Belonging in Bedmond
PUBLISHED: 14:02 10 March 2009 | UPDATED: 15:55 20 February 2013
Getting closer to nature and being part of a thriving community - what more could you ask for? Jessica Clark gets swept away by village life
LOST in an expanse of open fields and thick woods, it comes as a surprise that Bedmond is situated somewhere between major motorways and busy towns. The hidden village is the smallest ward in the parish of Abbots Langley and has perhaps in the past been overlooked as one of the county's hot spots. But more people are turning their head towards the village as its vibrancy grows.
Situated in the west of Hertfordshire, the small village is in an unrivalled position, just minutes from the M1 and M25 lifelines, a few miles from St Albans to its east, Hemel Hempstead to it's west and Watford to the south. With Bedmond boasting the only ever English Pope, there are plenty of talking points, which get the village going.
A bustling community
Originally a farming area, Bedmond is complete with all the essential ingredients of a village including Bedmond Village Primary and Nursery school, local stores and quaint pubs, which benefit from plenty of local support. But at the centre of Bedmond is a thriving village hall keeping the community bustling, along with its associated sports and social club and ambitious football team.
When newly married Nora Greeves moved to Bell Lane in the village she threw herself into Bedmond life and has never looked back. When she wasn't working at the local school she helped out on the village hall committee and in 2001 saw the group's hard work come to fruition when a new hall opened. She says, 'It was a really exciting time when we started gathering grants and fundraising. The residents were very understanding that the old hall needed to go, but were insistent that a new one should replace it. Everyone was very generous and it was fantastic when it opened - it has really become the centre of the village social life again.
'I love living in Bedmond. The countryside is beautiful - you only have to cross the main road and walk for a few minutes and you feel miles away, surrounded by nature. We're so close to main towns but we feel quite separate - I feel very fortunate to live here. There is such a friendly, generous atmosphere here.'
Back to nature
It's no wonder then that Bedmond attracts all types of outdoors enthusiasts from Sunday strollers to bike riders and ramblers. Both marked out paths and locally discovered routes are packed with people taking light relief in the fresh air and countryside. Visitors also stop to take a look at the unusual Church of the Ascension in Church Hill, affectionately known as the 'tin church' because of its corrugated iron shell.
The simple church cost just £80 to build in 1880 and was given to the village by a generous resident. It seats just 60 people in its wooden interior and in 2005 the steeple of the church was repaired and a new bell fitted, at a considerably higher cost than its original build. Summer fetes, harvest and flower festivals at the church bring the village community together throughout the year.
On the tourist trail
Owner of the White Hart Inn Martin Thomas often finds himself preparing lunches for scores of visitors recommended to the village. Martin, who has owned the pub for 15 years, says, 'We're 50 yards from the main road yet you would think we were in the middle of nowhere.
'We get a great mix of visitors and residents which makes a great atmosphere. It's still an old village pub where people just pop in for a chat and a pint.
'I was looking for a village pub in a nice location and as soon as I saw the White Hart I knew it was perfect and I have never looked back.
'It's the best position we could have asked for.
'I love life here in Bedmond, it really is a fantastic place to live.'
Did you know...?
The first and only Englishman to ever be Pope is famed to have come from the unsuspecting village of Bedmond. Nicholas Breakspear was born on a farm, thought to have been either Bedmond or Breakspear Farm at the time, in 1100 AD and grew up in the surrounding villages. His father Robert Breakspear was a monk at St Albans Abbey but when Nicholas attempted to join he was refused and advised to get more schooling, instead he went to Paris where his journey to be Pope began. In 1154 he was appointed to the prominent position of the head of the Roman Catholic Church as Pope Adrian IV. He died five years later in 1159, and a plaque dedicated to him marks the site where his home stood. Later known as Breakspeare Farm, the house was turned into a line of cottages before being demolished after the 1950s.