Stevenage is a town of approximately 80,000 in the county of Hertfordshire, in the south east of England, only around 32 miles north of central London. The town is well known for being the first ever 'new town'; new towns were a series of towns built near London after World War II. Stevenage as a whole is not as a major tourist attraction, but there are some attractions that may attract local visitors. An interesting fact about the town is that a view of Stevenage from the air, shows it as a heart shape.
Stevenage is a must for architecture and planning historians, sociologists and socialists to visit, it represents, perhaps, the most successful of the great Post-War experiments with new housing. This was a huge project to relocate those who were displaced by the war in clean, open, and healthy new towns. Its often unattractive architecture is mostly that of the 1960s and 1970s; in this it is perhaps unfortunate, but it was also conceived with a strong vision in mind.
It is easy to write Stevenage off as another soulless new town, and to make stereotypical remarks about it as a place to live, as countless unthinking and lazy commentators have done. But this is to miss what the town offers. Stevenage is like any other UK town, it has its problems and these should not be dismissed, but it also benefits from a good transport infrastructure, wide open spaces, plenty of sporting facilities, a theatre of some reputation and lovely countryside both around it, and within it.
There are many reasons why you might want to come to Stevenage to live. Swimming pools, relatively low house prices, but a quick commute to London (20 minutes by fast train), as well as tennis courts and wide open parks. All of these do attract people from the surrounding area to Stevenage. A particularly attractive feature is the network of separated bicycle paths that cross the whole area, enabling one to cycle practically anywhere in the town, without having to negotiate traffic. Stevenage has the first pedestrianised shopping precinct in the UK, which on the whole remains vibrant and successful, unlike those in many other new towns. Sadly, as with some other UK cities, this is a different place at night - its bleak, sodium-lit environment is not conducive to a thriving night time economy, which is mainly conducted in the Leisure Park by the train station, and the old town. Overall, local citizens are supportive of their town and football team (Stevenage Borough FC), one of the most well supported non-league teams in the UK.
People have lived in the environs of Stevenage since the Roman times, and a hoard of Roman coins was found in the mid-1980s when Chells Manor was built. One of the most 'famous' landmarks in Stevenage is the 'six hills', which were burial mounds for a wealthy Roman family. Later on, Saxons settled nearby to what is now the Great North Road, subsequently bypassed by the A1(M) motorway. The Saxons gave their new village the name 'Stigenace' or 'Stithenac', which means 'at the strong oak'. Over the following centuries, various hamlets and farmsteads sprung up around the village of Stevenage, the largest ones being Shephall and Broadwater. Stevenage was probably affected by the Danish invasions in the late 9th century as several places very close by have the name Dane End, which usually marks the edge of 'Dane-law'.
Stevenage became more stable during the 11th century, and the Domesday Book records the existence of Stevenage, and many nearby hamlets such as Chells, Shephall, Woolenwick, Whomerley, and Broadwater. Things progressed slowly and steadily for the following centuries, when Stevenage grew from a village to a very small and attractive market town centred around the High Street. Stevenage was frequently visited by people travelling on the Great North Road (that used to run through Stevenage), including Samuel Pepys.
In the mid 19th century the population grew to 2,100 as a result of the new railway station built in the town. During the 19th century Charles Dickens and Edward Bulwer Lytton founded the Guild of Literature and Arts on London Road, Stevenage. E.M. Forster also lived at Rooks Nest near St Nicholas Church.
The most dramatic change came in the 1946 when Stevenage became the location for the First New-Town. There were some disgruntled inhabitants of the Old Town who believed Stevenage was only their town, and that they were being swamped by the newcomers from London and Essex. In the next twenty years the population rocketed from roughly 7,000 to around 60,000.
Since then a number of other large housing developments have been built, the biggest being Chells Manor, Poplars, St Nicholas, and Great Ashby. This year the town celebrates its 60th anniversary of becoming a new town.
The A1(M) motorway is the most common road used to get into the town and it runs along the western border of the town, although planned future development of Stevenage may breach this barrier and continue on the other side. The A1(M) stretches 409 miles from London to Edinburgh, and roughly follows the path of the famous and historic Great North Road. The other major road connecting Stevenage to the surrounding area is the A602 which connects the town to the A10 and Ware to the Southeast, and Hitchin to the Northwest.
