Hertfordshire (abbreviated Herts) is a Home County in southern England. Its number of intact medieval and Tudor buildings surpasses London, especially in conservation areas like St Albans. It has also been voted Britain’s best place to raise a family. Many of the county’s residents commute to London for work.
Its county town is Hertford – and its four other major towns are Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, Watford and St Albans. Hertfordshire borders Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Buckinghamshire and Greater London. Most of its undeveloped agricultural land is protected metropolitan greenbelt.
‘Hertford’ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘heort ford’ – meaning deer crossing a watercourse – while the name ‘Hertfordshire’ is first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 1011. The county's landmarks span centuries – including The Six Hills, England’s largest surviving Roman barrow group. Stevenage was also built during the Roman-Britain era.
The county has a population of just over a million. Many large UK companies are headquartered in Hertfordshire, including Tesco, Roche UK, The National Pharmacy Association, GlaxoSmithKline and JD Wetherspoon. Deer feature in many of the county’s emblems – including its coat of arms and flag.
Road: Many Hertfordshire towns contribute to the London commuter belt. Three motorways pass through the county; the principal roads are the A1, A1(M), A5, A6, A41, M1, M11, and M25. These major links connect the county to London, the Midlands, Northern England and Scotland.
Rail: Of Hertfordshire’s ten railway lines, Thameslink and Great Northern provide frequent train services on the Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line. Virgin Trains and East Midlands Trains provide inter-city services. Regional commuter services are provided by Abellio Greater Anglia.
Bus: Private operators run local bus services coordinated by Intalink, a county council project that organises transport in rural areas.
Air: Stansted and Luton airports are within 10 miles of the county's borders. A commercial airfield at Elstree also serves light aircraft.
Water: The Grand Union Canal passes through west Hertfordshire – including Rickmansworth, Watford, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring.
The Welwyn Garden Heritage Trust has proposed that further designated ‘Garden Villages’ could be built within Hertfordshire to relieve the pressure for new housing. Perhaps a third Garden City will follow in forthcoming years.
London’s rising housing prices have seen increasing numbers of people seeking property in the commuter belt. However, The Hertfordshire Mercury advises house-hunters to, “purchase carefully within your means”. This means having a professional valuation carried out. “But it will be a good year for settling into a home that provides safety, warmth and shelter for you and your family in these uncertain times,” concluded the newspaper.
Hertfordshire is Britain’s best place to raise a family, according to uSwitch’s Better Family Life index. The Guardian newspaper cited the county’s, “Top exam results, good pay prospects and plenty of sunshine, combined with lots of GPs and fast broadband,” for Hertfordshire’s success. The region’s residents also spend more time than the national average with their families. (The east of England was the best performing region in the study, taking more than a quarter of the top 20 spots.)
The Intu Watford shopping centre is anchored by a branch of John Lewis – and plans to integrate Charter Place, a multi-screen cinema, more restaurants and shops. The Galleria, meanwhile, is a designer outlet centre in Hatfield with over 80 shops covering high-street names and more specialised stores. It also incorporates an Odeon Cinema and nine restaurants and cafés.
The Fleetville Vintage Emporium is an indoor antiques market in St Albans. Give it a try for an alternative shopping experience. It hosts over 100 entrepreneurs stocking a diverse range of unique collectables. You can find anything from accessories to authentic vintage clothing, antiques, books, kitchen goods, vinyl, art, mirrors and much more.
The Home & Colonial Antique Centre has been described as the ‘Liberty’s of Berkhamsted’. It provides artefacts from over 35 specialists elegantly displayed over five floors. The top-floor Attic Cafe provides homemade food in a picturesque setting. Meanwhile, Limited Edition Comix in Stevenage sells comic books, graphic novels, toys and action figures, tabletop games and other collectibles.
Sport: Of the 47 football clubs in Herts Watford is the best known. Sir Elton John once owned the club (and now serves as joint Honorary Life President). Other teams include Enfield, Hatfield Town, and London Colney. Hertford RFC is a rugby union team based in Ware, which runs senior sides, junior teams and a women's section. The Grand Union Canal Race ultramarathon follows a 145-mile course from Birmingham to London.
Family: Situated in Abbots Langley, Warner Bros Studios, Leavesden is one of the UK’s few places to facilitate blockbuster film productions. Its attraction ‘Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter’ lures over 6,000 visitors a day. Knebworth House, Gardens & Parkis world famous for hosting rock concerts. It also offers a Dinosaur Trail in the Wilderness Garden, a huge Adventure Playground and an Historic Deer Park. Hertfordshire Sports Village boasts fitness and leisure facilities for all-comers. Various children’s activities are ripe for the picking.
Cultural: Welwyn Roman Baths is a scheduled ancient monument. Learn how its vault was built, witness local archaeological discoveries and view an historical exhibition. The Henry Moore Foundation, established to promote fine arts, operates from Perry Green (plus the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds). Its collections feature sculptures in stone, wood, plaster and bronze, as well as sketches and graphic work. The International Garden Cities Institute is a central resource for academics, professionals and other interested parties.
Events: The Hertfordshire County Show has been running for over 130 years – and is now the county’s biggest event of its kind. It’s also a superb way to experience the traditional skills that keep the local countryside scenic. On certain Sundays, Hidden Hertford WalksembarkfromHertford Museum for a leisurely stroll of the locale. And St Albans Fashion Week is held at glorious St Albans Abbey. The event showcases a mix of designer, vintage and high-street brands.