Escape the crowds this summer at these places to visit in Hertfordshire

Sunset from a footpath in Walkern.

Sunset from a footpath in Walkern. - Credit: Helen Meissner

School is out, the sun is shining, and Hertfordshire has a wealth of beautiful spots to explore this summer away from the big crowds.

Hertfordshire is known for its glorious countryside, historic mansions and a magnificent cathedral in St Albans, but the county is also home to some hidden, unspoilt gems that deserve visiting.

Even some of the most popular visitor attractions in Herts, such as Knebworth House, the Ashridge Estate and Hatfield House, have acres of space and there are quiet spots to explore during the school holidays if you venture off the beaten track.

If you are looking for somewhere to go to avoid large crowds in Hertfordshire this summer, here are some of the county's nicest spots to relax and unwind.

There are also some hidden gems worth visiting during the summer holidays.


1. Panshanger Park

Panshanger Park

Panshanger Park has plenty of paths to follow. - Credit: Samantha Bearman

Panshanger Park is a 1,000 acre site situated between Welwyn Garden City and Hertford.

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The nature reserve part of the park comprises the lakes, the River Mimram, which is a chalk stream, and surrounding habitats.

Osprey Lake is named after the ospreys that often visit during the migration to and from Africa.

Panorama over Osprey Lake in the summer sunshine at Panshanger Park

Panorama over Osprey Lake in the summer sunshine at Panshanger Park - Credit: Jo Whitaker

The park's mosaic of habitats provides for numerous species, from tiny insects to mammals and birds.

Due to its size, you're sure to find a nice, secluded spot away from the crowds during a country walk along the pathways.

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is working with the park's owners, Tarmac, and Herts County Council to manage the park for both people and wildlife.

Among the things to look out for are the Panshanger Great Oak, the remains of the Orangery, and Humphry Repton's landscape.

For more on Panshanger Park, visit panshangerpark.tarmac.com


2. Royston Museum

Inside Royston Museum 

Inside Royston Museum - Credit: Amy Judd

Due to reopen at the end of July, this museum tells the story of the people of Royston, but there’s a lot of artefacts which have universal historical appeal as well, such as prehistoric stone age axe heads and other items.

Situated in Lower King Street, the museum also houses a collection of household and farming Victorian memorabilia.

Curators have also refreshed the displays with new art from the museum's collection that have not been on display for the last decade.

It is free to visit Royston Museum, which is reopening on Saturdays from July 31, with a booking procedure which can be found on their website at www.roystonmuseum.org.uk.  

Royston Museum by Freda Wright

Royston Museum by Freda Wright - Credit: Freda Wright / Royston Museum


3. Walks in Walkern

A lane in Walkern.

A lane in Walkern. - Credit: Helen Meissner

While busy Stevenage can feel a bit crowded at times, just a mile or so from the easterly edge of the town lies the village of Walkern.

As soon as you exit the roundabout on the B1037 and proceed east, you’ll feel like you’re entering another world. You’ll be greeted by cool woodland and lush flower-strewn hedgerows.

Walkern High Street view.

Walkern High Street view. - Credit: Helen Meissner

The vista in the Beane valley in which the village nestles is impressive and reveals the glorious opportunities of walks in the verdant countryside.

Walkern was recently featured on BBC Radio 3 thanks to The Verb using a clip of 'My Favourite Walk’ from local resident and music producer Helen Meissner.

In it Helen talked of the majestic lime trees, which are in blossom right now, and the bridge over the tranquil ford near the church where ducks, geese, moorhens and coots vye eagerly for your breadcrumbs.

View from a bridge in Walkern

View from a bridge in Walkern - Credit: Helen Meissner

Footpath to Church Farm, Ardeley

Footpath to Church Farm, Ardeley. - Credit: Helen Meissner

If you plan to walk for a couple of miles, it’s recommended that you visit Church Farm in Ardeley, 40 minutes walk from the church.

