A striking artistic sculpture spanning the Alban Way between Smallford and Hatfield raised a not-so-simple Question for me, in the course of the ‘Bringing the History of Smallford Station to Life’ project.
Looking at an O.S. map and ascertaining the sculpture’s location, I established that it is not half-way between the terminus stations of the former Hatfield & St.Albans branch railway, nor half-way between Smallford Station and the old Nast Hyde Halt, nor half-way along today’s Alban Way, nor yet (as some have wrongly guessed) at the local government boundary between Hatfield and St.Albans councils’ areas….. So, my then unanswered Question was:
Why was the Blackberry Arch placed where it is?
I could not find an answer in any relevant publications readily accessible to me, so decided to simply ask the Blackberry Arch’s creator, local sculptor DIANE MACLEAN….. Her answer was:
“When I made the Arch, the idea came from the blackberry bushes along the way and the autumn blackberry-picking. I chose the location along the stretch of the path going from Smallford towards Hatfield rather than the stretch going towards St Albans, as it was much more pleasant and rural. The chosen place is equidistant from the car park at Smallford and a junction with a small road connecting to the dual carriageway [now officially a ‘Byway Open to All Traffic’, between Wilkins Green Lane and the A414]. The path at that point was clear, with brambles along the edges.
I aimed to make the Arch wide and high enough for cyclists, horse-riders and others to pass under it comfortably, as it Is on part of a National Cycle Path but is also a Bridleway. The budget was not huge, but I made the Arch at a blacksmith’s forge and had it galvanised and etched. Etching the galvanised surface with acid makes it silvery instead of black and that stands out against the green tangles of nature. When it was first installed, local children playing around there wrote names and messages on the leaves, which I welcomed.”
The latter points are illustrated by the photo below:
So, the Answer – that it was placed halfway between two significant Alban Way access points, and in its most apt setting – came along with interesting additional information about the unique sculpture, for which, many thanks to DIANE MACLEAN.
Additional Text & Photos: Alastair Cameron, Smallford Station & Alban Way Heritage Society, 2016
I’ve often wondered about the arch’s position as I run and cycle along here quite a lot and use it as a timing guide to check my pace. It’s very handy as it is almost exactly one kilometre (give or take a metre or two) from Ellenbrook Lane and makes a very pretty “finish line.”