ex­plore­an­den­joy

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - WHAT’S ON THIS WEEKEND - with MARY TEBJE of the Chilterns Tourism Net­work For more days out, visit www.visit chilterns.co.uk

HITCHIN is the place from which to ex­plore the north-eastern ex­trem­i­ties of the Chiltern Hills as they merge into the flat­ter land­scapes of Bed­ford­shire.

You’ll want to spend time in Hitchin: with its me­dieval lay­out, his­toric build­ings and tra­di­tional cob­bled streets, the town is some­thing of a gem. Pick up a copy of Spe­cial­ity Shop­ping in Hitchin from the Town Cen­tre Ini­tia­tive Shop at 27 Church­yard to find where to spend your time and money, from the an­ti­quar­ian book­shop to Hawkins of Hitchin in Buck­lers­bury, an in­de­pen­dent depart­ment store es­tab­lished in 1863. Hitchin Mar­ket is cur­rently open on Tues­days and Satur­days sell­ing a large se­lec­tion of the usual mar­ket wares. On Fri­days, an an­tique mar­ket takes over the stalls. The whole town gets in the swing of the Hitchin Fes­ti­val of mu­sic, talks, walks, com­edy, drama, films and more, which runs for a month from the end of June.

St Mary’s Church – set in a green space in the cen­tre of Hitchin, on the banks of the River Hiz, the church is a cen­tral fo­cus for vis­i­tors to the town. Built with money from the wool trade, this is largest church in Hert­ford­shire, sec­ond in size only to the cathe­dral at St Al­bans. Young vis­i­tors like to look for the Thomp­son Mouse on the al­tar rail, a hall­mark of the fa­mous wood carver Robert ‘Mousey’ Thomp­son which ap­pears in West­min­ster Abbey, York Min­ster and nu­mer­ous churches through­out the coun­try.

The Bri­tish Schools Mu­seum is lo­cated in the unique set of school build­ings that have de­vel­oped on the site over 200 years. Fur­nished class­rooms fol­low the story of ed­u­ca­tion from 1810 to the late 1960s, giv­ing all sorts of fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights from how chil­dren learned to write in sand trays to how one mas­ter taught 300 chil­dren in the large School­room. Chil­dren can dress up in Vic­to­rian cos­tume and adults can try some long forgotten skills, such as writ­ing with a splut­ter­ing, dip-in pen and ink.

Hitchin Laven­der is my favourite – wan­der for up to 17 sooth­ing and aro­matic miles be­tween rows of laven­der planted on 12 acres of the farm. The fields are a great spot for pho­tog­ra­phers and artists and chil­dren love the free­dom to run up and down the rows and pick a bunch of laven­der to take home. There are sweep­ing views from the foot­paths that sur­round the fields. Sev­eral va­ri­eties are grown on the farm, with dozens more in the seated dis­play area. Re­fresh­ments are avail­able in the 17th cen­tury barn and the gift shop sells a wide choice of laven­der plants and prod­ucts.

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The coun­try­side by Hitchin

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