You will barely see a soul and the views are spectacular.

Pigs at Church Farm, Ardeley.

Pigs at Church Farm, Ardeley. - Credit: Helen Meissner

Church Farm is a not-for-profit farming, food, care and education farm. 

It’s a rare gem in our developed world where children of all ages can escape.

To book a day pass for the farm, which is open seven days a week (with no charge for children under two or your dogs) visit www.churchfarmardeley.co.uk

A goat at Church Farm, Ardeley.

A goat at Church Farm, Ardeley. - Credit: Helen Meissner


4. Mill Green Museum and Mill

Mill Green Museum is reopening for pre-bookable tours on May 17

Mill Green Museum and Mill. - Credit: Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council

This 18th century working watermill and museum nestles between Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield and is another hidden gem.

With its riverside setting, it's an idyllic spot close to the A414 in the hamlet of Mill Green.

The Mill and Museum is now fully open for business Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoons, but managers will be limiting numbers so book your visit via www.millgreenmuseum.co.uk/admission 

Entry to the grounds is free, while museum admission costs £1 children (aged two to 16) and £4 adults.

At the mill, you can see the magnificent watermill in action and find out from the miller about this ancient craft.

Milling hours are subject to demand for flour, weather conditions or necessary repairs. So if you are visiting specifically to see the mill, call ahead to check the mill is running.


5. Henry Moore Studios & Gardens

Henry Moore Studios and Gardens. Picture: Henry Moore Foundation

Henry Moore Studios and Gardens. Picture: Henry Moore Foundation - Credit: Henry Moore Foundation

Sculptor Henry Moore's home in Perry Green, near Much Hadham, is also worth a visit due to its 70 acre sculpture gardens and rolling fields.

Moore’s world-famous, monumental sculptures rest within glorious countryside, alongside the studios where he created some of his finest work.

Perfect for art lovers looking for some inspiration and those wanting to take a snap for their Instagram page.

Book in advance at www.henry-moore.org/visit/henry-moore-studios-gardens#


6. Aldenham Country Park

With 100 acres of beautiful countryside to enjoy, this country park near Elstree is packed with nature trails, an outdoor adventure playground and 100 Aker Wood, making it an ideal spot for a family outing.  

At the not-for-profit farming, food, care and education enterprise you can enjoy the scenery, explore the farm trail, and 100 Aker Wood, home of Pooh Bear and friends!

There's even various camping and glamping options for those that want to sleep under the stars away from the crowds.

For more information, and to pre-book, visit aldenhamcountrypark.co.uk


7. River Lee Country Park

When you want to de-stress and relax in quiet, natural places, Lee Valley is right on your doorstep.

The River Lee Country Park stretches between Waltham Abbey in Essex and Broxbourne in Hertfordshire and there's all sorts to do.

Perfect for kids and families to couples, walkers, cyclists and wildlife watchers, this 1,000 acre park has a huge variety of activities to enjoy.

Visit www.visitleevalley.org.uk/ for full details of all the possible locations to escape to.


8. Rye Meads Nature Reserve, Hoddesdon

Lose yourself watching wildlife for an afternoon at Rye Meads, a 58.5 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Rye House, Hertfordshire.

Rye Meads is an RSPB-managed reserve which includes reedbeds, open water and a scrape. 

It is a beautiful wetland reserve beside the River Lea and a firm favourite with birdwatchers, walkers and photographers, thanks to its many trails and hides.

For more, visit the RSPB website at www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/rye-meads/


9. Tring Park

This scenic site is just a 10-minute walk from the Natural History Museum at Tring.

Managed by the Woodland Trust, Tring Park runs along the Chiltern ridge and sits within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). 

The site has more than 250 acres to explore, so plenty of space to lose yourself.

It boasts sweeping panoramas, chalk grasslands and mixed woodland, providing the perfect opportunity to switch off in beautiful surroundings.

For more, visit tringpark.woodlandtrust.org.uk/about-tring/

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