The heart of Berko

PUBLISHED: 15:53 07 July 2015 | UPDATED: 15:53 07 July 2015

Derek Nash, Berkhamsted Jazz Club

Derek Nash, Berkhamsted Jazz Club


For a small market town, Berkhamsted has a thriving and committed social scene. Laura Vickers discovers there’s everything from ponies to lions

Two Oaks Pony CentreTwo Oaks Pony Centre

Berkhamsted Jazz Club

Founded in 1982 by the late, great bandleader Michael Garrick, Berkhamsted Jazz holds 12 concerts a season at the town’s Civic Centre.

‘We’re a club for jazz-lovers, not a commercial operation,’ explains club organiser Alan Parr. ‘Our programme covers a broad spectrum of jazz of various styles featuring the biggest names in British jazz, with the occasional visitor from the USA, such as Darius Brubeck.’

The club has around 300 members and high quality acts - the 2014-15 season saw Derek Nash Quartet, Lenore Raphael Trio and Val Wiseman - draw in large audiences. There have also been two successful festivals to celebrate club milestones. ‘We’ve already begun thinking about what we’d like to do to celebrate our 35th anniversary in 2017,’ Alan says.

Catch the last session of the season on June 27, when vibraphone supremo Roger Beaujolais and his quartet will perform from 8pm.

The 2015-16 season starts in September. Annual membership is £10 for adults (other deals are available), with concert tickets priced at £10.

Berkhamsted Lions

The Berkhamsted branch of the Lions International active service group was formed in 1978, and its 24 members are part of a 1.4 million-strong presence worldwide.

Current president Peter Block has been involved since 1993. ‘Our motto is We serve, with the strap line Ordinary people – amazing things. Although we’re not a high-profile organisation, in our quiet way we do make a major difference to our communities and those affected by humanitarian disasters.’

Despite Peter’s modesty, this small club raises £40,000 a year for charity – 80 per cent goes to local causes – and it also provides community services for local senior citizens, as well as hosting an August Bank Holiday fete which attracts more than 3,000 people, and organising Christmas events.

It can’t be stressed enough how vital and heartwarming this group’s services are - and the club is in need of help and new members. The August Bank Holiday fete for instance, needs volunteers. Contact Peter at or call 01442 864731 if you would like to get help.

Two Oaks Pony Sanctuary

Life-long horse devotee Carol Buchorski founded Two Oaks Pony Sanctuary in 2006, and has since worked tirelessly to provide a vital rehabilitation and rehoming service for rescued ponies and horses.

She heads a committee of six main volunteers, one of whom is Fran Rouse, who enthuses: ‘I have lived in this area all my life, and there isn’t another place like this. Everyone is welcome to visit, and we have children who love coming to groom the ponies and get involved. We’ve had ponies come in that are rib and bones, and are now full of life and in their 30s.’

The majority of ponies that arrive need serious vet care, so fundraising is vital - the next fundraiser is a Family Fun Day on September 13 and there’s also a coffee morning held on the second Saturday of every month. There are also regular free (donations welcome) open days for the public to meet the ponies and horses, and adoption schemes

At the time of writing the group was rebuilding its stables at Darrs Lane, at a cost of £10,000, and the centre was due to reopen on June 7 with an open day and fun dog show.

It really is a labour of love and volunteers are very welcome. Go to the Two Oaks Pony Sanctuary Facebook page to get involved.

Berko Writers

Berko Writers was founded in January 2014 by Julie Mayhew, the Berkhamsted novellist, playwright and scriptwriter whose work has been nominated for several awards.

‘Berkhamsted is a town full of writers – maybe there’s something in the water!’ Julie laughs, ‘Yet there seemed to be no group to support existing writers and encourage new people to start. So I set it up.’

The group now runs hugely popular four and six-week courses, plus masterclasses and Q&A evenings at the funky Here Café on Lower Kings Road.

The success of the initiative can be put down to its expert advice - from a range of tutors - and also its open-mindedness. ‘We treat everyone like a writer – whether they’re published several times over or if the most extensive thing they’re written is a shopping list,’ Julie explains.

The group’s autumn programme will feature appearances from well-known authors and courses on writing for teens and radio dramas.

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10 more top Berko clubs

MTB Berkhamsted A gutsy group of mountain-bikers with group rides every Wednesday from Lovelo’s Bike Shop.

Sunnyside Allotment Society A great way to grow your own fresh produce and become part of a friendly social group.

Berkhamsted Rock Chorus A vibrant choir performing rock, pop and soul music. Meetings every Wednesday at the Town Hall.

Berkhamsted Strathspey and Reel Club A close-knit, welcoming community for Scottish country dancing enthusiasts. Classes on Mondays/Tuesdays and social dancing every Tuesday.

Shoot Me Studios Photography Club Monthly photography sessions on a different theme, with regular courses for teenagers and adults alike.

Berkhamsted Film Society A 200-strong group who meet to watch a variety of films at the Civic Centre from September to May.

Berkhamsted Speakers Club Friendly meetings twice a month to help build confidence and public speaking skills.

Berkhamsted Community Partnership Volunteers – including representatives from the police, local businesses and schools – coming together to complete charitable projects, such as the creation of a youth activity area.

Berkhamsted and District Archaeology Society Regular lectures and fieldwork exploring Berkhamsted through the ages.

Berkhamsted Art Society Demonstrations, workshops and exhibitions for all abilities and a variety of crafts, including painting, pottery, sculpting and woodcarving.

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