Best places to visit in Letchworth
PUBLISHED: 16:55 11 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:05 21 March 2016
Enjoy long walks and live music, fascinating history and interesting wildlife, theatre shows and team sports, as Louise McEvoy finds out
Go down on the farm
Set in 170 acres of farmland, Standalone Farm is a great day out for all the family.
It is home to pigs, ducks, chickens and rarer breeds of poultry, and in spring there are newborn calves, lambs and chicks on the small working farm. An exhibition barn contains bird specimens, model dinosaurs, and a working beehive, and a farm walk takes visitors through fields where sheep, cows, horses and goats graze. Close to the farm there are hides to view wildfowl in their natural habitat, and the farm has an outdoor children’s play area and indoor and outdoor picnic facilities.
For up-to-date opening times and ticket prices, email email@example.com
Enjoy a bit of culture
With four main galleries, visitors to Letchworth Museum and Art Gallery can view displays on local wildlife, including the famous black squirrel, and the archaeology of the people who have lived in this area for the past 200,000 years. Exhibitions in two of the galleries are changed every month.
The museum, which is open daily between 10am and 5pm except Wednesdays, Sundays and public holidays, and is free to enter, also has a programme of events, demonstrations and workshops throughout the year, as well as a souvenir shop. 01462 685647.
Get some retail therapy
There is no shortage of shops in Letchworth. The broad walkways in Leys Avenue and Eastcheap, two of the main shopping streets, make browsing along the character shopping parades a real pleasure. The pedestrianised Garden Square Shopping Centre has a modern mix of well-known national stores while just across the road is the pride of Letchworth shopping in the 1920s – The Arcade – with its selection of independent stores. Beyond The Arcade, there are yet more specialist shops to be found in The Wynd and plenty of health and beauty stores in The Gallery for anyone feeling the need to be pampered after a busy day in the Garden City.
Local growers and producers are eager to share their wares at the monthly Farmers’ Market which takes place in Leys Square on the third Saturday of every month from 9am to 1pm.
Discover the past
The First Garden City Heritage Museum explores the history of Letchworth and the early Garden City Movement, and documents the achievement of Letchworth’s founder, Ebenezer Howard. Visitors can discover how architects Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin planned the world’s first garden city, and the museum incorporates Mr Parker’s office, which is filled with handmade Arts and Crafts furniture and paintings.
The museum, in a unique 1907 thatched building designed by Mr Parker, is open from 10am until 5pm Monday to Saturday, and is closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is 50p for Letchworth residents and students, £1 for non-residents, and under 16s go free. www.gardencitymuseum.org
Go to the movies
Relax and unwind with a viewing of the latest Hollywood blockbuster or retro classic at the Broadway Cinema.
The art deco cinema first opened its doors in 1936 and has recently undergone a £1m refurbishment programme which included an overhaul of screen one, a new 50-seater screen, reroofing and exterior decoration.
Holmes opens on Christmas Day and the Baker Street detective and his steadfast partner Watson attempt to uncover a plot which is a threat to all of England.
01462 681088 or www.broadway-cinema.com
Relax with a picnic
FOR a breath of fresh air take a stroll along the Greenway, a 13.6mile circular path which surrounds Letchworth and permits walkers to enjoy the benefits of the countryside while remaining close to the town. If you are looking for a shorter walk, visit www.greenway.org.uk/tracks-and-trails for a number of circular routes which all link to the Greenway.
There are two picnic areas along the Greenway, at Radwell Meadows and Manor Wood, and Radwell Meadows also has a number of permanent barbecues – just take fuel – and a children’s play area.
Most of the Greenway is suitable for cyclists, and a number of stretches are suitable for wheelchairs and are indicated on the Greenway map which can be picked up from the Tourist Information Centre in Letchworth, or requested from Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
See a show
For a thoroughly entertaining evening pop along to Letchworth entertainment venue Plinston for a live music event or theatre show that will put you in high spirits.
Presented by St Paul’s Amateur Dramatics Society, this year’s pantomime is Jack and the Beanstalk and runs from Sunday, December 27 until Saturday, January 2. The following day Letchworth Sinfonia presents its 25th traditional New Year Concert on Sunday January 3 which includes festive waltzes and polkas to celebrate the start of 2010. Music events early in the New Year include Johnny 2 Bad, a tribute band to global superstars UB40, on January 22, Scottish rock band Nazareth on February 5 and tribute band to Led Zeppelin, Whole Lotta Led, on February 13.
01462 672003 or www.plinston.com
Take in the architecture
After its creation in 1903, Letchworth Garden City quickly developed its own style and its original architecture and way of life came from the Arts and Crafts Movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many examples of Arts and Crafts buildings and later neo-Georgian architecture can be admired all around, from gabled cottages, some still dressed with their traditional cream colour-washed walls and green doors, to elegant shopping parades and handsome public and civic buildings in warm red brick.
The town’s history is enriched by its many landmark buildings, each with their own unique story to tell, including the Spirella Building, a former corset factory. When corsets eventually went out of fashion, the factory closed but it has been lovingly restored and today offers modern office space, a café and fitness centres. Its ballroom is used for dances, wedding ceremonies, receptions and conferences.
Details about all the fascinating buildings, museums and places to visit in and around Letchworth can be found at the Tourist Information Centre just a few minutes walk from the railway station.
SOMEWHERE TO STAY
Stay in the heart of the town centre at the Broadway Hotel, which was built in 1961 and was the first licensed premises in Letchworth. 01462 480111or www.broadwayhotel.co.uk
A PICNIC SPOT
Take a picnic and explore Wymondley Wood with its nature conservation area, pond, and footpaths which are accessible by all.
WATCH A PLAY
Catch a production put on by the Settlement Players at The Settlement. Visit www.settlement-players.org.uk for upcoming events.