Latest and previous news relating to to Panshanger Park:
August 2021:Parking Charges now instigated at Thieves Lane car park
Visitors to the car park will now be aware of the new £2.50 per visit charge to park there. This is collected by a warden who is present on the site most days. The friends group have received many comments about this new charge, the large majority of them have negative. We ran a short survey on the matter and had over 200 responses, see pie chart below. It appears that a good many people intend to now park outside the car park when visiting, which of course can cause congestion on nearby roads, including within residential streets.
We also wrote a letter to local newspapers about the new charging, and issues arising from it. The text of the letter is below:
“Dear SirThe Friends of Panshanger Park are dismayed by the imposition of charges for parking at the Thieves Lane Car Park, Not only was this introduced, without proper notice, to a car park which has always been free, but no extra facilities have been put in place to justify the charge. There are no marked parking bays, no toilets (as required by the 1982 Legal Agreement) and no disabled access. The Friends have conducted a poll amongst their members which shows overwhelming dissatisfaction with the introduction of parking fees, the state of the car park and the lack of information. The results of the poll show that only 7.8% would be happy to pay the charge with 34.2% saying it should remain free . The full results of the members’ poll are shown below..
There are no signs to set out the terms and conditions of parking, only some small home-made signs on the actual car park approach indicating that there is now a charge of £2.50. The signs are not visible enough, and contain no other information. We are not experts in parking law but we believe this contravenes the legislation covering parking on private land (Protection of Freedoms Act 2012). We have observed a marked drop in the number of cars parking at Thieves Lane since the charge was introduced. Indeed, we have witnessed many drivers arrive and leave again as soon as they are informed of the new charge by the parking attendant. Thus, fewer visitors are enjoying one of our best, local, historic landscapes. We are also concerned that those who do want to walk in the Park, and have to drive in, will add to the congestion in local residential streets as has happened in the past at busy times. Over 19% of our poll respondents stated they would park nearby rather than pay £2.50 for Thieves Lane car park. No action by the council seems to have been taken on this issue. We call on the local and county councils to make sure the Thieves Lane car park is operating within the relevant law and guidance. We suggest that in return for a very expensive parking ticket the owners (Tarmac) provide the parking facilities people expect: proper signage, parking bays, and a pot hole free hard surface would be a good start. The things that are mandatory as far as parking associations are concerned.
For your readers’ information we are also calling for the car park just off the B1000, nearer to the Great Oak and former house site, to be brought into public use, thus enabling disabled and less able visitors to enjoy these attractions. Again, this was set out in the Legal Agreement of 1982 but there are no plans by the site owners to open it. It’s currently a staff only car park, which ironically is in better condition than the Thieves Lane car park”.
We will meet with Tarmac representatives to discuss further our concerns raised above. From the many comments we’ve had about the sudden imposition of charging, and poor signage etc. it seems this could have been better thought through before being implemented.
April 2021: New car park plans for Panshanger Lane at the western side of the park
A planning application for the new 173 space car park happened in May. The application can be viewed here: https://planning.hertfordshire.gov.uk/Planning/Display?applicationNumber=PL%2F0202%2F21
The friends have now submitted comments into the application, they can be read by clicking HERE.
The Friends committee have looked at the proposal and highlights the following points:
1) It will be a paying car park with ANPR technology (vehicle number plate recognition), accessible from Panshanger Lane, the charging schedule is unknown, it appears to have entry/exit barriers as well as ANPR, which is unusual.
2) There will be lavatory facilities and a hard space for a mobile catering van with some outdoor seating.
3) Each standard car park space is the bare minimum at 2.4m width with no gaps between spaces. This could be too narrow for many SUV’s and may limit access for people needing to open doors fully, and get bikes off roof racks etc.
4) There are no parent and child spaces so opening doors to put children in car seats will be difficult.
5) We have concerns about the lack of trees and shrubs within and around the car park and the difficult manoeuvres to negotiate the car park, especially for coaches with a possible conflict with pedestrians. Outside of the park there may be traffic issues with the turning off the A414 as the quarry lorries still use that road, the A414 is very busy and fast. This will also be an access point for the new Panshanger airfield development (around 900 homes). Coaches will be able to enter the park to drop-off and pick up but there appears to be no designated turning area, or parking areas for them to wait in.
