10 ways to celebrate Halloween in Hertfordshire

PUBLISHED: 12:40 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:40 19 October 2020

Pumpkin Festival at Willows Activity Farm (photo: Willows Activity Farm)

Pumpkin Festival at Willows Activity Farm (photo: Willows Activity Farm)

Willows Activity Farm

Ghost stories, creepy crawlies and pumpkin patches... 10 spooky things to do in Herts this Halloween

*Note* For all events, booking or advance notice is recommended. Please be aware that if Covid-19 restrictions are re-imposed there may be cancellations or alterations to these activities or the way an event is delivered.

1. Wild Things at Halloween, RSPB Rye Meads

Join Esmerelda Raventree, the good witch of Rye Meads and help her save the reserve. On your quest you will find your perfect wand and if you’re feeling especially brave, you can dip your net into the bog and see what creepy crawlies you can find. This family event at Rye Meads Nature Reserve in Hoddesdon runs from October 24 to November 1. See rspb.org.uk

Pond dipping at RSPB Rye Meads Nature Reserve (photo: RSPB)Pond dipping at RSPB Rye Meads Nature Reserve (photo: RSPB)

2. Woodland Walks and the pumpkin trail at Hatfield House

For the first time, Hatfield Park and Woodland Walks will be open to visitors each weekend throughout October. Autumn is a magical time to embark on a Woodland Walk, full of stunning red and gold leaves. During October half term, the Park and Woodland Walks will be open every day and children can enjoy the pumpkin trail. The Coach House kitchen will be open daily during half term as well as on weekends throughout October. See hatfield-house.co.uk

3. Spot the monk of Minsden Chapel, Chapelfoot

By a small wood near the hamlet of Chapelfoot lies the isolated ruins of Minsden Chapel. It’s not just the location that causes chills - the apparition of a monk climbing stairs that no longer exist has supposedly frightened many, and is said to occur at Halloween. There have also been reports of a glowing cross on dark nights and music playing without a discernible source. You might see the ghost of Hitchin historian Reginald Hine who took great interest in the ruined chapel and vowed ‘to protect and haunt its hallowed walls’.

4. Visit Datchworth, Hertfordshire’s most haunted village

Reginald Hine's photograph of the Minsden Ghost, 1907 (photo: Historic Collection/Alamy Stock Photo)Reginald Hine's photograph of the Minsden Ghost, 1907 (photo: Historic Collection/Alamy Stock Photo)

It’s not only community spirit that the village of Datchworth has, there are spooky spirits too. The village is said to be the most haunted place in Herts. According to co-author of Haunted Hertfordshire, Ruth Stratton, there have been 20 apparitions here, including a headless horse roaming the fields and a ghostly cart carrying bodies up and down Rectory Lane. Some say they’ve experienced such a strong rush of air from the cart rushing by that they’ve been pushed into the hedgerows.

5. Stay at the Brocket Arms, Ayot St Lawrence

There are some eerie goings-on at the Brocket Arms. The 14th century pub in Ayot St Lawrence is said to be haunted by a monk. As the stories go, he has appeared at the bar and is playful rather than brooding. There’s also a ghostly dog and a lady who sits by the fireplace – thought to be a past landlady. Current landlady Kelly Smalley says there’s no malice in any of the spirits. ‘Room one is supposedly the most haunted but then some people who have stayed have had quite a lot of spirits before they have gone to bed!’ See brocketarms.com

Pumpkins at Celtic Harmony (photo: Celtic Harmony)Pumpkins at Celtic Harmony (photo: Celtic Harmony)

6. Ghost Tours in St Albans & Hertford

Discover ghostly goings-on on a guided tour of the ancient streets of St Albans. Learn about poor jilted Dorothy, the phantom cathedral organist, and the butler who stole his master’s brandy. These popular walks (£5 per person) are currently limited to smaller numbers. Ghost tours are also planned in Hertford. See stalbanstourguides.co.uk and gohertford.co.uk

7. Creepy Crawlies & Dinosaurs in the Dark at Paradise Wildlife Park, Broxbourne

Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne will have treats for little monsters from October 24 to November 1 . See creepy crawlies like tarantulas, wolves Romulus and Inge (not werewolves we promise), and Optimus Prime, a green anaconda snake who is the largest on display in the UK. Alternatively, grab a flashlight and go searching for Dinosaurs in the Dark – these life-size models move and roar when you least expect it. Howling good fun. See pwpark.com

8. Pumpkin festival at Willows Activity Farm, London Colney

With 10 acres of pumpkin patch to explore there’s plenty of space for social distancing at Willows Activity Farm in London Colney. Children can pick and carve a pumpkin in the Carving Cavern or visit the Gourds Grotto and see the beautiful displays of gourds, pumpkins and squashes. Budding farmers can make friends with the animals and there’s acres of outdoor adventure play. The Pumpkin Festival takes place from October 17 to November 1. See willowsactivityfarm.com

9. Celtic New Year at Celtic Harmony Iron Age camp, Brickendon

Celebrate Samhain, the Celtic new year, from October 27-31 at Celtic Harmony Iron Age camp, a magical outdoor space in native woodland in Brickendon. The family festival marks the changing of the seasons and there will be plenty of hands-on activities for kids. Explore the haunted forest, carve pumpkins and listen to stories by the bonfire; follow the quest trail, try crafts such as mini broomstick making and answer riddles. There’s hog roast and Celtic broth too. £10 per person. See celticharmony.org

10. Maltings Halloween Scavenger Hunt, St Albans

The Maltings has reinvented its usual Halloween celebrations in-line with the current climate and has created a Halloween Scavenger Hunt running throughout the half term break, from 26-31 October 2020. Children are invited to get dressed, pick up an entry form next to the lifts and wander round the centre to find the spooky posters hidden in shop windows. Simply mark the shop name where it is displayed on the form and once you have found all 10, fill in your details and post it in the Owl Post Box next to the library. A winner will then be drawn at random with a Halloween Hamper from Hotel Chocolat up for grabs! Entries must be posted by 31 October and the winner will be notified by 7 November. Good luck! See maltingsshoppingcentre.co.uk

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HORRID HERTS HISTORY

Did you know...?

Those immortal words, ‘It was a dark and stormy night...’, were written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton of Knebworth House. The opening line of the novelist, playwright and politician’s 1830 novel Paul Clifford became synonymous with Victorian melodrama. The novelist was a pioneer of science fiction, also writing about horror and the occult. His spirit is said to roam some rooms at the Gothic stately home, much like a character from one of his stories.

The last person condemned to death for witchcraft in England was Walkern’s Jane Wenham. According to Janet Woodall of Walkern History Society, ‘She was poor, feisty and past child-bearing age – typical of those accused of witchcraft. It didn’t help that she kept answering back.’ Rumours circulated that Jane used witchcraft on the local priest’s servant, that she could fly, and there were cats seen with her face. At her trial the judge said there was no law against flying but a jury at Hertford condemned her to death. Luckily for Jane she was given a royal pardon.

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