There is one good sized railway station in the centre of Stevenage. The railway station is located on Lytton Way in the town centre of Stevenage. The line served is the GNER King's Cross Main Line, which is the main railway line in the UK. Major stops include: King's Cross (London), Cambridge, Peterborough, York, Leeds, Newcastle, and Edinburgh. The station is served by National Express East Coast, Hull Trains, and First Capital Connect railway companies.
The nearest airports are London Luton Airport (about 10 miles west of Stevenage, easily accessible by the A505 via Hitchin, or bus 101), and London Stansted Airport (about 30 miles to the east of Stevenage, accessible by buses 700 and 777).
Some coaches (e.g. Green Line coach from Victoria Coach Station, London) from major airports and cities stop in Stevenage. Public buses also run a few times a day from nearby towns and villages (such as Hitchin, Luton, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Dane End, Ware and Letchworth), to the Stevenage Bus Station in the centre of the town or to Lister Hospital, in the Corey's Mill district of Stevenage.
You can easily get around Stevenage by car, bus, foot or bike.
If you choose a car to travel around Stevenage you will need to consult a good street map first, although the routes are straightforward if you are heading in to the centre of the town for shopping. One thing to watch for in Stevenage is its roundabouts, something the town is very famous for because there are far more of them than in most towns, and they are decorated with flowers most of the year. There are many reasonably priced car parks, but the main ones are the 13 council-managed car parks in the centre of town. These are: Westgate Multi-Storey (attached to an indoor shopping centre), St George's Way Multi-Storey, Marshgate, Southgate, Fairlands Way, Swingate, Daneshill, Railway North, Railway South, Danesgate, Swingate East and the Leisure Centre. In the Old Town, the best bet is the short stay car park behind Waitrose. Elsewhere, Roaring Meg Car Park or Monkswood Retail Park.
If you wish to travel by bus there is an abundance of bus stops, at least one on all main streets and one on some more minor streets. Stevenage is served by many bus companies such as: Intalink, Arriva (Arriva Shires & Essex), Centrebus, and Trustline. Stevenage Bus Station is located on The Quadrant, off Danestrete, in the town centre. It is a very short walk from the Town Square.
The price of bus tickets vary (depending on the distance you are travelling), but you usually pay around £2.10 for a single return, or £3 for a day ticket. If you are 13-19 or a pensioner then you can apply for a bus pass from Hertfordshire County Council, so you only have to pay half fare.
Cycling is made very easy around Stevenage by the excellent Cycle Path Network. As well as lots of cycle paths there are footpaths everywhere and many pedestrianised streets.
- Rooks Nest House, Weston Road, Stevenage & Forster Country. Forster Country is the name given to a relatively small area of countryside around Rooks Nest House and it is the last remaining bit of green belt land actually within Stevenage Borough. Rooks Nest was the inspiration for the famous writer EM Forster's Howard's End. EM Forster lived at Rooks Nest during his childhood years, in the late 19th century. The farmhouse is a beautiful old building on a quiet lane situated on the edge of the Old Town of Stevenage. Forster Country starts at a modern sculpture inscribed 'Only Connect' (this can be reached via a path in the St Nicholas Church churchyard) and includes the fields near that (it has no clear border). N.B Rooks Nest House is a private residence and not open to the public.
- High Street and the Old Town Before the arrival of the new town Stevenage was a small town centred around the old High Street. On the High Street there are several listed buildings, some very old pubs, restaurant and upmarket one-off shops. There are other streets with many old buildings off and near the High Street, such as the Bowling Green.
- Stevenage Museum, St George's Way, Tel: +44 01438 218881, http://www.stevenage.gov.uk/museum/, (E-mail: email@example.com), . M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 1PM-4PM, closed on Bank Holidays. Facilities: disabled toilet with baby changing, small coffee areas and gift shop. This small but fascinating museum is a real gem in Stevenage and acts as one of the few links between Stevenage's past and present. It tells the story of Stevenage before it was a new town, which is a time most know very little about and after it became a new town. It also has an archive of old photographs, documents etc related to the town. The museum is very child friendly with regularly changing, fun exhibitions and lots of events. Admission is free but a small donation is often expected but not essential.
- St Nicholas Church, Rectory Lane, . St Nicholas Church is the ancient parish church of Stevenage. The present Norman church replaced a much simpler Saxon church in 1100 AD and like many Hertfordshire churches it is built predominantly of flint. The current Anglican parish of St Nicholas stretches across the north of the town, but there are eight other Anglish parishes in Stevenage, but only the one civil parish. Free but optional small donation.
