The Clock – the seconds are ticking away.

(For the background to the following critique, see the earlier post A1(M) Improvement).

Those who live in and around Welwyn, and those who regularly pass through Welwyn via the Welwyn By-pass or the B656 Link Road, await anxiously for the builders dust to settle; for the landscaping to finish;2015-09-06 13.07.44-1 and then nervously for the Clock to strike ‘Won’.

But who will be the winners?

We are glad that the eye-sore of the burned-out, derelict, former Hotel site has been cleared, and we are glad that more housing will be made available, and we will welcome the new residents into the Welwyn Community.

But we do not have to be glad about the existing rush-hour traffic chaos on the Clock Roundabout, that can only get worse, nor should we be glad that local residents will feel the effect of over-flow car parking that will inevitably follow once the new flats are completed and occupied.

Borough Councillors have expressed their concerns, and there have been suggestions, including creation of a box to prevent grid-locking on the roundabout, and at the entrance to The Clock too. But we have no news of progress on that front.

And the Danesbury Residents Association’s proposal to place a single traffic-light control on the southern entry to the roundabout as a simple, and relatively cheap solution to reduce the build-up of long queues on both the B656 and the B197, received discouraging sounds from County Highways. “We don’t plan to do that sort of thing”…

Perhaps we are jumping the gun?

Perhaps The Clock will stop?

Unlikely, to say the least.

CPRE – ‘Our Green Belt’ Campaign

WPAG are subscribers to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). You can go to their Hertfordshire branch website for local news and information, or otherwise go to the National website. But since the summer issue of the national ‘Fieldwork Newsletter‘ was published, details of a new CPRE ‘Our Green Belt’ campaign have just been launched.

CPRE are marking the 60th Anniversary of the launch of official government Green Belt policy to protect the countryside by preventing urban sprawl. While CPRE’s recent poll showed there is still widespread public support for the Green Belt, it also highlighted that more needs to be done to continue to spread the word about its benefits.

The CPRE therefore wrote a letter to The Times recently, supported by famous luminaries, which called on the Government to strengthen the protection of the Green Belt, and to highlight its importance.

The CPRE has also launched the ‘Our Green Belt’ campaign, and is calling on the public to share Green Belt stories and case studies with the CPRE.

If you support the CPRE as a tool for good planning and share your support for the Green Belt, you are asked to go to the appropriate place on their website to submit your story.


Panshanger Park – Newsletter No.5 August 2015

The latest Newsletter from the Friends of Panshanger Park is now freely available online to members and friends. To subscribe, go to the Panshanger Park website.

The latest Newsletter details the many activities that can be enjoyed, including:

  • Heritage Walks – last Sunday each month
  • Panshanger Park Runs –  between 250-300 runners regularly
  • Work Parties – see the website for details
  • Photography Competitiion – entries needed by 30th September 2015

The Newsletter also details current Planning Applications which are causing concern to The Friends.

If you want to learn about the background to the creation of this fine Country Park, right on our doorstep, then the Panshanger Park website provides masses of information about the history of the S52 Legal Agreement to deliver a Country Park at Panshanger for the people of Hertfordshire, which dates back to May 1980, when following a Public Inquiry, the Secretary of State for Environment granted planning permission for mineral extraction at Panshanger Park, in return for the delivery of a Country Park across the 1000 acre estate.

The A1(M) Junction 6 – Improvement or otherwise?

The Improvement.

Late in 2014 the Highways Agency (now called Highways England) announced that as part of its ‘Pinch Point Programme’, it would be ‘improving’ the northbound carriageway and slip roads at Junction 6 in order to ‘improve’ traffic flow between Junctions 6 and 7. This stretch of motorway carries 39,000 vehicles per day, and the ‘pinch’ is caused where the road going North at Junction 6 reduces from three lanes to two.

The Improvement work was completed in two phases at a cost of around £2.2million. and overhead gantries have now been installed. The Motorway layout has indeed been ‘changed’:-

a) to provide a ‘lane drop’ at Junction 6, leaving just two running lanes continuing to Junction 7, and

b) to lengthen and ‘amend’ the layout of the Junction 6 ‘on-slip’ at The Clock, with the purpose of reducing the traffic feed entering the A1(M) to a single lane, so as to ease the merging of traffic on the main carriageway further along.

The Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) view.

