Last week Hoover and I went for a dog walk steeped in history at Verulamium Park in St. Albans. Named after the Roman City of Verulamium on which it stands, Verulamium Park was purchased from the Earl of Verulam in 1929. The park is 100 acres of beautiful parkland, ideal for letting your pooch kick up his/her heels and let off a bit of steam. (map) The old flint City walls and outline of the main London Gate can still be seen, which gives you a real sense of being somewhere that has been around for a while.
One of the main attractions of the park for the average hound might be the ornamental lake, which is fed by the River Ver. It really is rather beautiful, with a small island in the middle where a lot of the wildfowl congregate. These include swans, mallards, great crested grebes, tufted ducks, herons and coots. The day we visited is was pretty chilly and large areas of the lake were frozen, which made it highly entertaining to watch the usually rambunctious geese land: instead of elegantly landing on the water’s surface they were sliding around like drunken ice skaters! Hooves was entranced by this and we had to stand and watch for a toe-chillingly long time… We eventually wandered past the lake, across the main path to the river and were rewarded with the sight of a heron having a paddle. He was so used to seeing people that he barely batted an eyelid when he saw us.
In the southeastern part of the park, there is a leisure centre and a 9-hole golf course, as well as other sports facilities, including a pool, gym, tennis courts, fitness classes, a running track and football pitches. Despite all this there is still plenty of wide, open, green space for dogs to run free without getting caught up in footballers or joggers. The grass sweeps down a gentle slope, peppered with some beautiful, mature trees. There are poo bins here and there for dogs, and public loos at each end of the park for humans. There are benches for pit stops and people watching, and a cafe for a longer break.
The park has a lovely atmosphere: we were there on a Saturday and there were lots of people going about their business, including a park run, but there is space enough for everyone to enjoy themselves without getting in anybody else’s way, and if you time it right you’ll get to hear the cathedral bells while you wander.
There is an NCP car park off of Bluehouse Hill (A4147) which services the park, (map) however there is a large lay-by on King Harry Lane where you can park for free for a maximum of four hours. (streetview)
Verulamium Park is a lovely place to lose a couple of hours, in a city where it is easy to lose a day or two…well worth a visit!