6) As the lane becomes busier, crossing from the footpaths on the Panshanger (WGC) side to get into the park could become dangerous. A pedestrian crossing could be vital (perhaps funded by the developer as a S.106 contribution).
7) The original Management Plan for the park from 1982 included a car park at North Lodge on the B1000. This remains the best location for a car park in terms of accessibility to the Great Oak and Orangery site. This current proposal should not detract from a car park at North Lodge in the future, as was the original plan.
8) In light of this application it is unclear what the future holds for the congested Thieves Lane car park, and whether that will become chargeable too.
9) The additional visitors to the park that the car park will generate serves to emphasise the need to progress the Orangery renovation as a heritage attraction, and focal point for future visitors.
10) There will helpfully be 12 disabled parking bays and 5 electric vehicle charging points (type, network, operating hours, unspecified).
Below is map showing the general location of the proposed car park (click to enlarge):
March 2021: The north western path is now open in the park
Site owners Tarmac, have released the following statement about the new path:
“Panshanger Park is pleased to announce the opening of the Western approach path. The new path is a permissive bridleway which can be enjoyed on foot, horse or bike, and links the western side of the park to the Panshanger Great Oak and the remains of Panshanger house. The route passes through what used to be the old sand and gravel processing plant before the restoration works were completed. The land has been restored with replaced soils and then seeded with grasses and wildflowers…Following completion of mineral extraction, all areas through the central valley of Panshanger Park have now been restored and have been opened up to the public as a country park and nature reserve. There are now 24km of paths for people to enjoy.”
The Friends group welcomes this development, it is positive to see this long-awaited path now open.
February 2021: Update on activities during the pandemic
It’s been some time since we last posted an update here on our website. The last year has been an extraordinary one for all of us, life has thrown up challenges for many of us, most of us had probably expected life to have returned to something like normal before now.
However, we are where we are of course. The value of Panshanger Park has become ever more evident over the last year. It being a wonderful place to “get out into the green”. There has been a lot of media coverage promoting the mental health benefits of getting out into the Countryside during the pandemic. The WWF and Mental Health Foundation have produced an interesting guide about it, with an introduction by Julia Bradbury, you can find it by clicking here.
We have clearly seen an increase of visitors to the park, with the Thieves Lane car park overflowing regularly at weekends, with very many cars parking along Panshanger Lane, to access the western side of the park. All of this demonstrates how popular the park has become, and how there is pressing need for more, and better, facilities and access at the park.
The Friends committee has continued to meet during the last year online using Zoom, we’ve also continued to meet with landowners Tarmac, local councilors and others involved with the Panshanger Park liaison group, again online. The meetings held by this group are the main opportunity for us to progress the realisation of the 1980 Legal Agreement to deliver a full Country Park within the historic landscape.
These meetings were suspended for several months last year by Tarmac, they could not go ahead as their staff were on Furlough. Since their return to work these meetings have gone ahead online, we continue to attend. We do so on behalf of our supporters and everyone else who is keen to see the Country Park fulfill its potential, as set out many decades ago.
A new Panshanger Park People and Wildlife Officer has recenty been appointed by Tarmac. The Friends group welcomes this development, we are currently arranging a virtual meeting with her. To hear more about her role, and tell her more about the aims and hopes of the Firends group.
In December we held our AGM, there have been a few personnel changes in the last year or so, we have reviewed the groups aims and focus. For the coming year it was agreed that we would like to work with Tarmac to progress the following:
- Access from the north of the park (from the B1000) particularly to establish disabled and less-able parking at the stables area. The Oak, Orangery and Repton view from the house grounds is a considerable walk from the current and proposed car parks.
- The restoration of the Orangery. We flagged the issue of vandalism to the Orangery as it was not protected. Tarmac were quick to respond and installed a new high fence and security cameras. However, there has been no progress on any restoration plan for the Orangery, we would like to see that change in 2021.
- We would like a new definitive map of the paths and Rights of Way produced. There are some discrepancies between previous maps, an agreed and recognised map should be produced, which will also aid park visitors.
- Tarmac are about to submit a planning application for a 140 space car park on the western edge of the park, accessed from the former haul road on Panshanger Lane. The Friend’s group has been shown the draft plans and does not object in principle, we did object to the previous application, which was subsequently withdrawn. However, we will look closely at the details of the new planning application when it appears on the HCC website.
