Deep down in the centre of the Estate lies the attractive Woodyard Cottage(s), built around 1820 when the Bridgewaters were becoming landed aristocrats. Already rich from their coal and canal activity in Lancashire, they rapidly extended their land holding once their new residence had been built – the Mansion that we see today.
The path to the north which skirts around the large open meadow was originally the main footpath route from Woodyard to the Mansion, some half a mile away. It connects up with the old sand pit adjacent to the cottage(s), from where large quantities of sand were no doubt extracted for the building of the new house. The sand pit occurred just outside the park perimeter paling, on Berkhamstead common where the Bridgewaters only had commoners’ rights. They subsequently bought the exclusive rights to the common from the Duchy of Cornwall in 1863 for the sum of one hundred and forty four thousand pounds. The sighting of the sand pit “broke the rules” because it intersected the track-way along the perimeter fence line which was the main route from Hemel Hempstead to Aldbury at that time. To make matters worse the Bridgewaters proceeded to build two adjacent semi-detached cottages for their estate workers, no doubt to stamp their authority on the common. They acquired the land without opposition.
Back on the path in the Park the mountain bikers have appeared scattering everyone before them!
“Breaking the rules” on the rights of way they deliberately disrespect the signage and ignore the fact that the path is not a bridleway for bikers. Most mountain bikers seem to have little regard for conservation, or indeed other visitors, merely being interested in pitting their wits against the landscape. To curb this illegal activity the ad hoc Wednesday group of volunteers were called in to build a dead hedge, blocking off the route and protecting the environment, with timber hauled over from Golden Valley. Another sterling piece of work which should prove effective.
Back at the cottage(s) with it’s classical influences, the only residents there at the moment are the glis-glis. The edible dormouse will have to be evicted before any new tenants move in. Mr Hopkins the last tenant died without issue, so the property has reverted to the National Trust by default.