Discover Herts' best parks and gardens and the Trust saving them

View across the lake to Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire in autumn

The landscaped grounds at Brocket Hall, Welwyn, home to prime ministers and often visited by Queen Victoria - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

With a mission - set out 30 years ago - to record, protect and help restore historic parks and gardens in the county, Hertfordshire Gardens Trust's success shows the power of volunteers, writes chairman of the trust, Sue Flood.

Over the past 30 years, Hertfordshire Garden Trust has investigated and recorded historic parks and gardens in the county. Inaugurated at County Hall in Hertford in May 1991 and with considerable help from the county council in its early days, the trust set itself the ambitious task to record, protect and enhance Hertfordshire’s rich heritage of designed landscapes. 

The resulting reports are available for all to use at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies at County Hall. They are used at both county and national level to provide protection for Hertfordshire’s landscapes and inform their future conservation and development.

 An early success was the designation by English Heritage of Temple Dinsley, now Princess Helena College, as Grade II listed in 1992. More recently there has been significant restoration of the Charles Bridgeman landscape on the Chiltern Escarpment at Tring Park, and also at the Jellicoe Water Gardens in Hemel Hempstead.

Summer view of the Jellicoe Water Gardens, Hemel Hempstead town centre, Hertfordshire

The restored Jellicoe Water Gardens in Hemel Hempstead designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe and opened in 1962 - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

In 2002 Scheduled Monument status was granted to Grotto Wood in Hertingfordbury after extensive research by the late Patience Bagenal. After amazing detective work by Dr Anne Rowe, co-ordinator of the research group, the remains of ponds created for Henry VIII’s palace at Hunsdon also became a Scheduled Monument in 2018.  

The group continues to meet regularly and current research includes recording the remains of the 18th century forest garden created by Charles Bridgeman in Gobions Wood at Brookmans Park, as well as sites at Hitchin, The Node near Codicote and Gadebridge Park in Hemel Hempstead. 

Research for our 2018 publication Humphry Repton in Hertfordshire discovered two missing Repton Red Books (the renowned landscape architect’s plans for clients), and defining evidence that Repton himself supervised the creation of Broadwater Lake at Panshanger Park in 1800. More recently a missing Repton plan relating to Lamer Park, Wheathampstead has been identified. 

Red Book illustration II for Panshanger estate: 'after' view looking across the valley

A Humphrey Repton 'Red Book' illustration for Panshanger Park, looking across the valley towards Cole Green - Credit: Hertfordshire Archive and Local Studies

There are more than 200 historic parks and gardens in Hertfordshire, including 40 on the national Historic England Register, which range from the Tudor period to the 20th century. Research into these underpins the work of the conservation team, led by Kate Harwood. In 2008 English Heritage funded a project with the trust to produce the pilot for Local Heritage Lists for Historic Parks and Gardens.

These lists, prepared and now funded by HGT, have become one of the ways in which historic parks and gardens can be formally identified. These can be included in Local Plans and have been adopted by several Herts district councils. The trust continues to advise local authorities on planning issues regarding historic parks and gardens; the county council on where waste, mineral extraction or roads affect our historic landscapes; and also comments on national planning white papers.  

By working closely with The Gardens Trust, Historic England, The Georgian Group, local heritage and friends groups, developers and individuals on planning issues and generally raising awareness, HGT will continue to attempt to safeguard Hertfordshire’s historic environment, now under pressure from development like never before. 

The Charter Tower, Gadebridge Park, Hemel Hempstead - Hertfordshire

The Tudor Charter Tower leading to the walled garden in Gadebridge Park, Hemel Hempstead - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

None of this work would be possible without HGT members who volunteer for different roles in research and advice, but also in educating ourselves and others in both garden history and practical gardening skills. Our schools programme was launched in 1996 to encourage teachers to set up gardens in their school grounds and introduce the practical aspects of growing food into the classroom.

From 2008 until 2015 the Mrs Wheelbarrow Team, as the volunteers become known, visited 174 Hertfordshire primary schools, delivered 510 workshops and reached a staggering 15,300 children. This would not have been possible without the volunteers’ enthusiasm, energy and determination to make it really fun for the children and adults alike.

Today the Royal Horticultural Society has wonderful online curriculum-based resources, making it unnecessary for HGT to do the same. Instead, we are happy to offer a grant to any Hertfordshire school wishing to set up a garden and deliver workshops with children.  

The trust now has over 300 members, patrons and supporters. Our annual programme of walks, talks and courses was inevitably cancelled over the past year. But, like everyone else, we have learnt to do things differently. Our spring talks on Horticultural Ladies was delivered via Zoom into homes, attracting a bigger audience than would normally have met in person. Technology will continue to have a place in our future but now we are planning a full programme of walks, talks and garden visits for the benefit of all our members and friends.  

Talk being given at Tring Park on the restoration of Charles Bridgeman's 18th century design

Restoring the View - a Woodland Trust project with advice from Hertfordshire Garden Trust to restore Charles Bridgeman's 'forest park' design at Tring Park by clearing scrub and trees - Credit: Hertfordshire Gardens Trust

‘From small beginnings the Hertfordshire Garden Trust has grown into a considerable force for good benefiting the gardens and landscape of Hertfordshire,’ said the trust’s president, Lady Verulam. ‘This is a fine achievement for a volunteer movement.’ 

For more on the trust’s work, including its outreach services and downloadable walks, and to become a member and help preserve Herts' historic parks and gardens for future generations to enjoy, visit