Additionally, we will try to reach out to the wider community of people now visiting the park, it’s clear that our publicizing of both the park itself, and our groups aims, could be improved. If you have any suggestions for this; or would like to get involved in supporting our aims please do get in touch. We are particularly keen to hear from groups or individuals with mobility difficulties who visit, or would like to visit, the park.
The Great Oak
Since its formation the friends group sought to get Panshanger Park open to the public as per the original agreement dating back to 1982. We were very pleased to see this finally happen a couple of years ago.
The Great Oak and swathes of the park were in fact open to the public for a long period under the auspices of the Cowper family. It is only really the last half century that has seen the public excluded from the park and famous Great Oak. This is documented in various places, including in George Bradshaws travel guide of 1866 which contains the following entry:
‘A short distance farther on (from Welwyn station) is Panshanger Park, which is extremely beautiful.It belongs to the Earl Cowper, who permits the most free access to the park and grounds, and also to his picture gallery. In the private garden stands the famous oak ‘Sylva Britannica’, remarkable for its size, symmetry and grandeur of appearance.’
Readers may be familiar with the Bradshaw’s guides from the Great British Railway Journeys TV series presented by Michael Portillo.
When the Oak trail was opened up the park owner Tarmac issued the below information about it:
“The opening up of the next phase of the park will be marked by the delivery of a new 2 kilometre long trail.
The Oak Trail will offer public access to the iconic 450 – 500 year old Panshanger Great Oak – reportedly planted by Queen Elizabeth I. Like many of the 50 very old trees listed in “Great British Trees”, this ancient specimen is potentially quite fragile, so work is being carried out to make sure that members of the public can safely enjoy its multicoloured splendours throughout the year.
The new Oak Trail will start at Riverside Cottage and take in the old 19thcentury waterwheel, which used to pump water up to the original Panshanger House. The half way point will be the woodland – where the 450+ year old Panshanger Great Oak can be seen. The tree is being surrounded by a traditional iron estate fence – not only to protect the health and safety of visitors – but also to protect the health of this vulnerable old tree. From the oak, the trail continues past the orangery to the footprint of the original Panshanger House. This site offers spectacular views of the River Mimram across Humphry Repton’s Broadwater.
Access Map from Tarmac (2019)
Click on the map above to enlarge it. You can save a PDF version of it here: Tarmac 2019 map.
The map above includes the new paths opened in 2019. You can now walk east-west across the park, from Panshanger Lane to Thieves Lane along a level path. There is no usable route marking to guide walkers (as yet) and as there are several route options on the eastern side it can be a bit confusing at first. From the east just keep walking west, keeping the river and lake close to your left hand side, you will eventually reach Riverside Cottage and can continue from there. Do not be afraid of the long horn cattle which may be grazing, they are fairly docile creatures and won’t bother you. Do not bother them of course, dogs must be kept on a lead around cattle, as is the rule anywhere.
Our AGM – 2nd July 2019
The Friends Group held it’s AGM on the 2nd of July. It was lovely summer evening, we sat in the park looking out at the wonderful view from where the house once stood. Our committee was duly elected and after an informative update from Kate and Geoff we all enjoyed a picnic as the sun went down. We still have one or two places on our committee, we would welcome anyone with a passion for the park and it’s environs to get in touch with for a chat about how you might be able to help.
PUBLIC ACCESS UPDATE MAY 25th 2019
Finally, the Mimram Valley path opens on June 24th!
The Friends of Panshanger Park and the WGC Society have recently been campaigning very hard to get route between WGC and Hertford, across the Mimram Valley finally opened. The drive overall is to push Tarmac to fulfill their obligation to open the park in full.
Below is a photo of some of the attendees on our celebratory walk which took place the day that Mirmam Valley path opened.
In recent weeks our group had met with Tarmac management, and we have invited MP Grant Shapps along to the park, again, to see the closed off path. Grant has been very supportive of our cause, also raising the matter with Tarmac himself.
Tarmac have now given a date of June 24th 2019 for the opening of the East -West valley path.
