The beauty of Little Berkhamsted

A visit to Little Berkhamsted reveals a thriving community, proud of its strong history. Jessica Clark reports

ON a crisp autumn or early winter day Little Berkhamsted is magnified in all its beauty, with fallen leaves scattered across the paths and the trees which line the streets swaying in the breeze.Bright sunshine illuminates the countryside of the small parish, hidden in the middle of Hertfordshire. But despite only one shop and two pubs, a lively cricket game played out on the Village Green shows it is not forgotten. Not to be confused with the town of Berkhamsted on the other side of the county, the village shares its boundaries with the hamlets of Epping Green and Howe Green.The 750 residents are closest to the town of Hertford, around four miles north, and just two miles away from Bayford train station with a line that runs into central London.Surrounded by countryside, Little Berkhamsted is spoilt with pretty views but one of the most coveted is from Strattons Folly, now privately owned by David and Marion Cooper. Undoubtedly the most notable landmark in the village, the 1789 Georgian tower sits at the top of a hill on the site of a former brewery.'It's particularly special that we still have a village shop and the cricket field is a distinctive feature - it's lovely to see an enthusiastic game being played'A few fictional stories have been passed down about John Stratton's reason for building the tower, but it is most likely he just wanted to enjoy the stunning views offered by the location. And although just a quiet village, the originally Saxon settlement - known then as Berchehastede - has played an important part in history which was only recently discovered. Research has shown that it is highly likely that it was in fact Little Berkhamsted and not the town where William the Conqueror accepted the surrender of the City of London during the Battle of Hastings back in 1066.A man who knows all past and present knowledge about Little Berkhamsted is Graham Irwin, 58, who has been clerk to the parish council for four years. His varying role means he is in constant contact with the local residents, something which makes his job so enjoyable.He says, 'It's a great job, I get to know exactly what's going on in the parish, and there is surprisingly a lot. I also get to know all the residents and that's lovely, the people in Little Berkhamsted are very friendly and chatty.'It's a compact little village with lots of houses, and they vary from your average family house to quite grand houses, which is a nice mix.'It's particularly special that we still have a village shop and the cricket field is a distinctive feature - it's lovely to see an enthusiastic game being played. The views and the up keep of the village mean it is certainly a pleasant place to live or visit.'A slice of family lifeLITTLE Berkhamsted and its beautiful surroundings make it a popular home for families, where children can enjoy a play area, adults can take part in societies or social events at the village hall and the local shop is thriving with support from parish residents. The busy recreation committee makes sure there are regular fitness sessions as well as classes for kiddies to get them entertained. The hall is also home to the Little Berkhamsted Sahibs Cricket Club with its loyal following. The village also features St Andrew's Church, thought to date back to 1225 with a wooden bell tower and its 17th-century door bears a hole said to have been made by a bullet during the civil war. Of course no village is complete without a few old-fashioned pubs. In the centre of Little Berkhamsted sits the Five Horseshoes just down from St Andrew's and in Epping Green is the Beehive. Martin Squirrell, 27, gets a daily flavour of the local spirit as manager and co-owner of the family run restaurant and pub. Martin took over the running of the pub from his parents at the beginning of the year and describes the Beehive as a perfect location for a countryside pub.He says, 'We get a great mix of visitors and locals coming in.We're surrounded by countryside which means we get a lot of walkers attracted to the area, there are lots of walking tracks.'We get lots of comments about how beautiful the area is. I think it's gorgeous. I've come from living in a city and I feel very lucky now to be living here and have a pub in such a lovely and affluent location. It's a complete lifestyle change, much more easy going and peaceful. It would be ideal to bring a family up here.'You can get by on a day-to-day basis with the village shop and everybody is very friendly in the parish. It's a close knit community between Little Berkhamsted, Epping Green and Howe Green.'</body><ahref="_blank"></html>

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