Editor's Blog
And the Christmas No 1 is…No 5!

Piccotts End is aglow with Christmas lights at this time of the year. It’s always worth a trip down the road to see who’s put on the most spectacular show. From colourful tree arrangements to a modest festoon nearly everyone is joining in the Christmas spirit. Our house is making do with lights that are […]

Introducing Kelvin, the village ‘vagabond’ who still loves the gypsy life!

Piccotts End is teeming with musical talent, including Jane and Simon Lillystone on the classical front and contemporary composer Paul Borg. Alongside them I’ve discovered another musical maestro living below the village radar. You rarely find him at home so it was to the nearby village of Flaunden  that I had to travel  to track […]

Meeting Alf, the man behind the wall

There is always a new tale about Piccotts End you’ve never heard before. At this week’s Harvest Festival I chanced to meet Alf Holland, the man behind the wall. The wall in question is the one that surrounds Park View Farm. Alf has been its owner since 1988 and though he has been in our […]

Daffodils and a brush with The Duke

The village daffodils have put on a great show this year, including many planted by residents in our Daffodil Day last December. They will take a couple of years to get established but have already added to some colour to the verges. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some more from the council when this […]

Now the Old Town has more coffee shops than Seattle!

It’s all change in the Old Town as the new year welcomes a flurry of new shops. From having just a few, there is now an abundance of coffee shops. There’s  The Hive at the bottom, the Tea Tree up the hill, Artichoke in the middle, to the newest, Old Town Coffee and Cake towards […]

The day brickie Will gate-crashed The Dirty Dozen

Like the rest of Hertfordshire, Piccotts End abounds in beautiful flint walls. But there is just one problem with these iconic local building blocks. They keep falling off! You can always spot the fresh cement and slightly machined new flints where walls have been repaired around the village. The man responsible for many of these […]

On the trail of a nocturnal bottle bug

Litter is a scourge for which there is no quick fix. Everyone will have their own litter story and many go on personal crusades to keep the village tidy. At our end we have been contending with a litter problem of a slightly unusual variety – a nocturnal dipsomaniac who has been depositing empty wine […]

All fired up at the Crown & Sceptre!

When the Boar’s Head was a pub in Piccotts End it was indeed our local. These days you have to go a bit further to find one that’s worthy of the name. My favourite is the Crown & Sceptre at Briden’s Camp and I’ll often call by for a pint of IPA or a meal […]

The day this ‘Banksy’ went a bridge too far

How’s your weight? Lockdown has had at least one beneficial effect for me. I’ve been doing a lot more walking and have a lost a few pounds as a result. I’ve never covered so many miles, traipsing along the picturesque towpaths of the Grand Union Canal near here. I love all those pretty brick bridges […]

Danny lifts the gloom with his fruit and veg throwback

Once upon a time Hemel Old Town was bustling with people and alive with shops selling everything from fruit and veg to furniture. Today it’s a ghost town, empty, desolate and looking like something out of The War of the Worlds or The Day of the Triffids. But on our daily walk this week I […]

Why would we ever think of leaving Piccotts End?

Happy new year everyone. 2020 has given everyone plenty of time for reflection. What have we learned to value from such a dreadful year? Counting our blessings might be one. Sue Leach and her husband Michael, pictured here, have lived in the village for nearly 20 years. I was chatting to Sue last week about […]

Sicily flowers In Piccotts End!

Like the great travellers who introduced exotic plants such as the Fuchsia to these shores, I love the idea of seeing them flourish here, even if my easyJet flights hardly  qualify as great. My latest imports are now to be seen flowering prolifically as far afield as Cornwall, France and Dorset, as well as here […]

Was this the worst cup of tea ever?

Most celebs and rock stars hang out in fashionable areas like the Cotswolds or Surrey. But not Ronnie Wood, the Rolling Stone who has come to rest in our part of the world, at Little Gaddesden. One of his favourite haunts is the Alford Arms where he’s a regular patron. As star-struck locals my wife […]

Why I hope that changing our postcode will deliver the goods!

After 17 years of missing deliveries and confused delivery drivers I have finally taken some action. I’ve changed our postcode! I didn’t realise you could do this until I noticed that several places I go to have a unique postcode identifying their exact location. Why would I need this? Well it’s because our current postcode […]

Delivering food, doing good deeds & making music, all in a day’s work during lockdown!