We are very pleased and encouraged that this is now going to happen. Pleased because we have been asking for it to open for about 5 years, and encouraged as it shows that Tarmac are listening to local communities who want to access the park in full. This is a very welcome step forward along the way to the full restoration of the former gravel workings into a beautiful County Park and nature reserve that we can all enjoy.
The opening of the path will allow people from Welwyn Garden City and Hertford to easily walk through the mostly level and stunning valley alongside the Mimram. The picture below shows the path, the section in red will open on the 24th June.
The route serves as the key access route into the park from Welwyn Garden City and offers the wonderful views of the Grade II* listed landscape to the visitor.
This welcome news is also being covered in our local press. The Welwyn and Hatfield Times has a story about it here:
And the Hertfordshire Mercury here:
We look forward to walkers being able to access this new route for probably the first time in living memory. We urge all park users to access this and the other permissive routes responsibly, especially with regard to dogs and litter, as the saying goes “Leave only footprints”.
IMPORTANT PUBLIC ACCESS UPDATE – JAN 1st 2018
(Click on above link to open access map as full pdf)
UPDATE JUNE 2018
Latest request from HCC to TARMAC in letter of 8 JUNE 2018 below. Tarmac have so far declined to reply to HCC or action any requests to improve public access and facilities. Another summer passes without full Country Park access and the delivery of the facilities Tarmac are legally obliged to give back. The quarrying profits have been taken away of course.
UPDATE MARCH 2018
HCC John Wood, Chief Executive letter of Nov 2017 was finally responded to on 12th February 2018.
The above letter left many questions unanswered and unclear. It is for the planning authority (HCC) to ensure that the full public benefit – enshrined in the 1980’s Legal Agreement & Planning Permissions – is delivered. A fully opened and wardened Country Park with all the facilities the owner is obliged to deliver.
IMPORTANT UPDATE DECEMBER 2017
If you would like to better understand why a Country Park at Panshanger is overdue to the people of Hertfordshire. Please read our Friends of Panshanger – Assessment document below. It is a detailed assessment of the Tarmac Country Park draft plan, delivered earlier this year to Herts County Council (HCC). A detailed plan that was first asked for in 1982. The country park should have first opened its gates 1989 (see HCC press release).
Twenty eight years later the public still waits for the full opening of the Country Park and its facilities. Also see letters sent to Tarmac by HCC over the last 4 years. We leave you to judge progress. The Friends of Panshanger Park now assume full access to the Country Park area from 1st January 2018, in line with the ending of mineral extraction on the Panshanger Estate. A new permission to import inert restoration minerals was granted to Tarmac by HCC (prior to opening of the full Country Park) or even getting a plan. Estimated value of this new permission is £4-8 million over 10 years. But still no toilets at the Country Park, one car park for a 800+ acre park, no refreshments facilities, no disabled access parking, no public fishing, poor way-marking, no plan to restore the Orangery.
We now also have the ignominy of an English Heritage Grade II* landscape, designed by Humphry Repton, being added to this years Historic England – Heritage at Risk List. Due to poor restoration and management practices adopted by the owners and on the eve of national celebrations of Repton’s 300th anniversary in 2018.
CLICK LINKS TO OPEN DOCUMENT
We are pleased to confirm SUCCESS and that following the local and national campaign to save Repton’s Broadwater at Panshanger Park.
Tarmac have announced they will not excavate the Lower Broadwater. THANK YOU to everyone who has campaigned for this and to Tarmac for reaching this final decision.
Back to the Future of Panshanger Park 15th May 2015
We had 60 guests join us at Mayflower Place, Hertingfordbury for a morning of fascinating talks on the history of the landscape, the local rifle volunteers of Hertfordshire, the vibrant wildlife of the area, park photography and the future plans for the Country Park. Recent paintings of the park were also on display. All followed by a lovely walk through the park to see the Broadwater, the Great Oak and the Orangery.
CLICK PHOTO to enlarge
The PEOPLES ANNIVERSARY WALK took place on 31st March 2015.
