This picturesque town is just 34 minutes from Kings Cross by train, making it an ideal place for London commuters to reside in.
With plenty of high street chains dominating the main road, it’s easy to dismiss Harpenden, Hertfordshire, as just another home counties town.
Read more: 12 things you only know if you’re from Cheshunt
But walk a little further and you’ll find stunning parks, fascinating history and plenty of independent shops waiting to be found, and it may only be the people who grew up in the town who can appreciate the hidden gems it has to offer.
These are eight things you only know if you’re from Harpenden.
The Nickey Line
(Image: Harpenden Town Council)
This seven-mile, hedge-lined walk from Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead is a local’s favourite.
The cycle and walking route was once a railway line, between 1877 and 1947. It was opened as a public footpath in 1985.
Head through the lush grasses of Rothamsted Park and you’ll get to a cross-section where you can follow the dusty, historic Nickey Line track, which goes through Redbourn and St Albans.
Or start at the very beginning of the Line from Harpenden’s Hollybush Lane. There’s lots of wildlife to see on the way, including pigs, horses and bluebells.
Can you guess why it’s called The Nickey Line?
The beauty of Rothamsted Manor
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
While you’re strolling down the Nickey Line, stop off at the sprawling Jacobean-style Rothamsted Manor house, which is just outside of Rothamsted Park.
It’s not open to the public all year round, but you can get a great view of it from the pathway and they offer two self-guided tours of its grounds.
The first record of the Rothamsted estate was made in 1212 when it was owned by Henry Gubion. It’s now owned by Rothamsted Research.
A lot of its features remain untouched from the 17th century such as the central bell tower, which has the date 1650.
The chimneys were built in 1654 and are a sign of wealth as they show how many fires a house’s owners were able to afford.
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Thorns sweet shop
This ye-olde sweet shop is stacked full of classic candy, from strawberry bonbons stored in glass jars to flying saucers.
An array of modern delights, such as a chocolate Harry Potter wand, will satisfy those craving something chocolatey. Fill up a paper bag full of treats and pay per gram.
A selection of traditional tobacco and cigars are also on offer – meaning this old haunt has a rather beautiful aroma of earthy tobacco mixed in with sour cherries.
And really, we do mean old! In 2018, Thorns celebrated its 100th birthday.
Fresh fruit and veg market on Fridays
If natural sugar is more your cup of tea, there’s a fresh fruit and vegetable market, run by PJ Garrity, in the town centre just outside of Pizza Express every Friday from 7 am – 2 pm. Just look out for the red and white striped gazebos.
If you happen to be about on the last Sunday of the month, head to the farmers market which adorns Harpenden High Street.
There’s everything from local craft beer to ostrich burgers.
The Oxfam book shop
In between a line of other charity shops on Station Road, Oxfam’s bookstore really takes the biscuit.
With everything from children’s reads to academic tomes, there’s something for every bookworm – and for a great cause too.
They also sell greetings cards, records, CDs, DVDs and, the last time I went in, a second-hand clarinet.
A gym with a view
No one particularly likes working out, but it sure does help when there’s something pretty to look at.
The recently renovated Harpenden Leisure Centre is situated inside Rothamsted Park and its gym provides sweeping views of the skate park and trees.
So you can pass the minutes on the treadmill by getting your people, or dog, watch on.
If swimming is your thing, splash about in their 25-metre pool and follow it up with a steam in their sauna.
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The alfresco pints in The Oddfellows Arms beer garden
This boozer’s “Tipsy Terrace” provides a perfect spot to watch the sun go down surrounded by flower boxes and fairy lights.
Situated on Leyton Green, The Oddfellows is just a stone’s throw away from Harpenden high street.
Godfrey’s fish and chips are to die for
Finish your whistle-stop tour of Harps with traditional fish, chips and mushy peas, served in a cardboard box.
Godfrey’s is always busy, and for good reason too. This sustainable chippie (its cod is MSC certified) that sits on the High Street was crowned the top fryer in Central and Southern England in the 2017 National Fish and Chip Awards.
The St Albans and Harpenden Food and Drink awards also listed it as the best takeaway in the area.
Their fish starts at £4.20, chips from £1.60. Vegetarians can enjoy battered halloumi and baked beans.
Pro tip: the crushed minted peas are to die for; call to book ahead when it’s busy.
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