Herts and Finds

The clamour for posts about Hemel Hempstead has grown ever louder since Retired Martin went to the considerable expense of hiring a helicopter to get the money shot.

This roundabout is a wonder of urban planning, only exceeded perhaps by the magnificence of the Piazza del Hemel.

But the town does have a Bulgarian good shop.

Next to a Romanian one.

Hemel’s growth arose after being designated a new town following the Second World War, to accommodate overspill from London. In a triumph of integrated planning the town’s railway station was closed to passengers in 1947, just as the new town was being officially designated. The current station is in nearby Boxmoor.

The water gardens were designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe, whose vision was of a “city in a park”.

Hemel’s skyline is dominated by the former Kodak building.


Despite its manifest charms (come on, don’t be like that) Hemel hasn’t troubled the Good Beer Guide much in recent years. In fact, apart from the Wetherspoons making a couple of appearances, and the Olde King’s Arms last year, you have to go back thirty years to find the Old Bell listed. It’s a large town of almost 100,000 people but not well pubbed – Whatpub lists only eleven.

The Monks Inn is, therefore a very welcome addition. It’s a micropub that’s open all day every day with as much focus on cider as cask beer.

Most of the beers were all on the stronger side, so I stuck with Brentwood Brewery Quiet Times, which was a solid 4.3%. The available chairs were of a height that made for discomfort, but it was a friendly enough place.

A few others saw Hertfordshire completed including a chance to relax in Tring.

The best beer I had in the county was at the Chequers, a lovely old roadside pub in the evocatively named village of Barley. It was Hadham Gold, a delicate 3.7% beer. The Hadham Brewery draws water from a borehole located within the Icknield Series, a huge belt of soil that runs from Dorset to Norfolk that is famed for its superior malting barley.

The Chequers also celebrates the village and its past.

It would be nice to think the village of Barley is named after the quality of its barley but actually it means lea or meadow. But the first thought is more romantic so let’s stick with that.

9 thoughts on “Herts and Finds

  1. A post to savour, just as Hemel is a town in which to linger. But not when parking is 50p for 15 minutes and you have to fit in a quick half that the barman id dubious about and a loo stop, I guess.

    Wasn’t the Old King’s Arms a new entrant to the GBG in 2019 or are you treating Hemel Old Town separately ?

    And while I’m here, I did the Barley pub in the late ’90s I think so an overdue return ! The other pub in the village has the sign across the road, doesn’t it ?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Doh! Yes you are right the the Old King’s Arms. The other pub in Barley is the Fox and Hounds on the other side of the road in the centre of the village. Think we’ve done well between us to squeeze a couple of posts out of Hemel.


  2. You’ve sold Hemel to me!!! A forerunner of the Beeching Cuts and remarkably bad planning – who’d have thought it eh? Micropubs are becoming real gems as they morph into more ‘normal’ pubs…They’ll continue to grow as town centre retail shuts down…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. “Piazza del Hemel” indeed. It’s the former market place.

        The old station on Midland Road/Adeyfield Road was no great loss, as the line did not connect with the main line from Euston at Boxmoor, and only acted as a branch line to Harpenden and Luton. I believe it was mostly just a single track. Me and my brothers walked to school each day using a tunnel under the track where it crossed Queensway, and I can remember climbing up to the line on at least one occasion (around 1964) and seeing a goods train passing by. The line was taken up in 1969. More details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemel_Hempsted_railway_station.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I can remember the days before the Magic Roundabout, when cars used to whizz around at such speeds that it was almost impossible to get enough of a gap in the traffic to join in, and then you had to drive at the same speed as all the other maniacs. This led to lengthy queues at each of the feeders, and this prompted some bright spark to come up with the mini-roundabouts idea, which is frequently mocked by those who never experienced the original roundabout.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This and the railway link are top Hemel facts! I wasn’t actually being sarcastic about the roundabout as it clearly took some designing. To the unfamiliar the sign, when approaching, is a bit daunting. Not a great beer town for its size. Better off in Sheffield!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely better in Sheffield!

        The aerial photo is really impressive, making the trees look like broccoli or cauliflower florets.

        Alternatively, what an impressive model of the roundabout, with bits of various brassicas standing in for trees with remarkable realism.

        Liked by 1 person

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