Okay, Stevenage isn’t exactly Welwyn Garden, Hitchin or Letchworth to look at, but it does have an attractive ‘Old Town’ and excellent retail parks. Living in one of the surrounding villages as I do, Knebworth, we are no more than a few minutes drive from the town centre and in my case, just five minutes from the main retail parks and local shopping such as Roaring Meg. So what do the local people living close to the town centre do on their weekends? The opposite perhaps although I’m not sure how many of us actually explore what’s on our doorstep. Stevenage abounds with wildlife and is surrounded by stunning countryside just a few minutes drive from the centre of town in virtually any direction.
Back in 1982 when I was a wee nipper of a photographer, starting on the long road to what eventually would become my life long profession, I used to occasionally cycle into Stevenage from Harpenden through the country lanes via Kimpton and Codicote, and often thought what superb countryside I was passing through, but I never really had the opportunity or time to explore off the beaten track by foot. A couple of days ago I decided to do just that. Armed with a lightish Nikon D750 DSLR in my back-pack and my 3-legged Thing carbon fibre travel tripod, I left the house on foot with the aim of exploring the footpath that I’d often seen when passing just over the other side of the A1, 3/4 of a mile up Park Lane. Shortly after entering the start of the HomeWood path, it opened into a wood on the left hand side. I thought it would be worth exploring and I wasn’t disappointed. If I’m walking on my own, I’m constantly on the lookout for landscape compositions. In woods for example, I’ll seek an unusual tree to place as the focal point of a photograph. Woods can be tricky as they can look messy so I try and find angles of interest that don’t look too cluttered. I’ll also watch out for the light. As with my commercial and studio photography, highlights and shadow give shape. And so it is with trees. I’ll almost never choose an angle where the key source of light is coming from directly behind the camera as the composition can look very flat, therefore a good side light or backlight giving an edge to trees is preferable. I found numerous possibilities in Park Wood.
After what I thought was a pretty successful and enjoyable jaunt exploring Park Wood, I decided to head back onto the main road towards Old Knebworth. I’ve always thought it’s such an attractive area around Old Knebworth Green, particularly in the Autumn. Time was pushing on and this was a normal working day with a slightly extended lunch break. Extended so much so that I couldn’t resist a quick sandwich and pint in the superb Lytton Arms, adjacent to the green. What a way to end an enjoyable walk, and for those townies looking for something alternative to do at the weekend, what better way than to visit the locality just five minutes from Stevenage town centre. If I’d had more time, I’d have crossed from the Green into the Knebworth Estate opposite and tried to find the elusive deer in the park, but that’s for another time – maybe early one morning. There is plenty of stunning countryside very close to Stevenage and those living in the town should be encouraged to explore the immediate surrounding areas.