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Hemel Hempstead

Kings Langley to Apsley (Hemel Hempstead)

Well, as the song says, what a difference a day makes. We awoke on Thursday to the sound of silence, the continuous drumming of the rain had gone and although it was quite cool and cloudy outside, it was pleasant enough for travelling. We didn’t go far, only a couple of miles and four locks but that got us to Apsley which is on the outskirts of Hemel Hempstead. We found a suitable mooring just above the lock that sits just above the marina and is in pretty much the same spot as we moored when we were here five years ago, what a coincidence!

After getting ready and having lunch on board, we walked back to the footbridge which carries the path over the canal towards the Paper Mill pub, although we didn’t stop there. Instead we walked up to the main road and walked into Apsley itself. Small shops line the main road for a few hundred yards, nothing of great significance but interesting to see yet another place that we had skipped through in previous years. On the way back to the boat we did some shopping in the handily placed canal side Sainsbury’s.

While we were Apsley, we saw Barnowl No8, Octavia, the boat built just before Caxton.

On Saturday morning we were up and about and heading into Hemel Hempstead for no other reason than to have a look around. We didn’t really know what to expect but we were very pleasantly surprised. We walked along the towpath for a while and then reached a main road leading to the town centre. We soon discovered Hemel Hempstead’s “Magic Roundabout”.

Hemel Hempstead was one of Britain’s New Towns so this sort of thing is to be expected but once beyond the ridiculous road layout, we were in for a bit of a treat. The main shopping area is wide, open and pedestrianised with lots of retail shops. We had a stop for coffee at one of the independent coffee shops there (we counted three but there may be more). They have to compete with the big three coffee chains but they all seemed to be thriving – no doubt down to good service as well as a good product.

The town hides a secret from the casual visitor, the old town or specifically the High Street. To get there, we had to walk through the centre and on for about another half a mile but it was worth it. The High Street today has a number of barber shops, hairdressers antique shops and pubs as well as the old town hall. It’s lovely and is in stark contrast to the new town centre. That’s not to say that the new part is hideous, it’s just different and is lovely in its own modern way.

If, like me you were a fan of “Pie in the sky“, a 90’s light hearted police drama starring Richard Griffiths, you would be happy, like I was, to see the location of Henry Crabbe’s restaurant, Pie in the Sky in the High Street.

After lunch in the Old Bell, we walked back through the new town to the park and then to the canal towpath. On our way back, we called in at the farm shop near Two Waters and bought some locally produced honey which will find its way to mother’s kitchen in late November when we visit her. Sunnyside Rural Trust run the venture and they provide work and experience for those with learning difficulties, a very good cause in our opinion.

We rounded the afternoon off with a visit to the nearby and aforementioned “Paper Mill” where we sat on the canalside terrace and watched the odd boat go past for a while. As you could probably guess there was once a paper mill here and nearby there is a museum although unfortunately, because it has limited opening times, we didn’t get a chance to see it. We did see this clock, however and that gives away the type of paper once made here. I must admit that I didn’t look closely at it at first, thinking that it was just another factory clock but Sue spotted the detail.

The name is Bond, Basildon Bond.