- St Mary's Church, Shephall Green, Hydean Way, . St Mary's is the ancient parish church of Shephall, which was once a hamlet separate from Stevenage, until it was swamped by the large Shephall housing estate. But Shephall Green still remains a little enclave with a 'villagey feel'. The church is at least nine hundred years old and has many interesting features such as the rare Saxon stone relic inscribed with indecipherable runic letters. The church and its churchyard are beautiful, but some vandals destroyed its old lychgate a few months ago. Free but optional small donation. Often locked due to theft and vandalism, sometimes open.
- The Manor House, Chells Lane. Manor House not open to public but the Lane is open all year all day. The Manor House is situated on a quiet lane which is an enclave of the Chells Manor housing estate. The secluded lane has a lovely duck pond, several nice houses, a few old cottages and the manor house itself. Chells Lane is a reminder that not that long ago Chells Manor was only a tiny hamlet in the middle of the countryside, not a housing estate that is home to 5-10,000 people. If you are visiting Chells Lane, Box Wood (about a 15 minute walk away) is also worth a look. N.B The Manor House is a private residence, as are all the other houses. Chells Lane is off the White Way where buses run to every few minutes. Free.
- Box Wood, Gresley Way, . Daily, year round. Box Wood is a beautiful 27-acre wood which has a spectacular show of bluebells in springtime, lots of wildflowers and an array of wildlife (such as muntjac deer, rabbits, jays and woodpeckers- even some very rare waxwings were sighted last winter). There are several benches in the wood (although some have suffered vandalism recently), a gravelled path (as well as many other paths) and a few parking spaces dotted around its edge. There are some guided walks and tours of the wood throughout the year, organised by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. N.B Box Wood is also called Pryors Wood, but Box Wood is historically its proper name. For the link, click on Nature Reserves and then 'Pryor's Wood' (which is under 'North Herts'). Free.
- Old Town Stevenage. Bank with plaque commemmorating Henry Trigg, 18c. farmer who died in 1720 and whose coffin was fixed to a beam here because he thought he would return to life after 30 years! His brothers watched over the coffin for 4 days in 1750 and then buried him! A replacement coffin was a tourist attraction in the pub into which the barn was converted.
- Stevenage Arts & Leisure Centre, Lytton Way. The Leisure Centre is part of Stevenage Leisure Ltd. It has a 501 seat theatre (Gordon Craig Theatre), a concert hall, sports facilties, an art gallery (Boxfield Gallery), a restaurant, café and Youth Theatre, fitness centre and conference suites.
- Walking There are many good walks to be had in and around Stevenage. One of the most notable is The Avenue walk. This walk takes you from the High Street, north to the tree lined Avenue and along the avenue to St Nicholas Church and then on to Rooks Nest, the undulating Forster Country countryside and the forgotten hamlet of Chesfield (which has the ruins of the ancient church of St Aethelreda). Around Stevenage, you can easily walk to some pretty and picturesque villages, such as Weston, Graveley, Walkern, Aston, Datchworth and Benington by way of public footpaths.This is some countryside in Stevenage's green belt
- Stevenage Leisure Park, Six Hills Way. The leisure park has lots of attractions. Firstly, there's the large 16 screen multiplex Cineworld Stevenage cinema (Booking Line: 0871 220 8000). Then there's the bowling alley (Hollywood Bowl), a wide range of night clubs and eating places.
In Stevenage there are many sports facilities. For football, you can play at one of the many playing fields throughout the town such as King George V in the town centre. Or you can watch the town's club Stevenage Borough FC (or simply 'Boro') play at home, at Broadhall Way Football Ground, on Broadhall Way. For rugby, tryStevenage Rugby Club, Graveley Road. Next to the Rugby Club is Lister Tennis Club and Stevenage Squash Club. To avoid paying the expensive tennis club court rates, you can play at several free courts dotted around the town, which you really need to keep your eyes peeled out for (some tennis players have lived in the town for years and didn't know there were any free courts). For watersports the best place is the well known Fairlands Valley Park. Golf can be played at the municipal golf course on Aston Lane, in the very southern end of the town. Other sports are also catered for at the Leisure Centre and some other venues. During the holidays, some schools rent out their good sports facilties, such as the John Henry Newman School.
