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The Howard Centre, Welwyn Garde City

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      17.08.2004 19:26
      Very helpful



      The Howard Centre is the main shopping centre in the centre of Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. It takes it?s name from Sir Ebenezer Howard, who planned the entire town and had it built from scratch in the 1920?s, after previously applying the ?Garden City? concept to nearby Letchworth Garden City. Of course, Welwyn isn?t actually a city as such, it?s nothing more than a medium sized town, but it is extraordinarily well-endowed in the ?garden? department! If you ever feel the need to visit the Howard Centre, you?ll find a short stay car park conveniently attached to the centre itself. Prices are reasonable, at around 70p for the first hour. But if you want to spend a slightly longer time here, then the long-stay carpark across the road is better value at £3.30 per stay. It does get full very quickly on weekdays, however, as it?s the favourite car park of local workers and commuters alike. If you need a little assistance getting about the Howard Centre, then you?ll be glad to find that Shopmobility is located within the Howard Centre itself, right at the pedestrian entrance to the car park. They have motorised scooters with large baskets on the front available. Alternatively, I?ve seen traditional wheelchairs available too, if that?s what you prefer. Of course, if you?re not a driver, then you can still get to the Howard Centre easily. If you?re very local, then the Howard Centre is within walking distance of most parts of Welwyn Garden City. If you do feel the need to catch a bus, then the Welwyn Garden City bus station is conveniently located right outside of the Howard Centre. Buses are few and far between, and usually pretty expensive, though. If you?re coming from slightly further afield, then you?ll be pleased to hear that the
      train station for Welwyn Garden City is also located adjacent to the Howard Centre. In fact, the ticket office for the station is actually located in the Howard Centre itself, something that I?ve never seen elsewhere in this Country. Getting around the centre itself really couldn?t be easier. There are stairs between the two shopping floors and seven parking floors, for the energetic. For those of us with limited stamina, there are escalators at each end of the shopping floors, and another set inside Marks and Spencers. For those in wheelchairs, or with pushchairs, prams or heavy shopping, then there are several lifts going to every floor. One of these is a glass lift which offers an excellent view of the Howard Centre, along with panoramic views over Welwyn Garden City itself from the upper floors. If you exit the lift on the topmost floor of the car park, which doesn?t have a roof, you?ll find some of the best views of the town and surrounding countryside. The centre itself is extremely clean ? there are cleaners working within the Howard Centre all day every day, and I can honestly say that I?ve never seen the place, including the toilets, in any condition other than spotless. The toilets themselves are not only immaculate, but are never without loo roll, which is a rarity for shopping centres, I?ve always found. In common with jut about every other town centre Shopping complex, nowadays, the Howard Centre has tiled floors, which can get slippy in wet weather. The centre is very light and bright, as the ceilings are mostly glass and there are huge glass doors and windows on both entrances. Within the last couple of years, the Howard Centre has started to open seven days a week, it also remains open whenever the train station is open, although the shops are closed in the evenings! <
      br>So, now that you?ve got a bit of a feel for the Howard Centre, and perhaps decided that it might be quite a nice place for a touch of shopping, I?m afraid that I?m probably about to disappoint you. You see, although a pleasant place to shop, the Howard Centre is very small, considering it is the main shopping area in the town. Yes, it covers two floors, but the actual floor space itself is really quite small, and the Howard Centre can only accommodate a couple of dozen high-street shops, all of which can be found in most shopping centres up and down the country already. So, we?ve covered the fact that the Howard Centre is not only small, but the typical high-street names aren?t going to encourage anybody but locals to shop here, either. So, what has the Howard Centre got going for it? Well, not very much, if I?m honest? There?s a lottery stall to one side of the main entrance where you can buy your lottery ticket or scratchcard quickly and easily, but other than that you?ll only find your usual Marks and Spencer, Boots, WH Smith, Early Learning Centre, Next, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Body Shop, MVC? Need I go on? Thought not? OK, so there?s a little pet shop that sells tropical fish, birds and small mammals, but if I?m honest it?s overpriced and staffed by youngsters who are willing, but not particularly knowledgeable. Personally I prefer Welwyn Garden City?s other pet shop, where the cat is friendly, but so enormous it looks like it?s eaten more cat biscuits than the shop has ever sold! There?s Toni & Guy?s if you fancy a haircut, and the place is always packed. However, there are several other excellent (and cheaper) hairdressers in Welwyn Garden City too, so personally I wouldn?t make a special trip to the H
      ;oward Centre to get my hair cut here. Yes, there is a very good toy shop, probably the best in the area, on the upper floor of the Howard Centre. However, as I don?t have children myself I very rarely have occasion to go there. There is only one, real café in the Howard Centre, which is located on the upper floor, close to the train station. They open early, and serve excellent freshly squeezed orange juice and toast in the morning, and the toasted sandwiches are nice too. However, even though the service is fast and the waiting staff are all lovely, it?s an expensive place to eat, and not special enough to go out of your way to eat here. If you just fancy a coffee, then there?s a Nescafe coffee shop at the other end of the Howard Centre. However, the coffee served in Costa, just outside the Centre, is much nicer and Costa has always been much more popular. The rest of the shops in Welwyn Garden City are arranged in a few, compact blocks at the front of the Howard Centre, with a gorgeous, green strip in a pedestrianised area through the middle. This ?park? area is mostly laid to lawn, with fenced-off flower beds and an avenue of beautiful old trees. It really is an absolutely blissful place to relax and eat your lunch in the summer. From here you can enjoy the grandeur of the pillared entrance to the Howard Centre, with it?s two, wide-sweeping entrance ramps that curve across the front of the building. Functional, but elegant too. Of course, all of this beauty is somewhat marred by the green, nylon netting that festoons the pillars at the entrance to prevent the ubiquitous shopping centre pigeons from sitting there! And that just about sums up the Howard Centre. Functional, but nothing special! It?s good enough for us locals, but I certainly wouldn?t recommend goin
      g out of your way to shop here. Capital letters courtesy of: http://www.chuckleweb.co.uk/fixit.php


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