Hertfordshire (abbreviated Herts) is a county in southern England – recently voted Britain’s best place to raise a family. Its number of intact medieval and Tudor buildings surpasses London, especially in conservation areas such as St Albans.
Its county town is Hertford – and four of its towns house between 50,000 and 100,000 residents: Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, Watford and St Albans. Many of the county’s residents commute to London for work. Hertfordshire borders Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Buckinghamshire and Greater London.
Humans likely occupied Hertfordshire during the Mesolithic period. ‘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. The Six Hills, for example, is the largest surviving Roman barrow group in England. Stevenage was built during the Roman-Britain centuries.
The county has a population of just over a million while most of the undeveloped agricultural land is protected metropolitan greenbelt. Many large UK companies are headquartered in Hertfordshire – including Tesco, Roche UK, JD Wetherspoon, GlaxoSmithKline and The National Pharmacy Association. Deer feature in most of the county’s emblems, including its coat of arms and flag.
Road: As one of the Home Counties, many Hertfordshire towns form part of the London commuter belt. Three motorways pass through or reach into 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 10 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. Local commuter and regional services are provided by Abellio Greater Anglia.
Bus: Local bus services run by private operators are coordinated by Intalink, a county council project that organises transport and bus services in rural areas.
Air: Stansted and Luton are within 10 miles of the county's borders. The commercial airfield at Elstree serves light aircraft.
Water: The Grand Union Canal passes through west Hertfordshire – including Rickmansworth, Watford, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring.
Hertfordshire is Britain’s best place to raise a family, says the uSwitch Better Family Life index, as reported in The Guardian. The 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 reportedly managed to spend more time 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.
London’s spiralling property prices have seen increasing numbers of people seeking housing in the commuter belt. However, The Hertfordshire Mercury advises to “purchase carefully within your means”. This implies 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,” the newspaper concluded.
Following a proposal put forward by The Welwyn Garden Heritage Trust, it has been suggested that designated ‘Garden Villages’ could be built within Hertfordshire to relieve some of the pressure for new homes – with perhaps a third Garden City to follow.
The glass-roofed Intu Watford shopping centre features a John Lewis anchor store and there are plans to integrate Charter Place and a multi-screen cinema, more restaurants and shops. Meanwhile, The Galleria is a designer outlet centre in Hatfield with over 80 shops, covering high-street names plus more specialised stores. It also incorporates an Odeon Cinema and nine restaurants/cafés.
The Fleetville Vintage Emporium is an indoor antiques market in St Albans. Providing an alternative shopping experience, it houses over 100 entrepreneurs stocking a diverse range of collectables. You can find anything from authentic vintage clothing and accessories to antiques, books, vinyl, art, kitchen goods, mirrors and much more.
The Home & Colonial Antique Centre is sometimes described as the ‘Liberty’s of Berkhamsted’. It offers artefacts from over 35 specialists displayed over five floors. The Attic Cafe on the top floor provides home-cooked food in a scenic setting. Limited Edition Comix in Stevenage sells comic books, graphic novels, pop toys, action figures, hot toys, table-top games and other pop-culture items.
Sport: Of the 47 football clubs in Herts, Watford is the best known and plays at Vicarage Road. Sir Elton John once owned the club (and now serves as joint Honorary Life President). The county’s other teams include Enfield, Hatfield Town, and London Colney. Hertford rugby union team is based in Ware, which runs five senior sides, junior teams and a women's section. The Grand Union Canal Race ultramarathon follows a 145-mile course from Birmingham to London with a time limit of 45 hours.
Family: Warner Bros Studios, Leavesden is situated in Abbots Langley. It’s one of a few places in the UK where large-scale film productions can be made. Its public attraction ‘Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter’ receives over 6,000 visitors a day. Hertfordshire Sports Village boasts fitness and leisure facilities; various children’s activities are also available, including birthday parties. Knebworth House, Gardens & Parkis world famous for hosting rock concerts. It has a Dinosaur Trail in the Wilderness Garden, a Historic Deer Park and huge Adventure Playground.
Cultural: Visit Welwyn Roman Baths, a scheduled ancient monument. Find out how its vault was built, see local archaeological finds and an exhibition of the site’s history. The Henry Moore Foundation was established to promote fine arts. It operates from Perry Green in Hertfordshire (and the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds). Its collections feature sculptures in stone, wood, plaster and bronze, drawings, sketchbooks and graphic work. Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation founded the International Garden Cities Institute. It’s a central resource for academics, professionals and others.
Events: The Hertfordshire County Show has been running for over 130 years. It’s now the biggest event in Hertfordshire – and a great way to see the traditional skills that keep our countryside beautiful. St Albans Fashion Week is held at glamorous St Albans Abbey, showcasing a mix of designer, vintage and high-street brands. On certain Sundays, Hidden Hertford WalksembarkfromHertford Museum for a leisurely stroll of the area.