Car-free inHatfieldHertfordshire

Explore Elizabeth I’s childhood home in a historic palace with intricate gardens, miles of parkland, a stable yard full of shops and cafes – and all this two minutes walk from the railway station. Hatfield House is an almost perfect car-free destination. The only thing that might make it better would be some kind of discount for people arriving by public transport. There are some other sights in the area too if you want to branch out, including a working flour mill, a watery country park and a riverside path.

  • County: Hertfordshire
  • Great for: culture | gardens | historic houses | museums | walking |
  • Refreshments: Cafes in Stable Yard at Hatfield House (free entry if you just want shops and cafes)
  • Please note: researched/updated October 2017. If anything’s changed or you have tips to share, do get in touch: features@goodjourney.org.uk
  1. 3. Mill Green by bus

    On the banks of the River Lea, about a mile north of the station, Mill Green is a museum and working eighteenth-century watermill. As an attraction, it’s rather overshadowed by neighbouring Hatfield House, but its refreshingly ramshackle and away from the crowds.

    • Buses 301, 653 or 330 from outside Hatfield Railway station run pretty regularly – or it’s well under a fiver by taxi.
    • Catch the bus to Bush Hall Hotel, at a nearby junction known as “Chequers”. Then follow the brown signs down Bush Hall Lane (five mins walk).
    • Mill Green Museum is open 10am-5pm Tuesdays to Thursdays and on Sunday afternoons (when there are cream teas). To check whether the watermill will be working, call 01707 357850 on the day.
    • You can buy freshly ground organic flour to take away.
  1. 4. Stanborough Park

    This curious nature reserve, created in the 1970s around two flooded gravel pits, is probably not worth making a special trip for, but it can be a great place to stop off if you happen to be nearby and fancy a swan-shaped pedalo, an ice cream by the lake or a good old-fashioned cup of tea.

    • From just the other side of the junction called “Chequers”, the Lea Valley Way’s swan-logo waymarks lead away from the main road into Stanborough Park with its two lakes and a café.
    • The Park is a mile away from Welwyn Garden City or two miles from Hatfield (arriva bus 300 serves both twice an hour).
    • The drawback is interminable traffic noise from the nearby main road, but the South Lake, with its rental rowing boats and cheap café, is a bit more peaceful.
    • Kids will probably love the bouncy castles or the hair-raising Vertigo adventure playground by the North Lake: ten meter-high rope walkways, a zip wire and climbing wall.
  1. 5. Lea Valley Way

    This 50 mile walking route follows the River Lea from source to Thames. It’s a bit of a mixed blessing in places, passing through some intractably urban areas and close to Luton airport. On the plus side it’s very easy to access by public transport and has some lovely rural stretches along the way.

    • The 10 miles between Hatfield and Harpenden, which also has a station, are among the prettiest.
    • The route starts from Mill Green (see 3 above) and passes through Stanborough Park.
    • Wheathampstead, a large village with pubs, cafes and an unusual church, makes a good halfway point.

Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount