What’s going for it? I bought my first album in WHSmith in Hemel Hempstead. Kings Of The Wild Frontier, by Adam and the Ants, since you ask. On cassette. Like Mr Ant, Hemel was the future once. In 1980, it was in full new-town mode. To get there, Dad had to negotiate the dual carriageways, ring roads and the infamous Magic Roundabout, past the Kodak HQ, the fabulous Dacorum sports centre where I learned to doggy paddle, and perfectly manicured water meadow municipal gardens. I loved Hemel. Especially as it was two towns in one. To the north of the new town was the old town: higgledy high street, antique shops, Norman church and bow-fronted cottages. Now Hemel is three towns in one, the old town and the new town having in turn been gobbled up by the future. Hemel’s new new town is mostly composed of executive homes, Cineworld and the brassy Marlowes shopping mall. The Kodak site has become a luxury apartment complex. And doggy paddling is outgunned by “extreme sports” centres and an indoor ski centre. The future has better coffee. But, call me middle aged, I kind of preferred the past.
The case against If you don’t like the postwar feel, with the 1980s grafted on, it won’t be for you. Though you can get your heritage kicks in the fragments of the old landscape threaded through the new.
Well connected? Very. Trains: to London Euston (26-36 mins), Watford (7-11 mins), plus an hourly service via Kensington (40 mins) and Clapham (52 mins) to Croydon. Heading north, to Milton Keynes (27-35 mins) and Northampton (44-47mins). Driving: on the M1, with the M25 10 minutes away; Heathrow 35 mins, central London an hour.
Schools Primaries: Pixies Hill, Chaulden Infants, Micklem, St Rose’s Catholic Infants, Boxmoor, St Cuthbert Mayne Catholic, Gade Valley, George Street, Hobletts Manor Junior and Infants, South Hill, Tudor, Lime Walk, St Albert the Great Catholic, Hobbs Hill Wood, Chambersbury, Belswains and Nash Mills CofE are all “good”, Ofsted says. Secondaries: John F Kennedy Catholic, the Hemel Hempstead, the Collett, Longdean and Astley Cooper are all “good”. The Laureate Academy and Adeyfield have no reports yet.
Hang out at… The Tea Tree tearooms in the old town. Delightful.
Where to buy You can find the remnants of the old town, with historic properties on the High Street, and mostly Victorian stretches in places like Boxmoor. Hemel didn’t get the best new town architecture; the nicest postwar homes are in Leverstock Green and Gadebridge. Felden, south, with the Chilterns beckoning, is the poshest spot. Large detacheds and townhouses, £600,000-£1.5m. Semis, £320,000-£750,000. Flats, £150,000-£525,000. Rentals: a one-bedroom flat, £700-£1,000pcm; a three-bedroom house, £1,100-£1,350pcm.
Bargain of the week Two-bedroom Victorian terrace, close to the old High Street, £300,000, with searsandco.co.uk.
From the streets
Caroline Leinster “Reasonably priced houses with gardens and good size rooms, though architecture not fashionable now.”
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