The village may look dead to the world but behind the walls and doors of lockdown a veritable hive of activity is going on! It’s great to see that community minded residents Holly Cross, Maggie Chandler and Sue Leach have set up a facebook page  and a WhatsApp group dedicated to helping anyone who can’t […]

Write to the top! Mary is the letters queen of Piccotts End

The Daily Mail’s letters column is always crammed full of readers’ views on current affairs. As a regular reader, dating back to when I worked there back in the 70s, I’ve noticed one scribe’s name appearing more regularly than anyone else. Step forward Piccotts End’s very own veteran epistolarian Mary Wiedman! Mary has had her […]

The grisly story Jane would rather she didn’t know!

Every house has a story, some happy, some sad, some mythical, some notorious. Here at Marchmont Cottage it was said to be inhabited by a ghost which caused passers-by to hurry along in case they encountered it! At a recent meeting of the village book club Jane McClelland told us of the infamous connection to […]

Life just won’t be the same without Alberto’s!

Ever since we moved to Piccotts End in 2004, enjoying a meal with friends at Alberto’s in the Old Town has been a regular part of our lives. Making the short walk from our house in winter, spring or summer was an occasion to look forward to.  The shock news that he’s decided to close […]

Meeting the unlikely pop star with a No1 hit he’d prefer to forget!

You meet some interesting people on holiday. A couple of years ago I got chatting to a man who’d spent the latter years of his life in banking. But then it turned out he’d run away from home aged 15 and joined a travelling music troupe! It was both a sad and amazing story. Faced […]

That was the apricot summer that was!

Everyone over the age of 50 can remember the Summer of 76. To that we can now add the Summer of 2018. Not quite the same ring but hot it was! It would be nice to think we’ll get more of the same but I doubt it.  Our summers are notoriously unreliable and while I’d […]

How Piccotts End’s Voice of Calm soothed the radio waves

Good to see one of our residents reaching out to bring peace and calm to some ruffled radio airwaves! Reading the pages of The Spectator magazine this month I chanced across a review of the week’s radio programmes. The reviewer noted that after listening to a programme about Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech, […]

I can’t see Cliff getting a state funeral like this one for rocker Johnny!

Oh dear! My blogs have fallen way behind. Again. Lives are so busy there is seldom time to write down what you’re doing or thinking. One topic that occupied a day for me in the last few weeks was the death of the French pop star Johnny Hallyday. This only registered on my radar because […]

School’s out for summer & the drive’s a breeze!

I’m savouring these last few weeks of the school holidays on our rural roads. August is a month when you don’t have to stop every few minutes, squeeze up to the hedgerow and let a fellow traveller pass.  My pick of the sights on my way to work are often floral, for example the flowers […]

St Swithin strikes again but the Garden Party is already home and dry!

So here we are, another summer washout! Sounds familiar? Looking back at my July blog of a couple of years back I noted that the day the schools broke up the sun stopped shining. Same story this year. The first two weeks of July promised a Summer of 76. But then came July 15th, St […]

Why I’ve cancelled The Daily Mail – and stopped listening to The Archers!

Enough is enough! After more than 40 years as a Daily Mail reader, 11 of them working at the paper, I have finally cancelled it. It has been some years in the planning but the Mail’s appallingly biased Brexit campaign finally did it. As a staunch Remainer, and now Remoaner, I found the paper’s hate-mongering […]

Welcome to Black Goo – if you can get a table

It’s all change at the Attic cafe, one of our favourite haunts in Berkhamsted. It’s had a few incarnations in its time, once briefly under the ownership of James Hannaway, of The Rex. James was a regular face at the Attic until something fairly cataclysmic must have occurred and he was never seen again. The […]

Damp and dark November, time for some gardening!

Sunday afternoons in late November are often damp, and dark by 4. Today is no exception, with a light drizzle to add to the general gloom. Gardening jobs need to be done in the morning, so I’ve been out planting up the Picccotts End village signs for some spring colour. Daffodils and pansies are the […]

House prices? No, today’s hot topic is broadband speeds!

Dinner party talk used to be all about house prices. Not any more. If the chatter at the village garden party is anything to go by today we are more exercised by broadband speeds. At my end of the village we’re the first house to get the signal from BT Infinity via the big green […]

Piccotts End makes the headlines but where have I read this before?

