St Alban’s is first recorded as a Celtic British Iron Age settlement, known as Verlamion. After the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43, it grew into Verlamium, the third largest town in Roman Britain.
Today I’m going to take you on a short walk (2.38 km) alongside the Roman wall, past a Roman gate, around a lake, up to the Abbey and into town. The route starts on King Harry Lane: there’s a well-signed footpath more or less opposite the Waitrose store. Turn in here, over a small footbridge and there is the wall, which was built between AD 265 and 270.
Follow the gentle downhill footpath and admire this substantial stretch of wall. Be sure to look ahead too, to take in the first views of the Abbey. I made this walk in the middle of March, so there are clear views through the leafless branches, and still a fair number of snowdrops afoot.
As you approach the park, the Wall ends but there are very clear remains of the London Gate on the floor to your left: the towers and entrance ways can be easily identified. If you fancy knowing more, there is a model of the gate in the local museum.
Just to the left here are my favourite four trees and we’ll take the path past them and straight down to the lake. There is another great portion of the Wall to our left, but you can’t get close at the moment as they are doing conservation work on it.
And from in front:
We’ll turn left and do a figure of eight walk around the attractive lake. Verulamium Park opened in 1929 and this lake was added in the 1930s, partly to provide employment for the local men during the depression. When building the lake, they found remains of a Roman cemetery, but we do know that there has been water in this area previously. There was a fish pond here in Saxon times and it gets a mention in the Domesday Book of 1086.
Now, it makes a very enjoyable walk, with plenty of waterfowl as company.
If you’re lucky you’ll spot some of the grey herons that come to the park every spring to nest. They have been visiting since 1990, and their nests can be seen clearly on the small island in the lake. Do bring binoculars if you want a good view of them.
After the lake tour, we will turn left towards the very old pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, turn right in front of the pub and then turn left uphill to the Abbey.
I’ll take you inside another time, so for now we’ll turn right, around the Abbey and up a little alley right into town, opposite the Clock Tower. There’s a Starbucks just to your right if you’re in need of a coffee, and there are plenty of other cafes in town. I’ll leave you here to wander as you like, while I do a spot of shopping.
If you choose to do the return walk late in the afternoon you may be treated to a gorgeous view.
And a little add on here for Cardinal Guzman’s seasonal challenge: to keep track of the four trees from month to month, here is a slide show:
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 21 March 2016
Linked to Monday Walks and Garden Photography