Things to do in Bovingdon
- Credit: Archant
Hollywood film sets, exotic animals, extreme sports, wild walks and prized plants. Bovingdon, one of the county’s richest villages, is rich in other ways too By Sandra Deeble
A parish in Hemel-Hempstead district, Herts; on the verge of the county. Acres, 3,958. Real property, £6,087. Pop. 1,155. Houses 241. The property is divided among a few. The church is good.’ That was how Bovingdon was described in the 1870s, in John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales.
More recently, The Telegraph put Bovingdon at 35 in its list of 50 richest British villages, where it was sandwiched between Tewin and Cranleigh, Surrey (Cuffley came in at 15, Wheathampstead 20, Northaw 26, Little Gaddesden 42 and Chipperfield 47).
Drum ’n’ bass musician Goldie has lived here, Brad Pitt (left) has recently been spotted popping into the shops, and with its position on the edge of the Chilterns, and three miles south west of Hemel Hempstead, Bovingdon is a brilliant starting place for walking off those Christmas couch-potato calories.
. Bovingdon Brickworks
Open year round, this former quarry is a wildlife conservation site managed by the Box Moor Trust.
‘A piece of unkempt beauty with a feeling of wilderness,’ is how Ian Richardson, general manager of the trust, describes the 36 acres of partly restored land.
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With plants that thrive on its impoverished clay soil, it’s a lovely area for wildflower appreciation and for blowing away the cobwebs on a spring walk. ‘Dogs love it too,’ says Ian.
The trust has designed a family walk which encourages children and adults to look out for whitethroats and grasses and asks if walkers can identify the houses in Bovingdon that were built from bricks produced at the old works.
Home Farm Plants
If you have plans to create the quintessential cottage garden this year, then you would do well to check out Home Farm Plants.
Run by an extremely committed couple, Nina and Graham Austin, Home Farm Plants is known all over the country for its award-winning delphiniums.
‘We’re a traditional, family-run nursery,’ says Nina. ‘We grow everything ourselves and we don’t buy anything in.’
The nursery specialises in elatum delphiniums. For the uninitiated, these grow proud and tall and, being a hardy variety, love the cold.
The nursery is open Friday to Sunday. homefarmplants.co.uk
AmeyZoo is an exotic pet shop that has been open for business on Bovingdon High Street for 15 years.
In addition to selling lizards, frogs, toads and other delights, it offers a wide range of services from tortoise beak trimming to snake probing, as well as visitor experiences, including the opportunity to overcome phobias and to stroke snakes and spiders. Antibacterial gel is on hand.
‘The popularity of reptiles as pets is increasing,’ says Siouxsie Gillett, the shop manager. ‘A lot of people want a pet but can’t commit to having a dog or a cat. You don’t have to take a reptile for a walk.’
Many more traditional pet owners are lucky enough to have feline or dog friendly neighbour for when they go on holiday. Finding someone to care for your reptile while you nip to the coast for a Bank Holiday weekend can prove more of a challenge.
‘With a reptile, it’s not like feeding the cat,’ says Siouxsie. ‘Neighbours are sometimes not too keen on feeding mice to snakes.’
AmeyZoo is well placed to supply live props for films and has done so for all the Harry Potter films and for Nanny McPhee. At the time of writing, Siouxsie was polishing up some of the pets to go on set for a pop video.
The Bovingdon Players
The Bovingdon Players theatre company has a reputation for ‘good, thoughtful plays,’ according to its chairman Robert Peacock.
‘We’re slightly unusual,’ says Robert, ‘We don’t do musicals. We don’t do pantomimes. We prefer to stick to straight plays or comedies (such as JB and the Top Secret Parrot pictured opposite).
The 2014 programme kicks off in March with Jumpy by April de Angelis, ‘a funny and poignant study of mid-life meltdown’, first performed at the Royal Court and starring Tamsin Greig. The play will be performed from Thursday 27 to Saturday 29 at Bovingdon Memorial Hall.
Even if you’ve never been to Bovingdon, you will probably have seen its airfield in films including The War Lover with Steve McQueen and 633 Squadron with George Chakiris. Over the years, Walter Matthau, James Stewart and Harrison Ford have all filmed here. The motorbike stunt sequence in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was shot here. And most recently, Brad Pitt was filmed here for his new project, World War II drama The Fury, to be released in November, in which he plays the part of a Sherman tank commander leading a dangerous mission in the last weeks of the war.
Built in 1942 as an RAF bomber station, it was used throughout the war for flying training by the American Air Force. The airfield closed in 1972 but the runways remain. The site is also used for paintballing, for big vehicle driving fun days (pictured below) and for a Saturday and Bank Holiday Monday market. It is also home to Bovingdon HM Prison.
For market events go to wendyfairmarkets.com
Delta Force Paintball
Popular for company team-building exercises, paintballing is also great for stag dos and for a rush of adrenaline rarely experienced in the gym.
Delta Force organises events on Bovingdon airfield, located at Upper Bourne End Lane. Game zones include a crashed Black Hawk helicopter and a haunted graveyard.