© 2017 The Harpenden Society

Restoration and maintenance work by local volunteers, notably through footpath edging and surfacing, continues at Greenway Spinney, a delightful wooded hollow, off Grove Avenue in south Harpenden.  Last year the spinney was awarded the status of ‘Local Nature Reserve’ by St Albans District Council (SADC) and Natural England, followed by a CPRE ‘Rural Living’ award. The latter’s citation referred to the restoration meeting three essential criteria: community engagement; ecological improvement; and involvement of young people.

 Through goodwill and effort, Friends of Greenway Spinney (FOGS) volunteers have contributed an estimated 1600 hours of hard work, over a period of six years. That has involved removing most of the invasive species of plant, including cherry laurel and snowberry, which had previously been allowed to overrun the area, described by local residents as a ‘gloomy tunnel’, that was threatening and inaccessible to the public and to native wildlife.

 Where brambles and nettles had earlier predominated, volunteers introduced wild strawberry plants and other non-invasive species. Information boards now list the flora and fauna to be found in and around the spinney, with advice on how creatures, especially hedgehogs, can best be protected.  

On the notice board at the Grove Avenue entrance to the spinney the FOGS award certificate and plaque are now displayed, along with acknowledgement of the sponsors who have provided crucial financial and material support, including SADC, Herts CC, Harpenden Trust, Franks Forestry, Jaystone Extensions and Biffa Group.

Greenway Spinney – restoration work continues


Before the days of social media and the internet, mothers of pre-school and school-age children would meet as neighbours, typically setting up informal baby-sitting groups. As the children grew older and became involved in multifarious, often school-related, sports and leisure activities, parents were inevitably brought together, not just formally via parent-teacher associations, but informally, outside school hours. 

They faced common challenges in bringing up their families which, by getting together were often eased and overcome more readily than they could have managed alone.

But the 21st Century computer age has enabled such ‘constructive friendships’ to be established much more widely and fruitfully – something which was recognised some four years ago by four local mothers, which led to the formation of Mum’s Guide to Harpenden (www.mumsguideto.co.uk/harpenden).

After meeting up at a ‘Monkey Music’ class – designed to introduce toddlers to the enjoyment of music – Katie Fenner, Alison Fox, Carol Rule and Angela Woodhead (left to right in photo) between them realised there was scope for a business to provide information for families about what was going on in the Harpenden area, covering everything from children’s activities, health and education, party-providers and other events.

Four years on and Mum’s Guide to Harpenden is thriving.  Its success can be measured by the many thousand ‘hits’ enjoyed by its website and the equally impressive number of social media followers. In recent months they have added a variety of different pages to the site including trades, interests and hobbies for parents, as well as private dining and catering.

The Harpenden Society, says chairman Chris Marsden, is pleased that Mum’s Guide to Harpenden is supporting the society by promoting its activities to families in the area via its newsletter, website and social media, in the hope that parents might be encouraged to take an interest in the work of the society and perhaps become members, helping to ensure its continuing work in keeping the town an attractive place to live, through to the next generation

Harpenden House Hotel

Some two years after Harpenden’s last remaining large hotel regrettably closed its doors, the purchaser of the property, Fairview New Homes Ltd, put in a planning application in October 2014 to demolish Harpenden House Hotel’s existing outbuildings and create 35 new ‘dwellings’ on the site.  The proposal included converting Welcombe House, the original Georgian Grade II* listed building, into five apartments.

Unsurprisingly, it attracted  much criticism, not least from the Harpenden Society, largely due to the scale and height of some of the proposed blocks of flats and the inclusion of yet more large detached houses for the town. Fairview subsequently withdrew the application in February 2015.

But the company submitted a revised 37-dwelling scheme in December 2015, comprising smaller two- and three-bedroom terraced houses, together with a new block of six flats at the rear of the site, though with the proposal for Welcombe House unchanged. However this second application was also withdrawn last February, though resubmitted in March, with some changes to the position of the boundaries.

The consultation period has now ended and, as the application has been ‘called in’ (local authority planning jargon) by one SADC councillor, it will go before the full planning committee for consideration, at a date – at the time of writing – yet to be announced.

It is the view of the Harpenden Society that the revised scheme is still not of sufficient merit or architectural detailing for such an important and prominent position fronting Harpenden Common. The society has accordingly called for the application to be withdrawn or refused, so that a fresh application can be prepared that clearly illustrates the detailing of the elevations and window configuration. A further concern is that, as proposed, the development would restrict the visibility of historic Welcombe House from across the Common.

The Society is hoping that its comments, and those made by other concerned parties, will help to ensure that the eventual development will be worthy of its importance within the landscape of the town for many years to come.

Photo caption. It is proposed that Welcombe House, a Georgian Grade II* listed building, be converted into five apartments. 

Autumn 2016 Newsletter