Area Guide: Hemel Hempstead
- Credit: Archant
Hemel Hempstead is a large town 24 miles north-west of London.
Classed as a New Town, it was developed after the Second World War. It comes under the Dacorum and Hemel Hempstead constituency and has a population of around 95,000.
Originally existing as a settlement since the 8th century, it was granted its town charter in 1539 by King Henry VIII.
Split into the ‘old’ and ‘new’ town, there is almost everything you could want in terms of shopping, services and entertainment facilities. These include a wide choice of supermarkets, large and small clothes shops, independent convenience stores, a cinema and bowling complex and many places to eat and drink.
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Hemel has good road links to the M1 motorway and M25. The A41 dual carriageway was built in the 1990s, to the south and west of the town, across the upland chalk plateau. The A414 begins in Hemel and forms a mostly dual carriageway route east/west through Hertfordshire to Maldon, Essex.
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The railway station in Hemel is a mile outside of the town centre in Boxmoor. It is on the West Coast Main Line and runs frequent services between London Euston, the Midlands and has direct journeys to South Croydon.
There is a bus interchange next to the Marlowes shopping centre on Bridge Street – or if travelling by water is more your style, there is a popular route for narrowboats by way of the Grand Junction Canal.
Hemel is also famous for its ‘magic roundabout’ – an interchange at the end of the town centre where traffic from six routes meets. Vehicles circulate in both directions around a central ‘roundabout’. It was the first such system in Britain.
There are several state-maintained secondary schools in town, specialising in different areas of the curriculum. These include Adeyfield (business and enterprise), Astley Cooper (visual arts), Cavendish (sports) and aptly-named Hemel Hempstead School, which is a performing arts, maths and science college. John F Kennedy Catholic School is a technology and modern foreign languages college, offering a Roman Catholic-based education, while Longdean is a maths and computing academy.
Fee-paying schools in or near the town include Abbot’s Hill – a day and boarding school for girls – Lockers Park (offering day and boarding for boys aged five to 13 years) and Westbrook Hay, which is a co-educational school for children from three to 13 years.
Sport and leisure
Many sports and activities are available in Hemel and surrounding areas, most of which are provided by Sportspace – the operating name of Dacorum Sports Trust (a non-profit company and registered charity). There are several facilities, including a sports centre, swimming pool and running track.
Hemel Hempstead Town football club dates back to 1885. They play in the Conference South and are nicknamed The Tudors. Several amateur sides exist in Hemel too.
Camelot Rugby Club is almost a hundred years old and plays in London 2 North West, a seventh-tier league in the English rugby union league system. Hemel Stags were admitted to the third tier Championship 1 in 2013 and now operate at a semi-professional level.
Hemel Hempstead Town Cricket Club, established in 1850, has a pitch and practice facilities near the town centre. There is also the Boxmoor Cricket Club which has a ground on Blackbirds Moor and Leverstock Green Cricket Club close by.
Other sporting groups in Hemel include bowls, hockey, tennis and athletics clubs, and there is an outdoor skatepark, two 18-hole golf courses, skate boarding, a laser tag arena and the UK’s largest indoor ski slope at the Snow Centre.
Food and drink
Favourite pubs in Hemel are The Paper Mill (a higher end gastropub in Apsley, by the canal), The Plough – a British steakhouse and carvery on Leverstock Green Road – and The Bell Inn at Bovingdon, which is old-fashioned and reportedly serves the best Sunday roast ever.
The Fishery Inn in Fishery Road, Boxmoor, offers gluten-free options, has free wi-fi and welcomes children, while The Old Chequers, Gaddesden Row, is described as a great country pub with lovely accommodating staff and an impressive garden with a play area for children.
There area also restaurants and takeaways catering for all tastes, including The Cochin (Indian), Calzone Essential Pizza (Italian), The Happy Garden (Chinese) and Sea World Fish & Chips.