Villages of Hemel Hempstead
PUBLISHED: 08:31 22 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:23 20 February 2013
Join Marie Hardingham in Hemel Hempstead and its neighbouring villages to discover what life's really like in this part of rural Hertfordshire
AFFECTIONATELY known simply as Hemel, Hemel Hempstead is one of Hertfordshires largest industrious areas housing giants such as Kodak and Freeserve. The prestigious new town has attracted its fair share of attention over the years; of particular note were December 2005 when an enormous explosion occurred at the Buncefield oil storage depot and way back in the 60s when a string of celebrities were enlisted to open new shops and businesses after the town underwent a major revamp.
The revolutionary bi-directional roundabout branded locally as the magic roundabout is situated in the town allowing ease of access to pander to some of the delights Hemel has to offer. For a great retail workout look no further than Marlowes Shopping Centre, for the more active Jarman Park comes complete with cinema, bowling alley and The Snow Centre, one of only two dry ski-slopes in Hertfordshire. If browsing for a bargain is more your bag a visit to the weekly antiques market each Wednesday is a must.
Ex Chairperson of PERA (Piccotts End Residents Association)
Huddled in the Gade Valley just north of Hemel Hempstead lies the ancient parish of Piccotts End. Once a thriving community boasting seven pubs, a bakery, a school and a church, with the demise of most of these the picturesque village became a rather disjointed neighbourhood. However, it was the toil of a few local residents who set up PERA about 25 years ago that would change all that making the village what it is today.
Sheila Pratt has lived in the village for most of her life and was an early chairperson of the residents association. PERA has strived to develop a real community spirit which continues to this very day. There is a strong sense of mutual friendship and support. Recently the village suffered a power cut and immediately someone came out with a torch to check up on their neighbours, shortly afterwards a second person came round with offers of candles.
There are regular social activities centred around the homes of residents, the annual summer garden party, New Years party and November fireworks are all now typical events which helped in developing the very apparent feeling of kinship among locals.
Piccotts End is a wonderful place to live. I have lived here for more than 30 years and I certainly have no plans to move, she smiles.
The picturesque parish of Potten End scooped first prize in the Village of the Year competition in 2009 and in 2007 came runner-up in the UK Best Allotments. Not only that but it has a well-run village shop, two public houses and boasts its very own vineyard.
Family man Nigel Stidston has very fond memories but its fair to say his fondest recollection is moving back into the village with his wife nearly eight years ago. My family moved
out of PE when I was around seven. We lived in Elm Tree Cottages at the time. I remember the toilet block was at the bottom of the lane, it was for that reason you learned to hold on at night or when it was very cold, he gleefully recalls.
If I could choose anywhere in the world to live it would be here, its one of those places where the people make it the great place it is to live. A walk to the village shop can be a time-consuming task as all and sundry stop to chat. We never thought wed ever be lucky enough to live where we live now, he smiles.
A bi-annual open day takes place raising funds for the village. More than a dozen village gardens open to the public, from school cottage gardens to sweeping lawns. The next event is provisionally pencilled in for June 26, 2011. See www.pottenendopenday.co.uk
Nestled south-west of Hemel is the appealing and much sought-after village of Felden, home to the Boys Brigade national headquarters and more recently Arsenal winger Theo Walcott.
Felden Water Tower on Featherbed Lane was built in around 1915. Despite being damaged by a bomb in WWII, it was still in use until 2002. In its heyday the Tudor-style building held 51,000 gallons of water; its now undergoing redevelopment to create a new modern style house.
WHILE YOU'RE THERE...
> Enjoy a pub lunch
Traditional pub grub, fine wines and real cask ales in cosy, relaxed surroundings will delight you at The Fishery Inn just two minutes down the road in Hemel.
> Get in the swing
Swing into action with a round of golf at Little Hay Golf Complex in Box Lane, Bovingdon.
> Explore a market town
Explore the splendid market town of nearby Berkhamsted browsing its many shops while investigating the settlements rich history.
> Show off your bowling
Get your adrenaline pumping with a great family treat at Hotshots ten-pin bowling alley at Jarmans Park, Hemel Hempstead.