My favourite places: Emma John, author
Local Muddy gal, Emma John is an award-winning author, journalist and podcaster. She lets us in on her top spots to spend time in Herts and Beds
During the past year I’ve been walking the entire length of the Ridgeway, which begins at Ivinghoe Beacon on the Ashridge Estate not far from my home. Ashridge is an absolutely beautiful place to explore, with trails that go through sheep fields, woods, bluebell dells (in the spring) and, of course, hilltop views out over the county. My favourite part is Aldbury Nowers – start at the monument to the Duke of Bridgewater and walk down the hill before enjoying a pint in the gorgeous village of Aldbury.
Favourite place for brunch
I don’t think there’s any better town in Hertfordshire for brunch than Harpenden. When I grew up there, it was pretty much a one-cafe town! Now there are so many options. You can have a classic English breakfast at The George, a Turkish one at Okka, or an Italian one at Rosanna’s. And because it’s such a compact place, afterwards you can head out of the door and do some shopping on your way to the park or the common to walk it off.
Favourite place to spend a day out
I’m very attached to Dunstable Downs. You’ve got ZSL Whipsnade Zoo at the top of the hill, a place that’s absolutely brilliant for families while doing important conservation work. And at the bottom, there’s London Gliding Club, where it’s really easy to book yourself a flight and get an aerial view of the countryside. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground you can also enjoy watching others take flight from their tea room, which is open to the public from 10am til 2pm.
Favourite local indie shops
Vinyl Revelations in Luton is my go-to record shop – they’ve got a great online catalogue and the people who run it are really friendly. And I will never grow tired of PE Meads Farm Shop, just outside Tring – especially their frozen croissants and pains au chocolat that you can take home and bake fresh. You’ll even find the Puddingstone Distillery (where Campfire Gin is made) there.
Favourite place for a unique stay
I can definitely recommend a night away on a boat on the beautiful Grand Union Canal. I’ve enjoyed several narrowboat holidays with friends and Wyvern Shipping in Leighton Buzzard have a really good fleet in a range of sizes, suitable for all groups – however big or small.
Favourite spots for a night out
One of my greatest ever birthday treats was being taken to The Kings Head Restaurant for dinner – it’s a phenomenal old-school place in Ivinghoe. The building dates all the way back to the 17th century. The food is classic French cuisine, and they serve the best duck you’ve ever eaten.
And you haven’t been to The Bear Club in Luton yet, you’ve got to make the trip – it’s a cosy jazz bar that serves gin, whisky and beer to the soundtrack of some of the best live music in the country. Plus, my brother-in-law, Justin, built it with his bare (or should that be bear?) hands!
Emma John’s new memoir, Self Contained: Scenes from a single life (Octopus Books) is out now.