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Enjoying the Great Outdoors in Harpenden

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A version of this article appeared on the Helping Herts Blog in May 2022.

If you want to keep the children busy outdoors in the fresh air Harpenden is a great place to be. What we lack in indoor attractions we make up for in fabulous green spaces.

As you enter Harpenden from the St Albans end you can’t miss Harpenden Common, a Green Flag Award-winning open space available for everyone to enjoy. Watch the cricket in the summer, explore St John’s Wood and build a den, feed the ducks at Southdown ponds, visit the circus, funfair or outdoor cinema that take up residence throughout the year and don’t miss Harpenden’s big community events that are hosted on the Common annually - Harpenden Carnival and Classics on the Common.

Close to the Common, Rothamsted Park is the main park in Harpenden with plenty of space to stroll and play. The new play area was installed in 2021 and has something for everyone, from the littlest tots up to adventurous teens, separated into different play areas. The large grassy areas are great for ball games, picnicking, or, on a windy day, flying a kite and if you bring your scooter or skateboard you can make use of the skate ramps. The park is also home to the new Eric Morecombe Theatre and the Leisure Centre, for swimming and more.

If you fancy a long walk head up the main thoroughfare through the park and onto Rothamsted Research grounds and the Rothamsted Trail - a series of public footpaths which will take you past historic Rothamsted Manor and through the world-renowned experimental fields. For some education along the way download the Rothamsted Research Science or Heritage Trails.

The Nicky Line was once a train line running from Harpenden, through Redbourn to Hemel Hempstead. Now it’s a great place for walking and cycling and it can be accessed from several points at the north end of Harpenden. If you are feeling up to it, you can cycle the full 14-ish miles to Hemel Hempstead and back again!

Another popular area for walking is around Hammonds End Farm and they have recently added QR codes along the walk that you can scan to see videos of what’s happening in the fields. Some of the videos are specifically aimed at children.

Lydekker Park, another Green Flag Award-winning space, is probably Harpenden’s best kept secret. Tucked away just off the north end of the high street it is a little oasis of calm, ideal to let toddlers run around (though beware there is a pond), a favourite place for hiding and hunting for painted rocks if you enjoy that pastime, and perfect for a picnic in the summer. So much so that one of the summer highlights for young families is the annual Teddy Bear’s Picnic in the park.

We may not have a purpose-built splash park for those hot days, but we don’t need one! We have nature’s-own splash park at Batford Springs where the children can paddle in the shallow areas of the River Lea, or why not take a net and try some river-dipping. Right next to Batford Springs is a children’s play area lovingly known as “the pirate park” thanks to the large boat-shaped play structure that has always been a feature of the park and remains so even after its recent refurbishment. Harpenden has several other children’s play areas dotted around town, which you can find on our handy google map.

And when you’ve exhausted the children and are all in need of refreshments Harpenden isn’t short of a cafe or two on the High Street, in Rothamsted Park, in Batford or Southdown. Coffee, tea, juice, smoothies, milkshakes and yummy cakes - you’ll find them all there!

You can find lots more things to do in and around Harpenden in our Things To Do section.


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