- Fairlands Valley Park , Six Hills Way, (Tel: +44 01438 353241) Fairlands Valley Park (fondly referred to as 'Fairlands Valley', 'Fairlands', 'The Lakes' or simply 'the Park' by locals) is a lovely 120 acre park located in the centre of Stevenage. As well as providing a beautiful place to walk and play, it has an 11 acre sailing lake. Fishing, sailing, rowing, canoeing, windsurfing and orienteering are the sports that are on offer. There are charges for each sport. Of course, you can play a game of football, frisbee, etc in the park for free. There are also a couple of shallow paddling pools by the large play area.
- Great Ashby Country Park, off Serpentine Close, Great Ashby. The fairly quiet and secluded Great Ashby Country Park really is a hidden gem. It has a large circular field area in the centre for games of football, cricket, kite flying, frisbee , picnics etc, an access only road, a small car park, two extensive play areas full of excellent play equipment and a mound on its eastern edge (this has beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and woodland). There are also several paths. And all this is set in lovely, undualating countryside, surrounded by trees and opposite Box Wood. The country park is a great retreat for residents of the Great Ashby private housing estate. There are also rumours of possible plans for a park pavilion.
- Most souvenirs on offer for tourists can be purchased from Stevenage Museum. They sell Stevenage postcards, key rings, etc., as well as Stevenage history and guide books.
- The Westgate Indoor Shopping Centre and the surrounding pedestrianised area has over 30 shops, such as Topshop, Next, River Island, New Look, Marks and Spencer, Dorothy Perkins. This pedestrianised area is Britain's first pedestrianised shopping area.There are also two coffee shops; the highly recommended Esquires Coffee House in the Westgate Indoor Shopping Centre and a brand new branch of Costa Coffee to serve the shoppers. If you wish to shop in this area the best car parks to use are Westgate Multi-Storey, St George's Way Multi-Storey or Southgate.
- Roaring Meg Retail Park (there is a large branch of Curry's, Homebase, Toys 'R' Us, and many other stores),
- Monkswood Retail Park
- High Street for more upmarket shops.
If you're looking for something niche, the quiet villages surrounding Stevenage such Knebworth, Woolmer Green and Aston feature many small specialist shops, including SuSu Style, Friend Of Danesdury, Sport Autograph and Fitness Footwear who offer a wide range of sports and running shoes and also run an online shoe shop.
There are lots of supermarkets in Stevenage, the main ones being the two large Tesco's, the huge Asda, the two Sainsbury's, an Aldi, and the Old Town Waitrose. Most of the larger supermarkets have petrol stations, but there are many more petrol stations across the town.
. As well as that, there are many local corner shops-come-post offices in the numerous neighbourhood centres. The neighbourhood centres also have several other shops; such as a fast food outlets, mini supermarket, Balti house, off-license, hairdresser's, butcher's etc. There are ten large neighbourhood centres: Bedwell Crescent, Marymead, Oak's Cross, The Hyde, The Glebe, The Oval, Poplars, Canterbury Way, Great Ashby, Filey Close and Chells Manor. And other smaller neighbourhood centres in the following streets: Archer Road, Austen Paths, Burwell Road, Fairview Road, Hydean Way, Kenilworth Close, Lonsdale Road, Mobbsbury Way, Popple Way, Rockingham Way, Roebuck and Whitesmead Road.
Reataurants and other eateries in Stevenage range between average to good! The restaurants include Italian, Indian, Chinese and others. Alternatively, go to some of the fine country pubs nearby or venture a few miles north to the more old market town of Hitchin. Service in Stevenage restaurants is, again, generally average. Here are some of the local eating places:
For Chinese cuisine, there is the Jade Palace, Middle Row, Old Town, Tel: 01438 350404. It's not a wonderful restaurant but the food is good and very reasonably priced. You can also order take-aways from it. The Dew Drop Inn serves better food but at a higher cost.
- The Cromwell Hotel, (Old Town) has a good restaurant and serves attractive bar meals too. Interesting historic building, too!
There are lots of Indian restaurants, such as:
- Taj Mahal Restaurant, 70 High St, Tel: +44 01438 313290.
- Bombay Tandoori Restaurant, 79 High St, Tel: +44 01438 314699.
- Mohan Tandoori, 116 High St, Tel: +44 01438 746305.
- New Gate of India Restaurant, 20 The Glebe, Tel: +44 01438 317619.
- Hyde Tandoori, 20 The Hyde, Tel: +44 01438 360520.
