8 things in Herts we’ve always noticed but never understood

Hertfordshire is famous for many things.

Being one of the best counties in England, creating some of the most famous celebrities in the world and even creating doughnuts.

Despite the county having such a rich history, there are some things in Herts that we’ve seen and are commonly known but we just don’t understand.

From the infamous magic roundabout in Hemel Hempstead to two areas having the same name, the list just goes on.

Here are some of the biggest things in Hertfordshire we just simply don’t understand:

1. The Magic Roundabout in Hemel Hempstead

In Hertfordshire and in England, there are many roads which are hard to manoeuvre, understand and figure out.

But one of the most confusing roads in the country is the Magic Roundabout in Hemel Hempstead which is infamous for causing chaos for drivers.

The roundabout should be called the roundabouts as it is one massive roundabout with loads of mini-roundabouts on it.

The Magic Roundabout shortly after opening – with a handful of cars on the wrong side of the road
(Image: Cathcam/CC 4.0)

The Plough Roundabout – as its actually called – opened in 1973, following the lead of Swindon’s terrifying five-roundabout junction.

On the day it opened, it was a ‘who dares wins’ experience for drivers. On Hertfordshire County Council’s archive website there is a page dedicated to the roundabout.

It adds that: “It caused so much confusion when it opened in 1973 that policemen had to be stationed at each of the mini-roundabouts to direct clueless motorists, who were no doubt shouting, crying and looking utterly confused.”

According to a 2005 poll, however, the Plough was voted the second-worst roundabout in the country, just behind Swindon’s version – which is a win in itself, really.

Despite it lasting until now, the road still causes plenty of problems even for locals that use it every day.

Let’s hope a second ‘magic roundabout’ doesn’t come to Herts anytime soon.

2. How Herts is the home to two world-famous studios

Hertfordshire is known for many things but one of the most prestigious things to come out of the county is hundreds of blockbuster films and TV shows.

This is because Herts is home to two world-famous and internationally used studios.

Both Elstree Studios and Warner. Bros Studios have produced some of your favourite and well-known films including the Harry Potter series, Star Wars and Batman

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The George Lucas stage at Elstree Studios
The George Lucas stage at Elstree Studios
(Image: Elstree Studios)

Whether it’s a coincidence or not that both studios are here in Herts only miles away from each other, the success of both studios is simply down to the hard work and dedication shown over the years.

Elstree Studios has a fabulous history and has grown to become one of, if not the, best film studios in the UK.

It’s just crazy to think that two of the best film studios in the world are only nine miles away.

3. How Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth Garden City are actually towns

This is one of the most confusing things in Hertfordshire as two towns are actually called cities but aren’t actually cities because they’re towns. Confused? Yeah same.

While Letchworth may be famous for the UK’s first-ever roundabout, which is located just before you enter the town centre, these two Garden Cities have had a huge impact on town development.

The idea of a garden city is to combine the best parts of both towns and country.

Letchworth Garden City

This is helped by the town being surrounded by a rural belt with the aim to feed the town and offer people to the countryside.

Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City were the first two garden cities in England.

Ultimately, the cities provide a perfect blend of city and nature without the disadvantages of both which is why both areas are an attractive option for home buyers.

4. How some people still think Royston is in Cambridgeshire or Bishop’s Stortford is in Essex

Two towns which Hertfordshire is proud to call home are Royston and Bishop’s Stortford.

The two areas fall very close to the borders of neighbouring counties Cambridgeshire and Essex and despite it being known for years the areas are in Hertfordshire, some people still think they aren’t.

People believe these areas are actually in Cambridgeshire and Essex which is baffling to all of us who know where they really are.

Banyers House in Royston
Banyers House in Royston
(Image: Google Maps)

Yes, they’re close to the borders but come on guys get with it.

Royston which is in the North Hertfordshire district has a train station which is on a Cambridge line just adding to the confusion.

We would like to clear it up now, these towns are in Hertfordshire.

5. The doughnut originating in Hertford

Doughnuts are thought to have come from a Hertfordshire recipe book

Despite the popular conception that doughnuts came from America, some people think they actually originated in Hertford.

A recipe for ‘dow nuts’ appears in The Recipe Book of Baroness Dimsdale around the year 1800.

Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale lived in Hertford and her recipe book contained over 700 handwritten recipes including the one for ‘dow nuts’.

If this is the case it’s another really weird thing that’s happened across Hertfordshire in history.

We just think it is crazy that doughnuts were actually made in Hertford and are now loved by the majority of people across the world.

6. How there is a cricket pitch above one of the M25 tunnels

This is one of the craziest little known facts which will blow your mind.

The M25 is one of the most used motorways and when travelling through the section on the M25 you’ll come across the Bell Common tunnel between junction 27 and junction 26.

The tunnel is 500m long and was first opened in 1984. When constructing the road, the developers stumbled across an issue – they had Epping Forest on one side and a development on the other.

They wanted the road to cut right through a local cricket pitch which put the cricket club’s future at risk.

The decision was instead made to create the tunnel that would cut through and under the existing land, meaning Epping Foresters Cricket Club would survive.

Annoyingly, they still had to relocate for five years while the tunnel was constructed.

When the tunnel was complete they were able to move back to their original home and that’s what lies above the tunnel today, a stunning cricket pitch.

When you think of a cricket pitch, it tends to be located in the beautiful countryside or out in the suburbs of towns – not above the UK’s busiest motorway.

But regardless, the pitch is perfectly fine and don’t worry, no cricket balls are going to come flying towards your windscreen when driving along the motorway any time soon.

People have noted online that during construction you were actually able to go and visit the site to have a look at the ongoing works. Others noted how they watched it being built from their nearby bedroom windows.

7. Welwyn Garden City vs Welwyn

The Howard Centre in Welwyn Garden City has a range of chain shops inside

The two places in Hertfordshire with the same name but have plenty of differences; Welwyn Garden City and Welwyn.

Old Welwyn or Welwyn is a village about two miles north of its Garden City neighbour which as we already know is a town, not a city.

Many people – especially those who didn’t grow up in Hertfordshire – haven’t even noticed there are two Welwyns.

If you search Google Maps for ‘Welwyn’, you’ll be directed straight to the Garden City and it’s what most of us think of when we hear the name.

While the village is quainter and understated, Welwyn Garden City is anything but and is very developed.

8. Why Stevenage gets such a bad name

A new CGI shows the plan for a new boulevard looking towards the Town Square
(Image: SG1/Stevenage Even Better)

Stevenage locally has a bad reputation with the town centre being called grey and unwelcoming but we don’t understand the narrative.

What people fail to realise is the positivity surrounding the town.

There are future developments which will further take the town to the next level, it has a bundle of rich history becoming the UK’s first ‘new town’ meaning the future is bright.

The £1bn redevelopment plan will completely transform the town and will bat away all the negative comments it gets.

Some visitors have expressed their dislike towards the Oval and the people around that area.

Understandably, it’s no high-class shopping parade but it’s somewhere for local people to easily access shops and buy items that are affordable.

Local businesses should be praised and treasured in today’s world where internet shopping is ruining the high street.

The local housing in and around the Oval is relatively cheap compared to other parts of the town and in Hertfordshire, making far more accessibly to less fortunate people.

HertsLive – Hemel Hempstead