Entrance into Verulamium Museum is free for St Albans residents and we are warmly welcomed. I haven’t been here since my daughter was at junior school and vaguely remember her rummaging around in the dressing up box and modelling a roman soldier costume.

We step through the doorway and into a circular reception area. After walking along a brightly lit corridor we enter the first couple of darkened rooms, and are presented with illuminated cabinets filled with artifacts on life in Verlamion, the pre-Roman Celtic settlement.

We’re then led into Verulamium and life in the Roman Empire. This central atrium is circular and surrounded by archways each leading to a small chamber covering particular themes of daily Roman life.

I enjoy learning about roman recreation such as board games, gambling, feasting and storytelling. The public baths were a place where they’d discuss current affairs. It’s hard to imagine that working nowadays; getting into heated arguments about Brexit while lounging about in the Westminster Lodge swimming pool!

We meander into the area on Merchants and Markets. I admire the neatly displayed hand-minted silver and gold coins depicting Gods, Goddesses and Emperors. My husband tells me that Augustus was the First Emperor and Creator of the Roman Empire, showing off his A Level in Ancient history!

In the diorama of a wealthy citizen’s home, there are cabinets filled with jewellery, cosmetics and unusual objects like ear scoops. Trompe l’oeil painted walls show how these homes were beautifully decorated. I’m drawn to a small bronze statuette of the so-called Verulamium Venus; her proportions are slender and gracious and her gowns are flowing. Some say it’s a figurine of Persephone holding a pomegranate from the underworld. Shrines of Gods and Goddesses were a common feature in most households, and daily offerings of food and wine would be placed before them on altars.

This leads us back to the centre where a group of school children are listening to a guide standing before some stunning mosaics (still intact, although discoloured with age) and explaining how 49 mosaics were discovered and the significance of their designs. My favourite, dating back to AD145 – 150, depicts Dolphins and Lions. It’s so beautiful. Dolphins were considered to be good luck and were apparently the only animals that knew how to find the “blessed isles of the afterlife”.

I have a wander around the attractive shop on my way out. I’ve enjoyed my visit and as I walk away I think about how amazing it is to be standing on the site of one of the largest roman settlements in Britain.

It’s a quiet midweek afternoon, we pass by the River Ver, over a footbridge, and head to one of the oldest pubs in England. Outside, old wooden church pews furnish the front garden and beer kegs are piled high. A steel cockerel towers above the sign “Ye Olde Fighting Cocks”, with two hanging baskets filled with pansies on either side of it welcoming us in.

As I step through the miniature doorway, darkness prevails and it feels quite labyrinthine given its unique octagonal structure; it’s a challenge to find my bearings, even before I’ve had any ale! I look up, bowed Tudor beams are running across the low crooked ceiling and it feels as if the short wooden posts are the only things holding this place up.

We approach the curved bar with its old world charm that feels so much cosier than the contemporary clean lines of modern pubs. The friendly barman can see that I know very little about ale and shows me two separate rows of ale pumps labelled with curious names like: Heavenly blonde, Dark Star and Chief Jester. He offers me a taste of a few, and much to his delight, I go for the Dark Star, a velvety ale which, he reveals, is their very own and locally brewed.

We find a table and I sip my ale (… mmm it’s perfectly smooth) and take in the country pub atmosphere. Coach lamps hang at either side of the ample fireplace and I can imagine how cosy it must feel in the winter. A stand up piano sits beneath a small window and traditional Axminster carpets cover the creaking floorboards. Framed sketches of literary characters like Don Quixote and Job Trotter from The Pickwick Papers, along with illustrations from pheasants to Shire horses hang on the deep red walls; I sit there pondering how deeply steeped in history (and revelry) this pub is.

This site dates back to the 8th century and the building was erected in the 11th century; it was moved to its present site after the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539. Apparently there are tunnels stretching from the beer cellar to the Abbey once frequented by the monks. By the 17th Century, it had become a local centre for cock fighting, a popular pastime, later banned in 1849.