- Rajput Indian Cuisine, 23a The Hyde, Tel: +44 01438 741653.
There are many places to eat in the Leisure Park, most notable restaurants are the Ask Restaurant. Whilst the general food in the Leisure Park is not that good, Ask and a couple of others give average or better food at an affordable price, just do not expect Gordon Ramsey type standards.
Other places to eat for family meals are The Coopers, Magpie Crescent next to Poplars branch of Sainsbury's, Tel: +44 01438 316337) and Coreys Mill Beefeater (Coreys Mill Lane, Old Town, Tel: +44 01438 351318), but neither of these are highly recommended although children tend to enjoy them.
Stevenage also has many fast food joints: several McDonald's, Two Burger Kings, Two Pizza Huts, various independant burger/kebab/fried chicken takeaway places as well as numerous fish & chip shops.
Further afield there are excellent restaurants in local villages such as Datchworth (The Tilbury-Inn on the Green, and Coltsfoot Country Retreat), Tewin (Plume of Feathers), and Watton at Stone (George and Dragon).
The town now has a couple of very good cafes, such as
- Esquires Coffee House (at the Westgate in the town centre) The coffee here is highly recommended and rivals the likes of Caffe Nero and some London coffee houses. Esquires is a surprisingly excellent place for a snack or light lunch with coffee, and it's a place that Stevenage town centre had needed for a long time. It's much better than the terrible 'greasy spoon' Manhattan Cafe (also in the Westgate), and Manhattan's trade has decreased a lot since Esquires was put in the Westgate.
- Costa Coffee (also in the town centre). This is a brand new branch of the good coffee house chain, Costa Coffee. It's only been here a few weeks so we'll have to see how popular it is. Esquires may unfortunately suffer because of it, unless Stevenage can sustain two good cafes within a short distance of one another.
- Thorntons (At the Westgate, between the jeweller's/locksmith and Claire's accessories and opposite L'aura). OK, this chocolate shop does not have a proper cafe but it sells some delicious ice creams in cornets (usually with a complimentary and yummy chocolate praline stick)and take-away truffles. The ice creams are a must in summer, they are the best in town. And they cost about £2.00 depending on size and the type of cornet.
In Stevenage, there are roughly 25 pubs. Some are better than others. Here are some of the better ones:
- The Dun Cow, 32 Letchmore Road, Tel:01438 313268. Offers excellent quality Extra-Cold Draught Guinness, the usual selection of Draught and Bottled Beers and Wines and Spirits including the world's best Scotch Whisky - "Isle of Jura". Entertainment at the Dun Cow includes the obligatory Pool table, Juke Box, Darts and the occasional Disco and Karaoke evening. The Dun Cow offers guest Real-Ales which are changed on a regular basis. Since the smoking ban came into effect in England, the Dun Cow now offers a covered smoking area to the rear of the buildings. Ample parking space is provided by two car parks.
- Our Mutual Friend, Broadwater Crescent, Tel:01438 312282. Winner of CAMRA North Herts Pub of the year for the past three years. It doesn't look much from the outside but always stocks 6 Real Ales and 2 Ciders, which are kept in excellent condition, as well as a range of other drinks. Keep an eye out for the regular Beer Festivals.
- The Granby, 4-6 North Road, Old Stevenage, Tel:01438 352934. The Granby is generally considered as the best local in town. It is a lovely old pub with plenty of character, with an admirable 100% no smoking policy before the recent legislation brought this to all pubs, and is not far from Lister Hospital.
- Chequers, A602, Bragbury End, Tel: 01438 817814. Chequers is a nice pub and is probably the best bet if you're looking for more than a drink. It's an old pub with character, set back from the busy A602 right on the southern edge of the town. This gives the area a slightly villagey feel. The pub is a short walk from Van Hage's Garden Centre.
- White Lion, 60 High St, Old Stevenage, Tel: 01438 355515. The White Lion is a very old pub on the High Street but it's not as classy as it looks from the outside. It's still OK though, but more a pub for the locals than tourists.
- Woodmans Arms, Chadwell Road, Tel: 01438 351599. The Woodmans Arms is a reasonably priced traditional pub. The food is OK. The real ales are good though.
- Chequers, 164 High St, Old Stevenage, Tel: 01438 312842. Chequers is a proper traditional local but it has a strict policy on under-21s. But it still seems to have a friendly atmosphere.