The Spring/Summer 2015 Edition of the WHBC Newsletter ‘On The Move’, (which regularly documents progress on projects/actions), reported that ‘Early indications are that the scheme has not lived up to expectations. Queues are longer, and anecdotally there appears to be more rat-running along the A1000.  Highways England is currently evaluating the situation and considering further measures to improve performance of this congested junction’. 

The Welwyn village view.

As reported above, evidence is mounting that the changes to the Motorway have made what was a serious local traffic issue, infinitely worse:-

a) the lane-drop has provided north-bound rat-running traffic with a one mile clearway to Junction 6, and

b)  the narrower ‘on-slip’ road at The Clock, regardless of its new length, causes rat-running traffic to back up to the already congested Clock roundabout, regularly causing a gridlock at rush hour.

The Danesbury Residents Association (DRA) solution.

The DRA has been voluble over many months, and active in raising concerns to local Borough Councillors, and to local resident County Cllr. Richard Smith.

The DRA Chairman Peter Branchflower, has put forward a remedial short-term solution. The suggestion is to install a single traffic light control at the southern entry point to the Clock Roundabout. This would regulate (i.e. halt/discourage) Motorway rat-running traffic, with the important side benefit of making it easier, and safer for local traffic to enter the roundabout at all times from the B656 Link Road (Codicote Road), and the B197 Great North Road (Oaklands/Woolmer Green/Knebworth).

The DRA suggestion has the active support of County Councillor Richard Smith, and the support of the local Borough Councillors too. County Cllr. Richard Smith raised concerns on 28th June with the County Executive Member for Highways and warned of worsening problems as The Clock development nears completion and current congestion problems worsen. (The Clock will soon open its 50 doors to new residents, with a projected 50-100 extra car movements directly onto the Roundabout).

The Hertfordshire A1 Corridor Consortium. (HACC).

One of the local Borough Councillors, Cllr Mandy Perkins, sits on the Hertfordshire A1 Corridor Consortium. (To learn of the purpose and membership structure of HACC please go to the Hertfordshire A1 Consortium.)

One of the HACC’s aims (apart from the Junctions 6 – 7 Improvement Scheme itself) is to deliver a strategy for the A1 corridor which will be available late Autumn 2015. It will be a fairly high-level document that will highlight problem areas and suggest interventions at junctions along the A1 and the adjacent local road network.

But this is clearly long term planning that will not help anybody in the short term, and in the short term, things do not look good.

Nevertheless, through the HACC there is an opportunity to bring pressure to bear on Highways England (HE) to bring about further works to improve the operation of their scheme. And indeed, at the 6th July 2015 meeting, local Consortium representatives vigorously urged Highways England to re-think on the current local rush-hour problems caused at The Clock Roundabout.

Where do we go from here?

On 7th August 2015, the DRA were advised by County Highways, (Andrew Morris – Highways Major Project Group) that ‘signalising the Clock Roundabout is not a proposal being considered in detail as part of the A1 Strategy. Even if the Strategy were to recommend this type of scheme, there would still be a need for further analysis, design development and funding obtained. To my knowledge HCC does not have any current proposals for signalising that junction’.

And then on 26th August 2015, County Cllr. Richard Smith again discussed these matters  with the County Executive Member for Highways and pressed for short term measures to reduce the daily congestion.

For the moment, we must remain hopeful that somebody in authority has the capacity to apply ‘The Churchill Factor’ and “Action This Day”.

Walking the dog in and around Welwyn

Dog owners are very lucky to be living in this area, as there are so many different places where you can take your beloved pet for a walk. We all know how dog walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. So lets take a look at some of the best amenity places around Welwyn where you can walk your dog, or dogs, and get the most out of this exercise.

Mardley Heath

Located in the Oaklands area, Mardley Heath is a Local Nature Reserve with some very interesting walks, some in wooded areas and some open space areas where your dog can run around free. Mardley Heath is owned by the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and is managed by the council and Friends of Mardley Heath. There is a car park on Heath Road, which serves Mardley Heath very well. Mardley Heath can be accessed in numerous places including Hangmans Lane, Heath Road, Canonsfield Road, Dolesbury Drive, and others.

