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10 February 2018: Welwyn Garden City to Stanborough

Event led by Peter O
Attendance: 8 men
Distance: 7.2 miles (11.6 km)
Time: start 11:11, end 14:32, lunch 24 minutes
Terrain: pavement, grass, track, field edge.
Elevation: start 93m, high 103m, low 62m
Weather: overcast, drizzle, some light showers, cold with cold southerly wind, from 4°C to 6°C excluding wind-chill, felt like 1°C with wind-chill.
Number of sewage works on the walk: 1
Number of golf courses on the walk: 1
Number of churches on the walk: 4
Number of listed buildings on the walk: 8

This was a 7.2-mile circular walk around Welwyn Garden City.  Starting from Campus East Car Park, the route went SSW to Parkway to Stanborough Lakes, then SE to Mill Green, then N via Mill Green Golf Club to Broadwater Road and the Howards Centre.

This route was a largely urban route designed to keep us relatively mud-free in the middle of winter.


  • Pictures, with captions

  • Welwyn’s Parkway and architectural styles: romanticised Georgian styles blend with proto-utilitarian styles.

  • Mill Green: a museum, a telephone box, a former pub and a trough.

  • Broadwater Road and the former Shredded Wheat Factory: industry succumbs to housing.

<2>Welwyn’s Parkway and architectural styles

The route started from the northern edge of the centrepiece of Welwyn Garden City: the Campus leading to Parkway Gardens.


The Garden comprises a strip of greenery through the middle of town, two works of art and the Coronation Fountain, and is supervised by a variety of 1920s Arts & Craft architecture along its length.  Parkway’s architecture is more modest than its more “rural” predecessor at Letchworth Garden City, featuring a lot of monotone brickwork common to many buildings - residential, churches, offices and retail outlets - with the brighter colour brickwork used by the retail outlets.


The majority of Welwyn Garden City’s architecture of the 1920s-1930s express a (then) updated version of Georgian architecture, using Romanesque columns, plinths and Georgian windows.  Towards the southern end of Parkway, some of the ruthless straight vertical lines of some buildings’ designs, combined with noticeably fewer expressions of the typical Georgian style, bear an eerie resemblance to a later utilitarian architectural style of the late 1930s/early 1940s Germany.


Much of the side of Welwyn Garden City west of the railway retains the cottagey feel of Arts & Crafts styles (wiki), blended with a romanticised Georgian style typically associated with Welwyn Garden City, with later decades expressing more austere style.  This generalisation applied to much of Parkway.


By contrast, east of the railway is partially industrial, partially housing.  Of the housing, much we would describe today as “social housing”, fairly or unfairly.  In the eastern side, Welwyn permitted a far greater range of architectural styles for all of its zones.  Both housing and industrial buildings appear in forms ranging from brutalist to quasi-Soviet of the 1970s-1990s, to the more colourful modernist styles of the 2000s and later.  We saw this generalisation play out on the return journey of the route from Mill Green.

<2>Mill Green

Mill Green is a former hamlet which has been by-passed by the A1000 and the A414.


Its main feature is the Mill Green Museum, which is a still-operational watermill that produces a variety of flours.  Don’t tell Welwynites, but technically, the museum is actually in Hatfield.


The museum is a listed building, as is a red K6 telephone box (listed), a disused, boarded-up pub and a cottage terrace.


Opposite the museum is a drinking trough for animals, now used as a raised flower bed.  The rectilinear design of the trough makes it look like some sort of crossbreed between an upright cow and a Dachshund dog.


Part of Woodhall Farm Cottage is listed.

<2>Broadwater Road and the former Shredded Wheat Factory

In the half-mile of Broadwater Road on the route, we saw evidence of lots of change.  A road that was once a hub of industry for Welwyn Garden City is now coming to terms with deindustrialisation.  Factories have been replaced by housing.


The style of the housing is purely modern, with simple, straight lines and bold, brash flashes of colour in otherwise monotone brickwork or cladding.  The narrow, tall windows of many of these buildings echo a more colourful nod to the style of the factories they replaced (or which survive), combined with a Soviet style of architecture.


Two former factories are listed buildings.  The first is Office Block (Buildings 1 to 4) to Roche Products Factory.  The style of this building make it a classic “factory” that a child would draw if asked to do so.  Still disused today, its new residential neighbours have inherited its design features.


The second is the former The Nabisco Shredded Wheat Factory.  An iconic factory, designed by the designer of Welwyn Garden City, Louis de Soissons in 1925, the building features plain functionality with art-deco curves.  Much of the building is now demolished, leaving only some of the listed elements as a reminder of the building’s elegant design.  This includes only 6 of the 15 silos (“cylindrical concrete drums”), and three buildings to the west of the siloes.


The former Shredded Wheat factory is at the centre of a planned re-development for the whole of Broadwater Road.  Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council set out its vision in Dec 2008 “Broadwater Road West Supplementary Planning Document (SPD)”.  The architects have developed a virtual tour of the vision.


A noteworthy building is the angular brutalist Number 29, a multi-tenant office block.  The building brags design in every detail, resulting in a striking, imposing form with nuances that appear only with careful observation.

Photos by Peter O’Connor.  Words by Martin Thornhill.

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