Spring is here and estate agents are extolling the virtues of village life. The Herts Advertiser (head and shoulders above the dismal Gazette) even devoted a whole page to our very own Piccotts End. Reading the paean of praise I couldn’t help noticing that much of the information about village life was lifted directly from […]

Daffodils in December, June in January

The last few months have raced by, leaving my blog far behind. So what’s been hot and what’s been not in Piccotts End this autumn and winter? The weather for a start. I’ve never seen daffodils in December so perhaps their appearance in borders and grassy banks is one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ […]

Mary calls time on 43 years in her historic farmhouse

Alongside the medieval cottages Piccotts End Farm is the oldest habitation in the village, dating back to the 16th century. With its hand-painted warning ‘Caution. Ducks crossing’ at the entrance, it has a touch of the quaint to go with its character. Now, after more than 40 years the farmhouse is on the market. I […]

Stone me! Apricots in Piccotts End!

An article in the papers last week said it was a bumper year for English apricots – and the proof is here in Hertfordshire – in Piccotts End! I planted my apricot tree (bought from Ayletts in St Albans) 5 years ago and every year until now it has yielded nothing. One of the problems […]

Discovering a Blue Gate in the Med & the Waterloo horses here in Hemel

One of the most distinctive sights in Piccotts End is Blue Gate, the rather quaint and attractive entrance to the home of Keith & Jayne Barber. While on holiday in Sicily recently we took a trip to the island of Panarea en route to see Stromboli, one of the Med’s only active volcanoes. While strolling […]

Winter? What winter!

Back in the winter of 1963 I remember it being so cold for so long that the headmaster of Berkhamsted School made a dramatic announcement. We could all wear an extra layer of clothes to keep warm! My choice was a bright red knitted jumper which did the job but drew a few unkind comments […]

Last Christmas I gave you my Shard, but the very next day you gave it way!

Last Christmas I gave my son and his wife a voucher for lunch and a trip to the top of the Shard. There is always a sense of anticipation when opening a present and their faces lit up with delight at seeing the contents. It was more than halfway through the year and I asked […]

Move the posts and give the developers an open goal

Hot topic in the village this month is the now looming prospect of 350 homes and a traveller site parked on our back lawn. We are lucky in having someone with the eagle eye of a lawyer in Michael Nidd to fight our corner.  PERA’s secretary has gone to great lengths to challenge the legitimacy […]

Tea’s off and on at the Attic!

Horror of horrors! Going into Home & Colonial in Berkhamsted recently we were told that our favourite Sunday lunch haunt, the Attic Cafe, had closed. Apparently the owner, James Hannaway of Rex fame, had come in a few days earlier and laid off the staff, just like that. What to do? Where would we go […]

Have a brake, have a Malteser!

Driving back from Kent recently I stopped at a garage to buy a sandwich and a packet of Maltesers for my lunch. Now I know it’s very bad form to eat at the wheel but many of us do it. Having munched the egg and cress on the M23 I was looking forward to the […]

Behind the wheel of the electric revolution

Petrol is passé, electric is classé. That’s my slogan after driving the car I predict will change our lives. The American engineer behind the new Tesla electric car is Elon Musk, a man they say will soon be as well known as Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson. The Tesla looks like any other coupé. […]

Watch out for Kiera, footballer, athlete, livewire!

  Sporting a Liverpool shirt young Kiera Ward certainly knows her football. When I chatted to the 8-year-old at this month’s summer garden party I asked if she was disappointed that Luis Suarez had left the club. No, said Kiera, because I also support Barcelona. Enough said. Kiera, who comes from Leverstock Green, is the niece […]

Caught red, white & blue handed – the light fingered flower duet!

The colourful wild flowers on the Piccotts End roundabout have drawn some favourable comments in the Gazette, including one by veteran village resident Mrs Mary Wiedman. But not long later, while I was out planting up the Piccotts End village signs, to my amazement a car drew up,  a young couple got out, walked over the […]

The Empire strikes back

Have you seen an Empire Arts film yet? You should! With the Rex at Berkhamsted the local cinema of choice for many film fans my own visits to Hemel’s Jarman Park have been limited only to a few must-see-now movies. But the recently introduced Empire Arts programme is changing all that, not just for me […]

