Osborn sports college – affectionately known as “Sir Freds” – maths and computing college Stanborough School and Knightsfield School, which specialises in teaching deaf children.
Welwyn Garden City is very well connected, with the A1(M) passing by it and the M25 just a 15-minute drive away. Other road links include St Albans, Harpenden, Luton, Hatfield and Hertford.
There is a train station in the town centre, with services north to Hitchin and Cambridge. Several trains run per hour into London and take around half an hour. There’s also a train service every half hour to Stevenage, which takes 11 minutes, while it’s an hour by rail to Peterborough.
Green Line Coaches operate a service to Heathrow Airport, via Watford and Rickmansworth. There are also comprehensive bus services to nearby towns and further out into North London.
Sport and leisure
Gosling Sports Park is a large facility, offering a dry ski slope, golf driving range, football pitches, an athletics track, indoor and outdoor tennis, squash, a gym and bowls.
There is a football team in Welwyn Garden City, known as the Citizens, based in Herns Lane and established in 1921. The England football team once trained on the King George V playing field, on the boundary of the old Hatfield Hyde village.
Nick Faldo was once a member of Welwyn Garden City Golf Club. Other golf facilities in the town are Panshanger, which is owned and run by the borough council, and Mill Green Golf Course, in Gypsy Lane.
Stanborough Park and lakes offers leisure pursuits, such as walking, sailing, power boating, archery and fishing on its 126 acre site.
Food and drink
The Don serves authentic Asian and Indian cuisine from its Cole Green Lane premises – perfect for helping celebrate a special occasion. It’s affordable, spacious inside, has friendly staff and offers wonderful meals from its varied menu.
Poppins and Tewin Road Café are well loved for their popular fry ups, British grub and cheap and cheerful “awesome” food, as one chap wrote about the latter on Trip Advisor – describing his as “the best breakfast in Welwyn Garden City”.
Peri Jerk sells “amazing” fast food, which is Jamaican and Caribbean in style. Hakalok is an eat-in and takeaway restaurant, serving Chinese, Thai and Malaysian meals from Shoplands.
Bill’s in Howardsgate has a brilliant range of appetisers, starters, main meals and desserts and drinks, including babyccinos and cocktails. Breakfasts and brunches are especially yummy, as are the burgers.
Zizzi (Italian) and Café Nero coffee shop are also local favourites and pub chain Beefeater, The Stanborough, is a steakhouse a three-minute drive from the station with free Wi-Fi, a kids’ menu, real ale, grilled meats, impressive ice creams and international favourites such as fajitas.
Finally, Lees Fish and Chips is the place (plaice?) – to go for a chippy treat.