If you want to travel further afield some good pubs nearby are:
- George & Dragon, 82 High St, Watton-at-Stone, Tel: 01920 830285,. George & Dragon is a lovely pub with a cosy atmosphere that serves excellent food and good beer.
- The Plough, 5 Datchworth Green, Datchworth, Tel: 01438 813000. An excellent small and friendly village pub with good beer, located just off Datchworth's lovely green.
- The Bull, 113 High Street, Watton-at-Stone, Tel: 01920 831032. The Bull is full of character with friendly service that serves good food and a good choice of ales. It's reasonably priced too.
- The Plough, Kings Walden, nr Hitchin, Tel: 01438 871394. The Plough is a good country pub with a lovely garden.
- Motte and Bailey, 1, Great Green, Pirton, nr Hitchin, Tel: 01462 712641. Excellent village pub with consistently very good food.
- The Lytton Arms, Park Lane, Old Knebworth, Tel: 01438 812312, . The Lytton Arms is a reasonable village pub known for its good range of regularly changing guest ales.
Due to the fact that Stevenage isn't really a tourist destination, there are not that many hotels for a town its size.
Hotels in Stevenage
- Cromwell Hotel, 25-27 High St, Old Town, . 3 stars. Part of a chain but is still a pleasant hotel with character, situated on the busy High Street. It used to be John Thurloe's farmhouse, and John Thurloe was secretary to Oliver Cromwell. This is why it was called the Oliver Cromwell until it became a Corus Hotel (no longer) and many still refer to it as the Oliver Cromwell. Prices from £30 B&B per night. There are 76 bedrooms, restaurant, bar, lounge, ample parking, and 6 meeting rooms.
- The Gate Hotel, 1 Gates Way, 1 Ditchmore Lane, Old Town, . Good location, comfortable rooms recently refurbished.
- Stevenage Novotel, Knebworth Park,. 3 stars. Large characterless conference hotel, located next to the A1(M) motorway.
- Roebuck Inn, London Road, Broadwater, . 3 stars. Small 15th century hotel. Part of Best Western Hotel chain.
- Express By Holiday Inn, Danestrete, . Modern hotel conveniently placed in the town centre. It's OK.
- Stevenage North Premier Travel Inn, Coreys Mill Lane,. Very reasonably priced travel inn located between Corey's Mill Beefeater and Lister Hospital.
- Stevenage South Premier Travel Inn, Horizon Technology Park,.
- The Abbington, 23 Hitchin Rd, Old Town, . Average B&B in a cosy old house.
- Archways Lodge Hotel, 11 Hitchin Rd, Old Town, . Modern, clean hotel. Long and short term accommodation. Only a few minutes walk to the High Street.
- The Old Manse Bed & Breakfast, 1 Essex Road, Old Town, Tel: 01438 210364.
- The Ibis Hotel, Danestrete, (el: 01438 79955. Very cheap but awful hotel on the unattractive Danestrete. The walls are paper thin but it is located in the town centre.
Here are a couple of the better Hotels near to Stevenage:
- Hanbury Manor Hotel & Country Club, nr Ware, . 5 stars. Outstanding country hotel with renowned Jack Nicklaus golf course.
- Redcoats Farmhouse Hotel, Redcoats Green, Hitchin, . 4 stars. Really good small country hotel with excellent food (has been awarded a coveted AA Rosette).
- Coltsfoot Country Retreat, Coltsfoot Lane, Bulls Green, Datchworth . Wonderful luxury hotel with superb food. A really special and individual place to stay.
There are several B&Bs not previously mentioned, most on the High Street or elsewhere in the Old Town. All are reasonably priced and offer decent accommodation.
Stevenage is situated near lovely, undulating countryside and picturesque villages, yet it's only an hour away from the great city of London. Therefore, this makes Stevenage an ideal base to explore London and the Home Counties.
- Knebworth House, Knebworth, nr Stevenage, (Tel:+44 01438 812661, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, . Open July & August: Grounds open 11am-5:30pm, House open midday-5pm. Knebworth House is situated a couple of miles south of the town centre, just out of town by the A1(M). This house is one of the greatest stately homes in Britain, and the site has been home to the Lytton family since 1490. Charles Dickens used to stay here often. Former owner Edward Bulwer Lytton wrote many historical novels including The Last Days of Pompeii. Many films have used its fantastic exteriors and Tudor great hall. Nowadays the estate comprises the gothic mansion, gardens, deer park, church, mausoleum and playground & railway (Fort Knebworth). It is very popular with local families. The house is also famous for hosting a huge Robbie Williams concert a few years ago. Other major acts that have performed at Knebworth House park over the years include: The Rolling Stones, Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Chemical Brothers. Admission Fees: inc house £9.00, concessions £8.50, family day ticket £31:00; exc house £7.00, family day ticket £24.00, season ticket £32.00 per person.
