The valleys of the Mimran and Rib, and the land to the south of the town carry the official designation, Landscape Conservation Area.
Rivers flowing into the lowest fordable point on the River Lea retain in accidents of nature and history, ‘Green Fingers’ of countryside which penetrate deeply into the town at five different points. Each river valleys bringing into the town its own characteristic ribbon of countryside remain unchanged for many centuries because of the danger of flooding, and a high water table.
In 1976 the Society published a report A Study of the ‘Green Fingers’ of the Town with a view to drawing attention to them and seeking to ensure their future protection. The report stated no development should be permitted which might damage the charm of the Green Fingers and the pleasure they now give.
Dangers highlighted in the HCS report included:
- Encroachments were being made onto the flood plains.
- More of these washlands might be released for housing and other developments on completion of the flood alleviation schemes then in progress.
- Increased demand for housing would follow electrification of the Hertford North railway line.
- Additional developments in key areas, though relatively small, might significantly alter the character of the town.
- Planners might yield to the twin arguments – ‘a little development won’t hurt’ and ‘it has already been spoilt, so why worry?
- Those responsible for the character of the town might not have clear aims.
Hertford Civic Society was greatly pleased when the District Council protected the Green Fingers concept in the Local Plan at the time. The most recent version of the Plan continues to recognise the importance of the Green Fingers in the various policies for the town, and their crucial benefit for residents and the environment.
Present threats to Hertford if the protected Green Fingers are compromised:
- Cramming of new dwellings within the boundary of the town in order to satisfy Hertford’s share of the surging demand for housing, without building in the Green Belt.
- The end of farming land use and loss of traditional means of managing the type of land making up the Green Fingers.
- Increase in public use of open spaces by trail motorcycles, off-road vehicles and mountain bikes straying from authorized routes, and damaging the ecology.
- Protection of the water meadows within the Green Fingers. There is public recognition that further building in flood plains is no longer sensible or sustainable.
An HCS Updated Report in 2004 aimed to:
- Determine whether the recommendations of the original report had been implemented.
- Determine whether previous protective measures were effective.
- Identify what additional measures might be needed to address current threats to the Green Fingers.
- Recommend how the Green Fingers should be managed in future, for the benefit of everyone, in the light of predicted changes.
The target audience included: members and officers of Hertfordshire County Council, East Herts District Council, Hertford Town Council and the East of England Regional Assembly, landowners, local employers such as GlaxoSmithKline and McMullens, and organisations with special interests such as the Environment Agency, English Nature, British Waterways, Thames Water, Three Valleys Water, Sustrans, boating and angling clubs, Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust and various other natural history groups and societies.
The structure of the document is as follows:
Section 2 is a review which addresses the issue of the protection of the Green Fingers within the overall planning strategy for the Hertford area. It refers to the 1976 recommendations, what has been achieved since then, what problems have arisen and what is recommended for the future strategy.
Six topic headings which together define the character of each Green Finger:
- Landscape and amenity
- Access and recreation
Section 3 provides a summary of the specific recommendations which Hertford Civic Society wished to make, both in general terms and in respect of each of the areas which have been identified as Green Fingers.
The ISBN number for the report is 0 9529196 1 3.