Greenway Spinney

A brief history of Green Lane and Greenway Spinney

Greenway Spinney – Autumn 2017. Credit: Brian Rapier

Green Lane which connects Grove Road to Wheathampstead Road has a very long history.

Research by John Wassell of the Harpenden History Society shows that the lane formed part of the boundary of the Manor of Piggotts, alias Piggotts Hill Farm, alias Aldwick Manor.

Westminster Abbey was granted the land by Edward the Confessor, and the estate was purchased by William Picot. John Oliver’s map of Hertfordshire in 1695 shows that Green Lane was the preferred route from Wheathampstead to Harpenden. The spinney stands on land that was part of the Manor Estate.

The 1777 Hertfordshire Map shows Green Lane connecting Bowling Alley (now Southdown) with Leasey Bridge, where a watermill is recorded in the Domesday Book. It also seems likely to have been used as part of the “coffin route” to St.Helens at Wheathampstead. This was because Harpenden had no burial site until 1320.

Green Lane was also used to move cattle from winter grazing on Harpenden Common to summer grazing on the higher ground.

Although the farm was called Piggotts, the Estate was always called Aldwick (Aldewyck means “dairy or specialist farm” in Old English)

The old farmhouse went through many changes over the centuries. In 1867 a timber importer named Alfred Lodger bought the estate. Most likely he planted the estate boundaries, including the spinney, with the oak, beech, larch and Scots pine we see today creating an “Edwardian” estate (some of which survives around Aldwickbury school, ed.).

Developers move in

After World War II parcels of farm land were sold for housing and the land between Green Lane and Wheathampstead Road was built with the estate we see today.

Aerial view of the High Firs Estate, August 1959, showing the Spinney in the centre. Credit: LHS archives – aerial views

St Albans District Council acquired title to the spinney as a Public Open Space. Funding was available only to manage the large trees in the spinney for safety, so gradually it become totally overgrown with laurel, bramble, elder and snowberry.

Transformation to Local Nature Reserve

In 2009 a group of local residents banded together to form Friends of Greenway Spinney and six years later the overgrown wilderness has been transformed into a Local Nature Reserve – the second in Harpenden.

February 2018

2009 – Snowberry growing densely alongside Greenway in September. Credit: Brian Rapier

2009, September – laurel trees towering over Green Lane from the Spinney. Credit: Brian Rapier

2009 dense undergrowth – brambles. Credit: Brian Rapier

2009 dense undergrowth – more brambles. Credit: Brian Rapier

March 2010 – first laurel clearance. Credit: Brian Rapier

400 trees planted in March 2010. Credit: Brian Rapier

March 2010 – Grove Infants planting bluebells. Credit: Brian Rapier

2010 – new path completed. Credit: Brian Rapier

2011 laurel cleared on Green Lane and new hedge planted. Credit: Brian Rapier

2011 hedge planting completed. Credit: Brian Rapier

2011 – Notice Board installed. Credit: Brian Rapier

2013 – Developer destroys trees and hedge at spinney entrance. Credit: Brian Rapier

2014 final laurel clearance. Credit: Brian Rapier

2014 – 400 trees and woodland glade created. Credit: Brian Rapier

2014 path improved; open glade. Credit: Brian Rapier

2015 hedge re-planted at entrance. Credit: Brian Rapier

2016 planting native daffodils. Credit: Brian Rapier

2016 path upgrade starts. Credit: Brian Rapier

Hedgebank April 2017. Credit: Brian Rapier

Completion of the upgraded woodland path in 2018 is the final major project in the creation of Greenway Spinney Local Nature Reserve. The Friends Group will continue to manage it to improve habitats and increase bio-diversity.

January 2018 completion of path upgrade underway. Credit: Brian Rapier

Search for “Friends of Greenway Spinney” on Facebook for more information.

Comments about this page

  • A very enjoyable and informative history of the Spinney
    Thank you
    Ed: We’re very sorry to learn that storm Eunice cause such damage in mid February 2022.

    By peter underhill (19/02/2022)
  • An aerial view of the High First Estate, published in the Harpenden Free Press in August 1959, has been added to this page.

    NB The Spinney was featured in an exhibition about “Harpenden’s Smaller Green Spaces” on 2 June 2018.

    By Rosemary Ross (02/05/2018)

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