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My Favourite Places: Julie Mayhew

julie mayhew

photo by Madeleine Waller

Hertfordshire is simply full of writers – and some blinkin’ good ones, too. Berkhamsted’s very own Julie Mayhew writes drama for Radio 4, and I first came across her through her play A Shoebox of Snow which I absolutely loved. Her most recent, broadcast late last year, was The Electrical Venus – a brilliant and rip-roaring foray into the strange world of 18th-century circuses and freak shows.

Not only that, though, her young adult novel Red Ink was shortlisted for the Branford Boase prize – and is a really good read, even if ‘young adult’ doesn’t quite seem to apply to you anymore. The Big Lie – a book about Nazis, feminism and ice skating (yes, really) – is coming out later this year.

Julie also heads up the Berko Writers Workshop and hosts the Berko Speakeasy cabaret evenings, as well being an actor, a writing tutor and a mentor for emerging writers.

It’s a wonder she has the time to go anywhere, never mind have five favourite places. Lucky for us, though, she does and she’s happy to share.  

I’ve had so many inspiring days here, exploring the house, zipping the kids round the adventure playground, listening in on the birds in the aviary, tasting the Rothchild’s stash of wines. I last visited on New Year’s Day. We huddled under the National Trust blankets in the outdoor cafe beneath the warm Moroccan lights and waited for the sun to set so we could enjoy the stunning Bruce Munro light exhibition in the grounds. That’s something Waddesdon does really well – combines art with history.

Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, Bucks,  


lum and vogue

I could say that I like this dress agency because it allows me to make money from my old unwanted clothes, but that would be an outright lie. Because every time I go in to collect ‘my winnings’ as I like to call them (the shop take half of what they make selling your items and you take the other half) I always end up spending it all on some new designer or vintage discovery. A red Nicole Fahri cashmere jumper with all its original swing-labels for just £30…? I can never say no.

Luminous and Vogue, 24 Lower Kings Road, Berkhamsted,


 planet ice

I’m itching for the Hemel Hempstead rink to reopen as the Jarman Park refurbishment continues. I took up skating a few years ago. I was always so envious of the girls at school who had lessons, so I decided to gift them to myself as an adult. As I get older and life seems to get safer and safer, skating pushes me to be a little more dangerous. I’m half decent at it now – though my backward crossovers have probably got sloppy while the rink’s been closed. I like going during the day best, when the rink is quiet and misty. It’s a great place to contemplate plots for my next project.

Planet Ice, Jarman Park, Hemel Hempstead,, re-opens Spring 2015.



gorgeous picture from

This relative newcomer to Berko’s cafe scene has really got behind the area’s artistic life (and serves up an exceptional latte at the same time). Their wine coolers are customised by local artist Sunil Pawar and they host endless exhibitions and launches, including the arrival of illustrator Spencer Wilson‘s book H is For Hummus. The cafe has also been a brilliant and supportive home for The Berko Writers’ Workshop which I set up last year. Every Tuesday we take over their upstairs room to improve our writing – while eating large amounts of cake.

HERE, 28-30 Lower Kings Road, Berkhamsted,



This is another venue that embraces Berkhamsted’s artistic side. The Greene Room above the main bar at the King’s Arms is home to regular performances by chamber ensemble Chroma. It’s such an indulgence to enjoy live music of that quality so close to home. The King’s Arms is also the home of the Berko Speakeasy, a quarterly cabaret of short stories. The space is just perfect for everyone to sit, relaxed with a drink, while actors move among the audience bringing the stories to life. Designer Rose Scarborough transforms the place every time with an eclectic range of props.

Greene Room, Kings Arms, 147 High Street, Berkhamsted,  


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