This review is based on our visit in December 2017 which was sadly cut a little short due to family reasons, however there is still plenty to tell you about.
Firstly, as always – access. Again, straightforward and the Caravan & Motorhome Club provide clear directions for arriving via the A1(M) as we did. It’s worth noting though that – at the time of our visit anyway – there were no brown tourist signs indicating the campsite and the turning into the site is a little set back, however start to slow down as the QE2 hospital comes into view and you shouldn’t miss it. We managed to miss the turning into Ascot Lane as you will see on our site arrival video but thanks to the roundabout a little further up it wasn’t a drama. It’s worth pointing out – as do the club – that there is no Late Night Arrivals area here.
The site has 68 pitches, 44 of which are hard standing. One toilet block serves the whole site and is the usual club offering which was kept immaculate throughout our stay. Not an easy task when the snow which greeted us on our arrival gave way to rain and mud. There are the usual club service points – water/waste/chemical loo waste/rubbish & recycling – dotted around the site along with a dedicated Motorhome point too. Check out our Site Tour for a look around the site, a plan of which you can find HERE. There is no dedicated dog walk on site but Stanborough Park is not too far away. There was a little noise from the road during the day but it was very quiet at night.
The information hut – just past reception on the left – contained not only the usual leaflets for surrounding attractions but menus and directions for local pubs, takeaways supermarkets. There was also plenty of info on the local bus services – a stop for which is just a few minutes from the site entrance – and trains from nearby Welywn-Garden-City too. This is a popular site for visitors to London, which is only around 25 minutes by train and deposits you at Kings Cross, or if you prefer north towards Cambridge and Peterborough. We didn’t get the chance to try it but you can get a bus to the station or walk it in a little over half an hour I am told. Buses will also take you to Hertford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead.
Fitter campers would easily manage the walk into Welwyn-Garden-City but there was plenty of options for those – like us – who want to take a car and even in the busy period before Christmas we had no trouble finding a space. The shopping centre was nothing special but it’s the lovely wide open spaces that surround that are remarkable. Founded in 1920 by one Sir Ebenezer Howard with the aim of combining the benefits of the city and countryside while avoiding the disadvantages of both, Welwyn was the second Garden City to be established after nearby Letchworth and also sadly the last – in this country anyway. There are a number of examples worldwide though, quite a few of which can be found in Canada. It really was a pleasure to walk around I can only imagine how wonderful it would look in the spring – and autumn too. A short walk from the main shopping area but with it’s own parking area too can be found a John Lewis department store.
Continuing the shopping theme, just down the A1(M) is the Galleria shopping centre. Revolutionary in it’s time as it was built OVER the A1(M) to save space and shop rents were at one time based on turnover. This was in the early days of computerised tills so was quite revolutionary. Shops takings were fed back via the tills to the management company. Again, I don’t think either ideas caught on. You’ll find the usual suspects here and plenty of eateries too along with a cinema and parking. For a fee.
We made the most basic of tourist errors by not checking the opening times for the Welwyn Roman Baths so were greeted by a locked gate when we arrived. Clearly I can’t give you an opinion on them but they are within a fifteen minute drive of the site and located directly under the A1(M) – and we will try again when we go back.
Mill Green Museum is within easy walking distance of the site – even for us (though we didn’t!) – and showcases an 18th century water mill still used for milling flour for local bakeries. Our visit coincide – quite by luck – with a milling session so we were able to see the whole thing in operation, demonstrated and explained by a very enthusiastic character with a clear passion for his trade, which made for a very entertaining and informative visit.
Due to aforementioned reasons our stay at Commons Wood was cut short so we were unable to explore the surrounding area more fully. However, Stanborough Park will certainly be on our list when we we return as will Hatfield House & gardens. There are a number of National Trust locations within easy reach too including Shaw’s Corner and Morven Park.
You are not far from a shop or supermarket at Commons Wood but if you fancy grog and grub out there are plenty of options too. Probably the nearest – and easily walkable for most – is Coopers Grill House. As the name suggests, steaks and burgers dominate but there are plenty of other options including vegetarian too. We had burgers that were served promptly and went down well. Just the one real ale on offer at the time of our visit.
The Hollybush was quite close to the site too but as they didn’t offer any real ale we didn’t hang around.
A little further out was Attimore Hall . Standard pub fayre but very enjoyable and at least four real ales on offer with discounts for CAMRA members and special offers on a Monday night.
When our plans changed suddenly the wardens could not have been more helpful – cancelling onward bookings and making new ones. They made a difficult time a little easier and are a credit to the club.