The site was one of the many small commercial watercress beds in Hertfordshire based on fast flowing chalk streams. The watercress was picked at dawn and pulled on trolleys to the nearby old station so that it could be on London restaurant tables for lunch. Production ceased in 1972. The site fell into disrepair and was used in part for fly tipping. Part of the site was also used for allotments.
In 1990, the Council took action and invited expressions of interest for local amenity development. Four bids were submitted in December 1991 and the WWA won, based on 82 local households paying £5 each. The annual rent was £50.
The WWA supported the remaining allotment holders to retain their sites. They started clearing the main site by hand filling many skips.
The site was opened officially by David Bellamy on 12th September 1992. The site plan was much as it is today. The orchard was developed in 2002 with the planting of new native Hertfordshire fruit trees and the medieval triangle (by the front entrance) in 2005.
Other key dates:
• 1992 – Bird hide
• 1993 – Bridges and paths
• 1995 – Blockhouse
• 2000 – Civic Award
• 2003 – Local Nature Reserve status
• 2003 – St Albans in Bloom special award
• 2004 – Granted an extended lease by the Council
• 2004 – Acquired the Pyghtle (formerly an adjacent allotment)
• 2005 – Railway sleeper signs
• 2005 – WaterWheelers established with Lottery funding
• 2006 – Mayor’s Civic Award (joint winner with Earthworks)
• 2010 – Acquired final allotment site