We walk home through the park, relieved to get some daylight, and to come to our senses. My husband decides that it would be fun to cross the running stream via the stepping stones, assuming that half a pint is not enough to make me lose my balance. How wrong he is!

It was late on a Sunday afternoon, we were all in need of a little fresh air and decide to go for a walk into Heartwood forest. I’d already read about the stunning sea of bluebells every Springtime, but had heard from a neighbour that there is even more to see than that. Heartwood forest is a large area of ancient woodland nestling beside newly planted trees and is made up of four woods – Langely Wood, Pismire Spring, Well & Pudler’s Wood and Round Wood.

Back in 2008, the Woodland Trust acquired over 800 acres of arable farm land, and over the last decade has not only protected the ancient woods, but has planted over half a million saplings, transforming it into beautiful woodland with wildflower meadows.

Once we had arrived we decided to be really adventurous and go on the Magical Meander, a mighty mile and a half walk! As we started along the pathway, I noticed huge oak and birch trees to our left, yet to our right were hundreds of saplings – still so small and young. It was fascinating to see a forest in the making; to see the unusual contrast of old and new.

Being city dwellers, we made a wrong turn once or twice, but saw countless bluebells, poppies and daisies along the way. Skylarks and goldfinches were darting high above us swooping their way in groups, and closer by, unusual butterflies danced in and out of the dappled sunlight. As we continued further along the grassy path, it gave way to a shaded ancient forest. The tree branches arched over to meet each other creating a canopy high above us, and as I treaded the cavernous cool darkness below, I felt as if I’d stepped into a Grimm’s fairy tale.

Eventually we found our way onto the main path, enjoying the vast spaces and distant views of the green patchwork hills and fields. Heartwood forest offers acres to explore by bike, horse or on foot. It’s amazing how you can immerse yourself in nature, and within ten minutes find yourself back in the centre of St Albans sipping a cappuccino. As we leave, I realize that I’ve been completely captivated over these last couple of hours, grateful that this woodland forms part of my daughter’s young memories and hopeful that, through these acts of reforestation around the world, our planet might be saved after all.

Since moving to St Albans, we have spent many afternoons in Nature as a family. This park stands on what was once Verulamium, the third largest city in Roman Britain; it’s ruined city walls, constructed in around 270 AD, dominate the landscape. It covers over one hundred acres, offers magnificent views of St Albans Cathedral and is surrounded by many ancient and picturesque houses.

Huge oak and willow trees are planted in rows along the length of the central lake within a wide-open tranquil setting. They are perfectly reflected in the water, the contrasting shades of their green leaves swish in the breeze. There’s a harmonious sense of proportion and plenty of open space to watch your dogs running around on the grass. We used to enjoy rolling down the hills or feeding the ducks and watching them diving for food when our daughter was little; these days we prefer a game of badminton or Frisbee.

As well as Roman ruins and an ornamental lake, there is a café, a crazy golf area, tennis, basketball and netball courts. The toddler splash park is a delight for children while the park is the perfect setting for a leisurely walk or a jog. The lake is a haven for wildlife and rich in biodiversity. There is talk of placing aquatic plants on the lake’s fringes to soak up the pollutants, clean the water and reduce the silt levels. It is home to a number of water birds such as herons, swans, and ducks. Then of course there are the Canada geese, step a little closer if you dare, they’ll steal your lunch and pin you to the ground!

In 1929, when the park was still agricultural land, the Earl of Verulam sold it to the council. In the thirties, the lake was dug out and extensive archaeological excavations by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, and his wife Tessa, were undertaken. Amazingly, the remains of a theatre along with a hypocaust were uncovered, along with many everyday roman artifacts.

On quieter colder days, the park becomes a peaceful sanctuary. I enjoy the tranquillity, taking in the beautiful views and breathing the crisp clean air. I feel as if I am eons away from the hustle and bustle of the marketplace and always leave the park feeling restored and refreshed.