Embracing village life in Benington

PUBLISHED: 11:50 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:25 26 February 2014

The duck pond in Duck Lane

The duck pond in Duck Lane

Nicola Piggott visits Benington and discovers a wealth of charm and a community that knows how to pull together

THE charming village of Benington stands like an island of tranquillity in a swathe of beautiful countryside, just four miles east of Stevenage.
Steeped in history, it is believed that a church has stood on the same site as the current St Peter's for almost 1,200 years and the village green, surrounded by timber framed buildings, is a testament to a bygone era. Now a conservation area, the parish council, determined to retain the character of the village, has installed wooden bus shelters throughout the village in the same design as an original that stood there for 50 years.
Lloyd Jones, Benington Parish Council chairman and resident of Benington for more than 60 years, comments, 'I love it here because it is quiet compared to other villages in Hertfordshire. The village green is frightfully old and people enjoy coming to visit.'
Behind the village church is Benington Lordship, a fine Georgian manor house with the remains of a Norman castle and moat. Its gardens are opened to the public at certain times of the year and host a number of events including a chilli festival in August.
You do not have to talk to its residents to see Benington's appeal, just visit the village and you will encounter its unspoilt beauty. Lloyd continues, 'We have just produced a parish plan, where residents were asked to complete a questionnaire. The newcomers unanimously agreed that the village's strongest appeal lays in its peaceful, idyllic way of life.'
Pam Harrison, parish council clerk, agrees. She moved here just four years ago with her husband. 'We used to live in Tewin Wood but on my husband's semi-retirement we wanted to move to somewhere that fulfilled our love of rural life, catering for my husband's interest in field sports and exercising the dogs,' she explains. 'We really couldn't have found anywhere better. The views are outstanding, we are very lucky.'
This bucolic way of life may not be everyone's idyll, especially since competition from local supermarkets has forced the only village shop to close. 'We are currently looking at plans to open a community-run shop in the village, which will replace the one that closed down,' adds Lloyd. 'The current situation is not ideal, especially for the older residents, so it is something that we hope to have agreed soon.'
Benington is split into two halves - an older area with its village green and duck pond, and a newer area that boasts diverse industry including a depot for Ernest Doe & Sons Ltd, the agricultural machinery dealers, a woodworking factory and a diamond drilling company. Harry Bott, former Lord of the Manor comments, 'I have lived in the village all my life and have seen many changes over the last 70 years. Benington has gone from being an agriculturally-based community to one that offers a great range of different employment opportunities. While Benington still retains all that is necessary for a quiet quintessential English village, there are plenty of job prospects to be found here. Most of these are housed in renovated farm buildings and therefore
do not impinge on the rural nature of
the village.'
Benington has two pubs, the Bell Inn, which dates back to the 14th century and the Lordships Arms, each situated at opposite ends of the village. The Bell Inn just off the village green offers a full dining menu and aviation enthusiasts will love the related paraphernalia that adorns its walls. Dave Roberts, landlord of The Bell, comments, 'There are a lot of people here who put themselves out to make sure there are things going on for others. They really encourage people to get together and embrace village life. There are plenty of clubs and activities taking place, so if you want to get involved you can.'
Pam agrees, 'There is a real mix of people here, all of whom are very friendly. People do really pull together and put themselves out for others. For example there is one lady in the village who has opened her tennis courts for others to use. If people are in trouble there is always someone to lend a helping hand.'

Article taken from December issue of Hertfordshire Life

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