Despite blustery conditions 180 people attended the Peoples Anniversary Walk on Tues 31st March. Walking groups came in from Hertford, Welwyn Garden City, Hertingfordbury, Birch Green and Sele Farm to all meet at Riverside Cottage. Gary O’Leary, Chairman of Friends of Panshanger Park and Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society addressed the crowd, prior to a walk to see the Panshanger Great Oak and the Orangery, currently off limits to the public. See speech details HERE>>>
The message from Gary and Kate was clear. This stunning 1000 acre Country Park, as promised to the people of Hertfordshire in 1982, should have opened decades ago. The public have been badly let down by the owners and Hertfordshire County Council who have not ensured the legal obligations for delivery of the Country Park were followed through. Recent promises for opening up of new areas of the park are welcome. However Lafarge Tarmac now need to commit to the investment required to open, manage and deliver a quality Country Park with the facilities as promised. The Friends wish to see these commitments confirmed and the park opened up by May, in time for the public to enjoy throughout the summer.
Attending and supporting our walk as part of their 150th anniversary was Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society. She gave a rousing address to all those present (despite the strong winds) you can watch it below.
Our group thanks her for coming along and offering such great support.
Those walking in from the west (WGC) were also able to enjoy the path across the Mimram valley, a route that is currently closed to the public. This level and picturesque route was enjoyed by all those accessing this area for the first time today.
Our Latest Friends Newlstter welcoming in Spring is here: FPP Newsletter – MARCH 2015
The friends group is now able to include the western side of the park, including the Panshanger Oak and former house and environs on our regular guided walks. More details available on the sidebar to the right. To whet your appetitite below are a couple of recent photos from that side of the park. Further new photos can be found in the Park photos section of the site from the main menu above.
The weekly parkrun initiated by the friends group goes from strength to strength.The founder of parkrun, Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE, recently visited to run the park for himself, see the picture below.
The run was recently featured on the weekly “parkrun show”. It includes a good summary of the park and its setting, as well as a great interview with our own Louise Smith. You can listen to the Panshanger article below, its well worth a listen for anyone interested in Panshanger Park. We thank the parkrun show for visiting us and featuring us on thier show. You can listen to the entire parkrun show by clicking here.
We have recently added more pictures to the site across various pages, including a new section about the former Panshanger House, and have added a new Park Photos section. We have also added a new section ‘Legal agreement and Planning’ which has a link to a new document that outlines the recent planning history of the park, and and the friends’ group view of where things currently stand.
Panshanger parkrun launches with 300 smiles! – see link to the press release
Friends latest newsletter #3 Sept 2014 here: Fpp Newsletter Number 3
MP Grant Shapps visits the park: Yesterday (4th July) the Friends Group hosted a visit by MP Grant Shapps to Panshanger Park. We invited Grant to the park to see for himself the progress to date on the opening up of Panshanger Country Park, what has been achieved so far and what remains to be done. The weather was perfect and he was clearly appreciative of the natural beauty of the park and its historic setting. Below is a picture of Grant and the assembled group on the viewing platform beside the Osprey Lake.
Mr Shapps was very enthusiastic about the park and was also keen to learn more about its historical significance from our committee member Kate Harwood. Another member, Will Davis, explained that the friends group were pleased that things have progressed with the recent opening up of the eastern section of the park. He also said the group is looking forward to seeing the master plan from Lafarge Tarmac which gives details and a schedule for the opening up of the western section adjacent to Welwyn Garden City. This Includes the area surrounding the ‘Great Oak’ and former house and gardens. The opening up of the park is underway, and remains a work in progress. We look forward to it’s completion.
On this hot Summer’s day the star of the show was clearly the beautiful landscape and fauna of our new park. The friends group prepared a press release for the occasion which can be downloaded here.
Grant’s visit to the park was also covered in the Mercury newspaper. You can find their article online here: http://www.hertfordshiremercury.co.uk/Hertfordshire/Grant-Shapps-MP-visits-Panshanger-Park-amid-calls-for-more-of-the-land-to-be-opened-20140707174159.htm
May 2014: Our second newsletter is available to download here.
A new set of pictures from our latest path clearance work party are now available HERE or in the Path Clearing drop down on the news menu above.
New history section added to the menu above, see ‘Information Boards’ on the history drop down.
The East Herts district plan draft consultation is open for your comments until May 22nd. FPP urges anybody with concerns about our countryside, particularly with regard to Panshanger Park, respond to the consultation with their comments. This plan will be the blueprint for how the district develops until 2031, therefore it’s a very important document. The friends group has made it’s own submission which can be downloaded in full here:
As of early May there are 411 comments on the consultation, the final tally will hopefully be far higher. If you are having problems naviagating the site or adding your comments please contact EHDC or ourselves for help.