Danesbury Park

This is a beautiful 24.5 hectare public park and Local Nature Reserve, also owned and managed by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. The site was formerly the park of Danesbury House, and it still has some large mature trees which are important to wildlife. On occasions the park hosts Long Horn Cattle so take note of the notices that are posted on the entrances to the park which will provide information about the cattle and their occupancy of the park. When the cattle are present in the park, make sure your pets are kept under control. There is access from a number of roads including Codicote Road, North Ride and Danesbury Park Road.

Singlers Marsh

On the other side of Codicote Road from Danesbury Park is Singlers Marsh, a 6.3 hectare Local Nature Reserve owned and managed by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. The site is bordered by the River Mimram. It has grassland, which is sometimes managed by cattle grazing and cutting, and areas of willow scrub with some more mature trees. As with Danesbury Park, be careful with your pets when the cattle are grazing and make sure they are under control. Singlers Marsh provides a habitat for a wide range of insects and birds. There is access by a kissing gate at the corner of Codicote Road and Fulling Mill Lane.

Harmergreen Wood

This is a 44-acre ancient woodland site which is ideal for dog-walking. It is a ‘back to basics’ woodland which is very appealing to those who like to witness nature in its natural form. The woods are located within walking distance of Welwyn North train station and can be accessed from Robbery Bottom Lane, Turpins Rise, and Harmergreen Lane.

All the sites mentioned that are owned and managed by the council, dog waste bins have been provided and are used by all responsible dog owners. This helps to ensure our community areas are kept clean.

These are just some of the best places in our beautiful area for dog-walking. So it would be nice to make the most of them and enjoy keeping healthy.

Sherrardspark Wood – Summer Activities

The Sherrardspark Wood Wardens Society organise a number of interesting walks which are detailed in their website.

The following walks are being organised over the next few months:

  • Saturday 8th August 2015 “Do you know your woodland trees?”
  • Saturday 22nd August 2015 “Bat Watching at Stanborough Lakes”
  • Saturday 19th September 2015 “Fungal Foray”

Please note that some of these walks allow only limited numbers and it is important to go to the Sherrardspark Wood Wardens website to get full details and, where needed, pre-book.

The Panshanger Oak seen again

Lafarge Tarmac has opened up an Oak Trail which will allow people to see the magnificent Panshanger Oak once again. The Oak Trail starts close to Riverside Cottage in the heart of the park, and allows the public to walk close to The Broadwater, which is a lake fed by River Mimram and designed by Humphry Repton 200 years ago. On the Broadwater is a 19th century waterwheel.

Access to the Oak Trail is by foot from the Thieves Lane car park

On top of the hill are the remains of the Orangery and Conservatory, as well as the site of the former Panshanger House, demolished in 1953. From the site of the old house there is an impressive view across the valley towards Cole Green.

For more details of the impressive work of the Friends of Panshanger Park, and to see  how you might help, go to the Friends of Panshanger Park.


Panshanger Park – Heritage Walks 2015

The Friends of Panshanger Park hold monthly accompanied Walks led by members of the Friends, who will talk about the features of the delightful Humphry Repton landscape and the history of the site, and point out all the many wildlife features.

Walks start at 2 p.m. from Thieves Lane Car Park on the following dates:

Saturday 28th March

Sunday 26th April

Sunday 31st May

Sunday 28th June

If you would like to join one of their Walks, you are asked to let the Friends know in advance by email to:

For more information about the varied activities go to the Friends of Panshanger Park website.


Panshanger Park – a Country Park right on our doorstep

The Friends of Panshanger Park (the FPP) was formed to ensure that Panshanger Park is restored to its original, historically significant, landscape once the owners (Lafarge Tarmac) have finished their gravel extraction. Privately owned by Lafarge Tarmac, the 1000 acre Panshanger Park estate has been extensively mined for minerals for over 30 years.

Since being formed, the WPAG has been represented on the FPP Committee by WPAG Committee Member Don Street. Don has been working tirelessly with the FPP team, determined to enable open public access to this wonderful Country Park, which is right on our doorstep.

Lets be honest. Most of us have yet to visit Panshanger Country Park.

It is therefore recommended that initially you visit the Friends of Panshanger Park website:

  • to gain an appreciation of just how protracted, difficult, and stressful this undertaking has been for the FPP,
  • to learn just how much success the Friends have already achieved
  • to learn where the public now have access, and
  • to make a date in your diary and visit.

You will be certain to be impressed by what you find. The Friends of Panshanger Park deserve all the support and encouragement that we can give them.