I had a lovely day out in Welwyn Hatfield with The Mayor Councillor Roger Trigg and
Chief Executive Rob Bridge.
We began at Campus West in Welwyn Garden City where I met representatives of local Welwyn Hatfield groups and charities over a cup of coffee. Welwyn Garden City was the second of the garden cities, founded by Sir Ebenezer Howard and designed by Louis de Soissons, with the aim of providing in one city the best of town and country living. In 2020 it will celebrate its centenary and I met with Peter Waine and Caroline Baynes of the WGC Centenary committee, who have a full and exciting year of celebrations planned. I also met Angela Eserin of Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust who explained more of the background to the garden city experiment.
The Mayor’s charity is Potential Kids, a Hatfield based charity that provides social activities for neurodiverse children and young people (Autism, ADHD and related conditions), their families and siblings. I met the founder Angela Gaughan and some of her colleagues and we talked about their new Training Hub, where young people can work towards accredited qualifications.
It was a pleasure also to meet the Executive Member for Governance and Public Health, Councillor Fiona Thomson, and Father Norbert Fernandes who is the Parish Priest of WGC Catholic Churches, Chair of Christian Leaders' Group and Catholic Dean of Stevenage. Wendy Lidgate came as the WGC representative of the Herts Interfaith Forum.
Next we set off to Hatfield for the White Lion Square Public Realm Official Opening. It was good to see how Hatfield is growing and changing and the commitment to rejuvenating the town centre with a multi-million pound investment programme. White Lion Square was officially opened by Roger in the presence of Lord and Lady Salisbury and other dignitaries. The Pearl sculpture by James Butler RA has returned to the square after an absence of 30 years and Mr Butler was there to help unveil it. Some local school children buried time capsules. We walked around the town centre with WHBC Director Ka Ng to learn more about the development project, before calling in at the Sparks Community Café where Joe Heeney told us about the pay-what-you-can model in operation there. We also saw the Resolve -run night shelter at the back of the café building where up to 12 people can stay.
We had a delicious lunch at the Mill Green Museum and Mill where the bread was made from the mill flour and had an interesting tour with Museum Services Director Linda Dobbs. A bonus was to see the Cresta Couture Exhibition, a partnership with the University of Hertfordshire celebrating the innovative and stylish fabrics created by local textile company Cresta Silks from the 1920's to the 1970's.
We went on with Linda to the Welwyn Roman Baths where a volunteer told us the story of how local archaeologist Tony Rook discovered the baths which are now displayed to the public in a steel vault thirty feet under the A1(M)!
Our final visit of the day was to Danesbury Fernery where a small group of dedicated volunteers are restoring the Fernery, built in 1860 in an old chalk pit in the grounds of Danesbury House by its owner John Blake. Ann MacDonald, Chris James and John Roper showed us how the locally made Pulhamite artificial rock was used in the design and how the site is being restored and replanted.
I had a most interesting day looking at Roman, Victorian and present day building and development and seeing how Welwyn Hatfield has changed over the centuries. Thank you to Roger for such a warm welcome and a beautifully organized trip.