12 November 2020

Friends Of Hatfield Park

The majority of 2020 has been a surreal and difficult time for all of us who live in Hatfield. Lockdown has brought particular challenges with us all, at times, being confined to our homes, some of us unable to work, kept apart from colleagues, friends and family. All of us who live and work on the Hatfield Estate have been delighted that the Estate has been able to make at least some contribution to our community by supplying vegetables to our local food banks and to a local school and by keeping the Park open to Passholders. We have all been very touched by the letters we have received telling us how much people have enjoyed being able to walk in the Park during lockdown.

As you can imagine, the Estate has also, like everyone else, been deeply affected by the crisis. We have had to shut the House to the public, cancel weddings and conferences. Filming and events have similarly been cancelled or postponed. A consolation was being able to open the Park and Garden to the general public from July and extend opening of the Park beyond our usual closing date to weekends in October when Halloween walks and the autumn colours have proved especially popular. Our own staff have responded magnificently to the crisis and have shown courage and imagination in their response to the virus. Nevertheless, we have been forced to make a number of redundancies and put a temporary stop on some important expenditure. However, we have tried to maintain the basic upkeep of the Park which of course involves a similar order of expense in terms of conservation and maintenance to Hatfield House itself.

We have made a great effort to engage with our tenants, some of whose businesses have been deeply damaged by the effects of the virus. We hope that as a result we have been able to enter into a partnership for survival with a number of them.

Additionally, lockdown has provided an opportunity to look at a number of ways in which we could improve the ecology of the Estate and engage more imaginatively with our immediate neighbours, those who hold passes (sometimes known as blue passes) for the Park.

As far as the ecology of the Park is concerned, we are looking at our farming methods to see how we can build further on what we already do for the environment. We have come to the conclusion that we could remodel a swathe of countryside from the South drive of Hatfield House, to Park Dairy through to the land we know as Hill End Farm and including the woodland to the east of a Girl Guides Road. For instance, if we were to take fences away it would make the life of the wild group of red deer which are based in that part of the Park less restricted than they have been of late. Our group of volunteer bird counters has been reporting encouraging results with numbers of rarer species, including raptors, increasing markedly. We are convinced that our ideas can begin to make that part of the Park an even more important place ecologically in a rapidly urbanising Central Hertfordshire than it is already, particularly if we reduce the amount of human footfall there. As a result, we will be able to introduce more livestock under more sustainable grazing regimes as part of a broader drive to improve soil quality. We will improve and extend wildlife habitats and pursue policies which will further increase carbon capture.

We are therefore proposing that from 2nd January 2021, we amend pass holder access to exclude the southern parts of the Park previously accessible by Pass holders.

In doing this, we do recognise how much the circuit through Girl Guides’ Road is enjoyed albeit by a relatively small number of passholders, including a dedicated group of runners. As a worthy alternative, we will be opening, for the first time, the path on the north side of the river from the bridge immediately below the A414 to the Red Bridge just above the Cecil Sawmill. Access will include the island immediately to the west of the Vineyard wall. As a result of these changes, it is hoped that you will be able to enjoy, not only an interesting piece of woodland, known as The Warren but also the remarkable views from the Red Bridge along the Broadwater. Happily, the paths we are opening cover a very similar distance as the present Girl Guides’ Road circuit.

We have also given thought to how the Pass scheme might be improved and administered. A new scheme, to be known as “Friends of Hatfield Park”, will be launched on November XX. We feel that both passholders and the Estate will benefit if we move its administration online. Membership of the Friends will be open to the same groups that qualify for the existing scheme and you will be able to join online, via a members portal on the Hatfield Park website. We hope that communication with passholders will become easier and over time that it will be easier for us to keep you up to date with news.

We would like to offer two other benefits to the Friends: first, discounts and regular promotions at the Coach House Café together with monthly offers in the shops in Stable Yard and, second, access to Hatfield House Gardens for no additional fee throughout the open season. We also recognise that an increasing number of you would like to be able to ask friends and family to join you on walks in the Park. We therefore would like to offer the opportunity for you to buy day passes for up to three people to accompany each passholder.

Finally, we have looked at charges for the new scheme. We will change our present arrangements and ask subscribers to the “Friends” scheme to pay an annual membership fee which will be £75.00 for families during 2021 (or £50 for individual membership). We hope that will sound reasonable – essentially a contribution of up to £1.44 per week towards the costs of administering the scheme and the ongoing maintenance and conservation of the Park. We hope that this is not so substantial as to spoil your enjoyment of the Park and believe it represents excellent value when compared with comparable schemes.

We would welcome any comments you may have on the new arrangements and suggest that once regulations permit, present Passholders might enjoy a guided walk to explore the new circuit. We will be in touch with a suggested date as soon as work to prepare the route is completed.

We greatly enjoy seeing our nearest neighbours and local community enjoying the Park. All of us who work on the Estate hope that these new arrangements will improve your experience when you visit us and that you will continue to feel that your families, friends and dogs are especially welcome.

Kind regards,

Anthony Downs

Estate Director

Friends Of Hatfield Park - Hatfield Park