You can now view the daily level of the river Mimram by clicking on our new web page that relays information from the Environment Agency monitoring station at Panshanger, click on the links menu above or HERE.
Friends of Panshanger Park hosted another walk on Easter monday, 21st April. It was an enjoyable event and many people commented on what a great local asset the park is becoming, and thanked our friends group for the work done so far in getting the park fully opened up to the public. Below is a picture of some of the walkers on a bridge over the Mimram.
Additionally, below is a photo taken on the same day showing bluebells in the foreground and the Riverside Cottage beyond.
Pictures courtesy of David Stowe and Will Davis.
Please see the News & Events section above for the pictures of our recent inaugural walk around the park.
Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan Consultation – have your say!
Residents have until midnight on 19th March to have their say on the councils proposal to build 700+ homes on the Panshanger Airfield site. The plan if it goes ahead will bring a new housing estate very close to the park boundary on Panshanger Lane, thus eroding the buffer zone around the park. The green corridor that exists today would be severely compromised.
Anybody can register and comment on the proposal, you do not have to be a Welwyn Hatfield resident. To do so follow this link: welhat.gov.uk/localplan
The local community group in Panshanger have been active in supporting people to comment on this consultation. They have a wealth of information and reference information about it on their website here: panshangerpeople.org.uk
Please take a few minutes to add your comments if you are concerned at the impact this might have on our new country park.
Event: Talk on the artist Spencer Gore by Nicholas Reed.
Wednesday 26th November at 7:00pm – All welcome.
Location: Hertingfordbury Cowper Primary School. Birch Green, SG14 2LR (click here for a map).
Spencer Gore was one of a group of British Impressionists, the best-known of whom is Walter Sickert. For a time, Gore lived in Richmond-upon-Thames, and when we compare the wide variety of landscapes, portraits, music hall and parkland scenes by the two, the brilliance of Gore’s colours certainly overshadows the more sombre colouring of Sickert. 100 years ago, the Royal Academy excluded Impressionists: they were far too bright for their taste. But taste has moved on since the beginning of the 20th century, which is why Gore needs to be reassessed.
In 1914, Spencer Gore was living in Richmond, but he spent hours painting outside in Richmond Park in winter. He contracted pneumonia, and died aged just 35. His son Freddie Gore RA, was born almost the same year as his father’s death. He lived until his nineties, and exhibited in the Royal Academy for decades. Had Spencer Gore survived to his son’s age, we could have had another 60 years of his paintings. Let us just be grateful for the few we have, and wish that the Tate showed them more often.
Gore apparently painted about 20 views of Panshanger Park. It is just down the road from Garth House in Hertingfordbury, where his mother lived, and which he frequently visited when visiting his mother.
March 31st: Inaugaural walk a great success!
The eastern half of Panshanger Park officially opened on March 31st and was celebrated by a group walk around the area newly opened. This included new footpaths but also much open space in which to roam freely. Over a hundred people joined us at the White Horse in Hertingfordbury to begin our circular walk of the new paths which give access to areas of the park that have been out of bounds until now. Everyone agreed that the park will grow to become a wonderful local amenity in time, the inagural walk marked a significant step in that journey.
Below are a few pictures from the walk, click to enlarge them.
While this opening up of the park is to be celebrated, there are still many issues to be settled between HCC and Lafarge and with consultation with the Friends, including more footpaths, more open spaces, footpaths, bird hides, day fishing licences, picnic/viewing areas, a visitor centre, refreshment facilities, refurbishment of the orangery and access to the Panshanger Oak. The firends are collating the feedback from the walk and will pass it backk to HCC and Lafarge. If you came to the walk and have not yet given us your comments you are welcome to do so via this website.
The Friends are hopeful these issues can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction but especially for the benefit of the mid Hertfordshire public who have waited too long (0ver 30 years) for what was promised and should have been achieved long ago.
The Friends Group thanks everyone who came along in support and welcomes their continuing involvement in the group, and the development of the park in general. Please do contact us with your email address if you want to be counted among our supporters and recieve occasional emails about developments at the park. Click here for our contact page.