Harpenden is a wealthy commuter town with a population of 30,000. Unlike some soleless dormitory towns in the South-East, Harpenden has a character of its own, enhanced by its semi-rural setting and its abundance of parks and green spaces. With its excellent sports facilities, outstanding schools, and fast rail services to London, perhaps it is not surprising that property prices in Harpenden are some of the highest in the UK.
Heartwood Forest is a new forest created by the Woodland Trust. Until 2009 the land it now covers – some 858 acres – was arable farmland. The Trust planted hundreds of thousands of trees to create “the largest new, continuous native woodland in England”.It will be interesting to see how this part of the walk changes as the forest grows and develops.
St Leonard's Church, Sandridge is a 900 year old Norman Church, with only a few of its original features remaining. The Church was substantially rebuilt in 1886 to give its present date appearance. The Lychgate was erected in 1921 as a memorial to the 24 villagers who died serving King and Country in the Great War. 6 names were added after the Second World War. In the roof of the Church are etched the names of the villagers who served in the Great War and survived the conflict.
St Albans is a city steeped in history. It was the first major town on the old Roman Road of Watling Street for travellers heading north, and was originally known in Roman times as Verulamium. The city was later named after Alban, the first British Saint, who was martyred by the Romans in the third century for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
St Albans Abbey and its monastic buildings was completed in 1088 with bricks from the Roman town (dismantled because it had become a hiding place for robber gangs). In 1381 its Great Gateway was besieged during the Peasants’ Revolt; it was later used to imprison the rioters. In 1455, during the War of the Roses, Henry V1 was wounded in the neck by an arrow and took refuge in the Abbey, while drunken Yorkists ransacked the town. The Abbey, now a Cathedral, is open daily until 5.45 pm; outside these hours you can enter for evensong at 5.00 pm weekdays, 4.00 pm Saturdays and 6.30 pm on Sundays.
The excellent Verulamium Museum (entrance 2020: £6, or £7-50 with the Roman Theatre, open 10.00am/Sun 2pm - 5.30pm) stands in the middle of the site of the Roman city of Verulamium, once one of the largest towns in Roman Britain. The site is now a pleasant city park. Very little of the city remains - a Hypocaust’s mosaic and some city walls. Outside the park is a Roman theatre (mainly earthworks, few walls remain - £2.50 10am-5pm/4pm winter).