My Fave Places: Felix Camfield-Walker
Felix Camfield-Walker was born and raised in Hitchin – and he’s got no intention of going anywhere else anytime soon. Farley’s Hair Emporium is about as relaxed as getting your hair cut is going to get – serious vintage décor, a quirky mix of music, and some properly strong coffee or the offer of a glass of wine once the sun’s over the yard arm. It’s been open five years and it’s already got that feeling of being a bit of an institution.
Felix, with his distinctly impressive ‘tache and warm welcome, knows a fair bit about Herts and I’ve managed to persuade him to share his favourite places with us. Not that he needed much persuading, mind you.
Natural History Museum at Tring
I love the eclectic, antiquarian nature of this gem of a museum. The fact that it’s a private collection that was handed over to the nation, and very little has been added or changed since, means it’s a great example of the eccentricity of the Victorian upper classes. And the setting makes it even more special – the row of Rothschild cottages opposite, and the allotments, with the gnarly old tree at the gate which my daughter loves to climb, with families coming and going all the time. When I’m there, we always make time to walk along the paths by the Grand Union canal. My wife’s aunt was from Tring and helped develop the network of paths, so it’s something we love to do together to remember her.
Natural History Museum at Tring, Akeman Street, Tring, nhm.ac.uk/tring
Ayots St Lawrence
Not just Ayots St Lawrence, but all the Ayots – this is just a beautiful area of the county. Shaw’s Corner is there, as well as the Brocket Arms – a really great pub. There are great walks and cycle paths all round. My favourite is the path that leads from Shaw’s Corner to an amazing church, built in a Palladian style, which looks like a Greek temple. It passes by a ruined church too, that I believe was ruined deliberately by the Victorians to add a bit of Gothic atmosphere to the place. Love it.
Ampthill Park was originally designed as a hunting ground for Henry VIII – and it’s a beautiful park set right on the edge of the Chiltern Hills. There’s something amazing about standing right on the edge and looking out at the view. It’s just lush. There are lots of great walks, and it’s a brilliant spot for picnics. It’s also home to the Ampthill Rocks festival every year, which is great fun. And remember the search for the Kit Williams’ Golden Hare that kicked off in 1979? Ampthill Park is where it was finally found.
Woburn Street, west of Ampthill, Beds, greensandtrust.org/AmpthillPark
Hermitage Road Bar and Restaurant, Hitchin
Hermitage Road Bar and Restaurant is virtually opposite my shop, and it’s my favourite place to eat in Hitchin. When we have friends visiting from London, I’ll always take them there – show them how good it can be out in the sticks! They have great coffee, booze, evening food, daytime food – the bagels are incredible – and have now expanded to include a great shop next door. It’s owned by a local family, the Nyes, who have a lot of experience running pubs in Hitchin and elsewhere. Some serious bands have played there in the past — Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Searchers, and so on – and there’s still lots of live music going on. It’s a great building, too, which they’re really taking care of: the original stage is still there, which gives a real sense of the history of the place.
20-21 Hermitage Road, Hitchin, hermitagerd.co.uk
The two best festivals in Hertfordshire, in my humble opinion….
Ok, picking two events instead of one place is probably cheating – but I’m going to do it anyway. There are some great festivals in Herts, but these two are brilliant ones for the whole family.
Rhythms of the World happens every year in the grounds of Hitchin Priory, and it’s awesome. Musicians from quite literally all over the world – you name it, there’s someone from there – come to ROTW, and last year played to more than 40,000 people over two days. Not bad for an event that started back in 1991 as one evening in Hitchin Town Hall. My old band Summerhouse headlined that evening, along with the Bundu Boys, and I’ve stayed involved every year – playing, selling tickets, sponsoring, whatever. It’s entirely volunteer-led, which gives it a great atmosphere.
Folk by the Oak is held in the grounds of Hatfield House, and I’ve not found a better festival to take little kids to. It’s getting bigger and better every year, and it’s just so relaxed and chilled out. You get to take your own food and booze if you want to – then spread out your picnic blanket and just enjoy it. It’s great, great fun.