A weekend of history at Panshanger Park

August 25, 2023

Panshanger Park is 1,000 acres of countryside situated between Welwyn Garden City and Hertford. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is working with the park’s owners, Tarmac, to manage the park for both people and wildlife.

The summery weather has been in short supply this year, however, even if the sun isn’t shining there’s still plenty of reasons to go outside and enjoy your local green spaces.

Next month we will be celebrating the heritage of Panshanger Park by taking part in the national Heritage Open Days festival. The weekend of 9 to 10 September will see the old stable block open to members of the public, as well as there being a variety of free heritage themed walks and talks available. For more information on the Heritage Open Days weekend, please go to www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/event/panshanger-park2

Panshanger Park has more history to it than perhaps is obvious at first glance. Look a bit closer and there’s plenty of clues to its past. Since at least Elizabethan times (1500s), there has been a house on the North side of the valley overlooking the River Mimram. There are also footprint remains of Panshanger House – that was commissioned by Earl Cowper 5th in 1806 – that can still be seen today.

Hopefully on your visit to Panshanger Park, you have chance to admire the view looking down across the valley from the former site of the house (pictured below). This view is a Grade II* listed landscape with its layout being sculpted by the contributions of Capability Brown (gardener and landscape architect) on the far side of the valley, and Humphrey Repton (landscape designer) on the nearside. It was Repton who was responsible for adding a weir into the river to broaden it out to create the Broadwater that we see today.

Panshanger Park has had royalty and famous figures admiring this view over the years too. The Great Oak is said to have possibly been planted by Queen Elizabeth I, and in 1841, the 6th Earl Cowper hosted Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for a weekend to enjoy the park and views.

Sadly, after Ettie Desborough, the last owner of the house died in 1952, no buyer was found, and the house was demolished a few years later.

Whilst on your visit to Panshanger Park to enjoy the heritage, you could also spend a bit of time enjoying the wildlife. Having celebrated becoming a dragonfly hotspot in July there is still plenty of time to see these beautiful insects. Throughout the summer, until 10 September, the free dragonfly trail quiz is available to take part in. Pick up your quiz sheet from the leaflet holder by the noticeboard.

Jo Whitaker is the Panshanger Park people and wildlife officer. She works for Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and her role is funded by Tarmac.