Hemel Hempstead's sporting roundabout
PUBLISHED: 17:55 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:59 20 February 2013
Sue Armstrong takes a closer look at Hemel Hempstead's exceptional variety of leisure and sporting facilities for all weathers
WHILE the winter sales beckon with their bargains, retail therapy may not be everyone's cup of tea in the aftermath of all that Christmas shopping. Here in Hemel Hempstead that's not a problem as this modern town has an assortment of leisure and sports activities to get the New Year off to a great start for all the family.
'The Hemel Ski Centre is home to one of the most successful ski clubs in the country'
To whet your appetite after all those festive indulgences, winter sports can be enjoyed at any time of year at the Hemel Ski Centre. The dry slopes allow beginners, improvers and experts to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing, and there are exciting plans ahead to develop this into an indoor snow centre. Expert group or personal tuition is available, providing excellent preparation for the challenges of snow and a holiday in a ski resort.
There's an Apres Ski Caf Bar to sit back and relax after all the exertion on the slopes and a ski shop stocking any equipment you need. The ski centre arranges holiday events for children, activities for schools and colleges and children's parties too.
Hemel Ski Centre is also home to one of the most successful ski clubs in the country. Their racers are present in the England division of the British Junior Squad, International Children's Races and the World Schools Championships. Many of their members represent the Region and England at major Championships in the UK and abroad. The ski club is known for its development programme for all age groups and levels. Members can progress to a very high standard competing internationally on plastic and snow.
The ski centre looks across to the Dacorum Athletics Track. Here there are floodlit facilities for budding athletes with an eight-lane synthetic track with pole vault, long jump and javelin runways.
Not far away is another of Hemel Hempstead's sporting luxuries, the Silverblades Ice Arena. The rink offers fantastic opportunities for children and adults who are looking for a challenging and energetic activity or would like to take it a step further and aspire to being the next 'Torvil and Dean'. Great fun can be had when the resident DJ plays the latest tunes on some nights with special effect lighting to add to the exhilarating atmosphere. Private and group lessons are available with professional skating instructors and there is a shop to buy all the latest skating accessories.
The Silverblades Ice Arena is in Leisure World, which houses numerous other activities under one roof. These include a cinema, ten-pin bowling, American Pool, indoor bowls and the Aquasplash water theme park with slides, flumes and rapids.
Superb swimming facilities can also be found at the Hemel Hempstead Sports Centre, which is fully accessible for people with mobility needs. There are five pools to choose from, including a 25-metre competition pool and an outdoor pool of the same size. The state-of-the-art fitness facilities include a large aerobics studio and a number of sports courses are available for adults and children in badminton, squash, tennis and gymnastics.
And if that's not enough, the Hemel Hempstead Cycling Club welcomes new members, adults and children, whether they are looking to cycle as a leisure activity or at a competitive level. The club was formed in 1933 by a group of about 20 cyclists and membership has steadily increased over the years with the club producing champions at local, national and international levels. Members have ridden in the Olympic and Commonwealth Games with one bronze medal won in the Olympics in Montreal in 1976. Several members have subsequently had distinguished professional careers.
The club caters for all the differing aspects of cycling and new members are encouraged to 'have-a-go' at a different aspect of this many-sided sport, making use of the wide range of facilities and experience in the club. Regular Saturday and Sunday rides are organised for leisure and training purposes throughout the year, both on-road and off-road. There are day rides in France, the Isle of Wight and other parts of the UK. Members can take part in longer trips away with overnight stays, for example road cycling in the French Alps and mountain biking in Wales.
'The High Street has been described as 'the prettiest street in Hertfordshire' with its charming Victorian, Georgian and Tudor architecture'
All in all Hemel Hempstead has plenty to offer everyone, including those of us who would rather opt for more sedate activities. Perhaps a stroll along the river or the canal or a walk around this interesting town to discover how it has evolved to provide a good mix of the old and the new.
In the Old Town, the High Street has been described as 'the prettiest street in Hertfordshire' with its charming Victorian, Georgian and Tudor architecture. Here there's a fine selection of individual shops selling art, antiques, jewellery, dolls houses, bicycles, soft furnishings and far more. And there's plenty of opportunity to stop and drink in the atmosphere in the various period pubs, restaurants and cafes offering menus to suit every taste. With a population of more than 80,000 people, it's hard to imagine this 'New Town' was originally covered in forest and that Stone Age, Iron Age and Bronze Age man once lived here. Hemel Hempstead was developed as part of the post war programme, after the Second World War, to house the overspill from the ever-increasing population of London. Today it has all the high street shops we've come to expect as well as a Debenhams department store and a wonderful undercover market.
One of its most famous landmarks is the 'magic roundabout', a series of six small roundabouts within one big one. But in the future the town may be famous for far more. With such outstanding sports facilities and the Olympics not so far away, there are plenty of opportunities for many rising stars and names to make it into the history books.
Article taken from January issue of Hertfordshire Life