WELWYN NORTH The village best served by this station is Digswell, which consists of large detached houses with secluded gardens sewn into the lanes behind high hedges – some of them dominated by the huge viaduct built to carry the Great Northern Railway over the valley. It has the advantage of being close to a main line station yet only two miles from Welwyn Garden City. Houses tend to be sold very discreetly, and are not cheap. You would need to spend £500,000 for a four-bedroom bungalow. A small but pretty lake is maintained by the Digswell Lake Society.
Tewin is another wooded dormitory, but the sale of the village by the Cowper estate in 1919 led to its rapid expansion, with large new estates leeching on. The Upper Green is still used for tennis, cricket and football matches and there are badminton and bowls clubs. The village shop and post office is run by the community. A three-bedroom cottage on the green would cost £350,000; four- and five-bedroom detached houses fetch around £750,000. The tomb of Lady Anne Grimston in the parish church fascinates visitors and locals alike. Before her death in 1713 she had scoffed that the after-life was as likely as a tree growing through her grave. The tomb is now a macabre tangle of root and branch.
The Ayots to the west, like Digswell, are very exclusive: Ayot St Peter, perched on a hilltop, and Ayot St Lawrence, with its narrow lanes enclosed between hedgebanks. The latter has a popular pub, the Brocket Arms, and George Bernard Shaw’s house, the late-Victorian Shaw’s Corner, where he lived until his death in 1950. The house, which has Shaw’s writing hut at the bottom of the garden, is in the hands of the National Trust. The village’s most prominent landmark is the extraordinary Neo-Classical parish church, seen like an 18th-century folly across a meadow. House prices are higher than those in Tewin. Little cottages are few on the ground as most of the houses come large and expensive, starting at £800,000 and running into millions.