Wash Lane Common, the entrance to which sits hidden behind Pizza Express in the Service Area, has received an upgrade in recent months and now boast a new gate and a new path, forming a short circular walk over the wooden bridge that crosses Mimmshall Brook. All the information boards have been replaced and volunteers have worked very hard to clear a lot of the brambles.
As you can see from the old black and white photo, Wash Lane has been a peaceful place to stop for hundreds of years. Wash Lane itself has not been open to vehicles in many years, but it was once the main coaching route from Barnet to St Albans. Mentioned in records dating back as far as 1220, the old road to St. Albans followed a winding course through Kitts End, Dancers Hill, and Mimms Wash. It entered South Mimms village by Greyhound Lane, served as the main street, crossed a water-splash, and proceeded towards Mimmshall wood and Ridge Hill. It was often flooded and in need of repair, an Act for its improvement finally being passed in 1714. According to Defoe in 1725, the work was so well done that ‘the bottom is not only repaired, but the narrow places are widened, hills leveled, bottoms raised, and the ascents and descents made easy’. Nevertheless in 1727 seven travelers were said to have died upon the road, one of them from drowning. It was finally superseded in the early 19th century by a road constructed by Thomas Telford as part of a plan to improve communications with Holyhead. The section of road from Barnet to South Mimms, completed c. 1828, followed a fairly straight line to Ridge Hill, cutting through South Mimms village at an angle and by-passing the old main street.