The following attractions are within about 15 miles of Stevenage:
- Hatfield House Hatfield, Herts, AL6 5NQ  Hatfield House is a lovely 17th century house set in a very extensive estate. The estate has: the house, the beautiful Old Palace & Knot Garden (the childhood home of Elizabeth I), the famous park and the gorgeous gardens. The park is famous for being the place where Elizabeth I first learned of her ascension to the throne, in 1558 and because it has so many ancient trees.
- Shaw's Corner, Ayot St Lawrence, nr Welwyn, Herts, AL6 9BX . The former home of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw is set in a couple of acres of pretty gardens in the beautiful village of Ayot St Lawrence. It has a fascinating interior and lots of events this summer as it is the 150th anniversary of GB Shaw's birth.
East Hertfordshire Villages
- Westmill, nr Buntingford, Herts. Picturesque village with a very good tearoom and excellent pub (Sword In Hand). At its heart is a beautiful green surrounded by idyllic cottages. The village is signposted from the stretch of the A10 between Buntingford and Puckeridge.
- Datchworth, nr Stevenage, Herts. Attractive village with an excellent pub (The Plough) and gastro-pub (Tilbury Inn on the Green) and a lovely green on which Cricket is played regularly throughout the Summer.
- Benington for the Benington & Benington Lordship,  Benington is a picturesque small village a couple of miles east of Stevenage, complete with a duck pond, thatches, village green and a beautiful stone church. Benington Lordship is a beautiful house attached to the ruins of a Norman castle. It is set in several acres of stunning, tranquil gardens.
- Ardeley, nr Stevenage, Herts. Beautifully quaint village with a lovely church, pond and village green. Good drinking pub 'The Jolly Waggoner' too.
- Standon, nr Ware, Herts. Standon is a beautiful village with a picturesque church, a few good pubs, a lovely river (River Rib) & recently refurbished mill (now expensive apartments) and an idyllic high street (complete with old fashioned villagey shops- butchers, bakery etc). There are many interesting listed buildings in the village, such as the former school next to the church. There is also a large lordship house, which you will reach eventually if you walk down Paper Mill Lane. It is the former home of important local historical figure Sir Ralph Sadleir (the school in neigbouring Puckeridge is named after him) and he is buried at the Standon church.
- Aston, nr Stevenage, Herts . Picturesque village located on a ridge between the Beane Valley and Stevenage. Just north is the pretty hamlet of Aston End, which is almost part of Stevenage nowadays. It has a beautiful church, St Mary's which is the partner parish of the St Mary's at Shephall.
- Braughing, nr Ware, Herts . Absolutely lovely village, which is very popular with tourists. It has picturesque buildings, a beautiful church and a ford.
North Hertfordshire Villages
- Preston (Hertfordshire) , nr Hitchin, Herts. Beautiful small village with a pub that is excellent for real ales. It grew up around Temple Dinsley, which belonged to the Knights Templar, until it was sold to Sir Ralph Sadleir. Now the site of Temple Dinsley is home to the private school Princess Helena College. Very close to the village is the supposedly haunted ruins of Minsden Chapel. Later on, in the 1600s, John Bunyan held services in a natural ampitheatre in Preston, which was then named Bunyan's Dell. The village also has a very good play area, just behind St Martin's Church, called Churchyard Meadows.
- St Paul's Walden, nr Hitchin, Herts. This picturesque tiny village has a good pub, The Strathmore Arms. There is also the superb St Paul's Walden Bury (the family home of the late Queen Mother), which has beautiful grounds and gardens. The Bury is occasionally open to the public. The village also has an unusually large church (for the size of the village) which is set in a prominent position overlooking the Bury, pub, and surrounding countryside. There is plenty of car parking up by the church and at the pub.
- Datchworth , nr Stevenage, Herts. Beautiful, small, friendly village with a lovely village green.
This page was last edited at 23:10, on 7 March 2009 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by David and Jo, Wikitravel user(s) JimmySwimmy and Morph, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.