The 19th century NIMBY who put Hemel’s trains on another track

Over at Hatfield House the other day I couldn’t help but notice the amount of noise from the nearby railway. With such a grand and historic residence, home of a line of Lord Salisburys and the young Elizabeth I, you’d imagine its gardens to be a haven of tranquility. But sadly not. Every other minute the peace […]

The questions I’d ask Julius Caesar

In between reading the Book Club choice Longbourn, which is an imaginative take on life below stairs in a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, I have been revisiting Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars. I remember the drudge of having to translate passages from Latin while at school. Now, more than 50 years later, they make a fascinating read. Putting aside the million-odd […]

Tiny tots with candles make it a memorable Christmas carol concert

It’s Christmas Day and for the first time in many years there has been no snow this month. Remember about 4 years ago when Hemel came to a halt in mid-December and the snow stayed until January? Today has been sunny, mild and dry, just like most Christmases.  Yesterday we went to the children’s carol service […]

Joyce comes out fighting on behalf of Hemel!

Hemel was in the news again recently, reprising a role with which it has become depressingly type-cast: Britain’s ugliest town. Yes, Crap Towns,  that bible of all that’s pants in town planning, has been at it again. Hemel beat the likes of Luton and Hatfield in a poll of unidentified voters. But what’s this? A […]

How my old mower was put out to grass in Lithuania!

Somewhere in Lithuania right now there is an old red lawnmower newly arrived all the way from Piccotts End! For nearly 20 years our Westwood ride-on had been keeping the grass down. We inherited it with the house when we moved here in 2003 and it proved to be a very reliable performer. However it […]

The ghost of Piccotts End and a trip down memory lane

It’s always fascinating to hear about the comings and goings of your home’s former owners. A chance meeting in a Devon car park has put us in touch with someone who lived in our house back in the1950s. In our case we were on the trail of the Mrs Inglis who lived at Marchmont Cottage between 1951 and […]

Phew! What a scorcher

Mingling with guests at the Piccotts End summer garden party on another scorching hot day  I was amazed to learn just how many boffins inhabit the village. We have professors, doctors, scientists and IT experts, not to mention a clutch of  lawyers and media luminaries in our midst. My latest ‘discovery’ is that one of our committee members, Ruth Gilbert […]

Is it the White Lion or the Red Lion?

My journey to work through the leafy lanes of Gaddesden always provides some points of interest. Last month I spotted two men planting hundreds of saplings in the hedgerows. John and Nathan of JHP Services told me they had been contracted by the Gaddesden Estate to fill in the gaps in the hedgerows with some 4000 hawthorn, hazel, holly, dog […]

Why I have grave concerns about the Piccotts End roundabout!

What’s happened to the roundabout at the entrance to Piccotts End? Since it was last cut by the council in April the grass has turned a deathly yellow. Is this in preparation for a makeover by the funeral directors J. Worley who are the current sponsors? If so I wonder what they have in mind. […]

Never mind king of the mountains The Hub is king of the cafes!

Continuing my tour of the cafes and tea shops of Hertfordshire my latest destination was The Hub in Redbourn. This has previously been a newsagents, a pet shop and a ski shop. Today it’s a cafe with a clever and novel string to its bow, or should I say spoke in its wheel, because it’s also a cycle repair shop. Propelled to the […]

A burnt-out case at the Attic!

No, this is not about Greene week at the Book Club, just the good old Attic Cafe in Berkhamsted high street. We usually go there for Sunday lunch but last week we tried something daringly different: Saturday tea! Fancying a toasted tea cake with a pot of Earl Grey I placed my order and settled down to […]

The view from the Shard but alas no sign of Piccotts End!

Here we are at the end of Feb and it’s been such a drab month I have little to report. On the few occasions when the weather did relent, we managed a trip up the Shard and a visit to York for the Viking Festival. York is one of my favourite cities with its medieval streets, […]

The cricket pavilion that should have been given out first ball

Happy New Year! Apart from resolving to eat less bread and more rice, this year I plan to go about and about in the Dacorum area, picking out examples of the good, the bad and the ugly. One building that constantly catches my eye, and for all the wrong reasons, is the cricket pavilion in Hemel. First […]

The Piccotts End Blog Years 2007-2010

December 2010 Up to now I can’t remember two successive white Christmases. But we’ve just had them – even if it didn’t snow on the day they were certainly white. Snow stories, which didn’t really exist throughout most of the Nineties, have become commonplace this past few years. Everyone can tell you of that nightmare […]