Local News                         2021/2020


Scientists breed

designer wheat for

whisky distillers

A team of scientists from Rothamsted Research

have bred a type of wheat specifically to improve

whisky production.

The group’s lead researcher says this new wheat

will reduce the processing problems, higher energy

use, and wear on pumps caused by using current

wheat varieties.

Rothamsted’s Dr Rowan Mitchell said: “At present using wheat grain is a problem for distilleries because it causes sticky residues that mean the whole distillery must be shut down for cleaning.

“Our novel wheat is designed to have grain with low levels of soluble dietary fibre and should greatly decrease these problems. Great for making whisky, but the opposite to what’s required by bakers.”

He added that the development will also make UK grown wheat more desirable for use in whisky compared to imported maize, which is currently easier to process.

This new wheat line is one of the first wheat varieties in the world developed using ‘reverse genetics’ - where scientists start with knowledge of what a gene does, rather than screening for the trait in a plant first and then looking for which of its genes are responsible.

Their non-GM approach, called TILLING, allowed them to rapidly breed their gene of choice into an existing wheat variety – no easy task as wheat has six copies of each of its genes compared to only two copies of each in humans.

The group focused in on genes they discovered that controlled the amount of a chemical found in plant cell walls called arabinoxylan, responsible for soluble fibre levels and what determines its viscosity - whether the liquid extract is ‘thin’ like water, or ‘thick’ like honey.

By using traditional plant breeding methods, they created wheat lines where these genes had stopped working – referred to as ‘knock out’ or loss of function lines.

In these lines, the arabinoxylan molecules where both shorter and fewer in number, leading to a whisky-friendly wheat that produces a liquid extract between 50 and 80% less ‘gloopy’ compared to wheat without the knock-out genes.

Interestingly, the team saw that the plant responded to this change by increasing the bonds between the remaining arabinoxylan molecules, which helped it maintain the size and shape of its cells.

The group have a patent on the use of the gene for this application and are now working with plant breeding company Limagrain to develop a new commercial variety.

Co-author Dr Simon Berry, marker specialist at Limagrain, said: “There is going to be a pilot scale test on about a quarter of a tonne of grain at a distillery this year and we are aiming for an official trials entry within the next 5 years.

“Low viscosity wheat would strengthen the continued use of UK wheat in distilling and offer a solution to those distillers still using maize.”

Scotch production is an extremely important industry to the UK, worth about £5 bn per year.

The project, which also included the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, was funded by UKRI and Innovate UK.


Local help to tackle money worries

Mounting personal debt is an increasing problem as many of us struggle to pay bills because of the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on our finances.  There are high levels of debt on credit cards, and personal loans and not everyone can manage the repayments at the moment.

Help is at hand from Harpenden Money Advice Centre which is a charity providing confidential, non-judgemental and impartial debt and budgeting advice. This free local service from trained advisers, all volunteers, will look at how best to tackle your debts.

Manager of the charity Richard Payne said "Our team are here to help people look at their money problems and work with them to come up with an affordable plan, prioritising the most urgent payments and looking at what they can afford to repay.  Anyone can get into debt, and often it’s no fault of their own doing.  It could be a job loss, relationship breakdown, bereavement or other change in circumstances and it can be very hard to admit there is a problem.  But that is the first step to sorting it out.  We are still open during these strange times and can give help via Zoom or on the phone.  Do get in contact.  We are very friendly and just want to help."

One client told their story:

"Two years ago I felt I was drowning. I was making payments every month but then had no money for the remainder of the month and was then getting further loans to get through each month, increasing my debts and finding myself in a vicious cycle I couldn't get out of. I also needed to find somewhere else to live, as the tenancy on the place I was living in was running out. With your help and support not only did you arrange an affordable monthly plan with my creditors, but you also found me a new place to live.

I was at a point two years ago where I felt almost suicidal but thanks to you, I now see a light at the end of the tunnel and emotionally and mentally I have emerged from that black hole I was in. Thank you, without your help, I dread to think where I would now be."

To find out more contact Richard Payne on www.hmac.uk or call 07954 276281 email info@hmac.uk

Harpenden Money Advice Centre is a local charity supported by churches across Harpenden. All advisers are volunteers who freely give their time and are trained to the CMA Level 3 Award in Generalist Debt Advice, which has been "Money Advice Service" accredited at Advice Level.

Photo above of the HMAC team (Richard Payne is in the centre with the purple jumper)

Harpenden’s new culture centre to be named after comedy legend.

Harpenden’s new culture centre is to be named

after one of its most famous residents – comedy

legend Eric Morecambe.

The centre is being built on the site of the town’s

former sports centre in Rothamsted Park and is

due to open on August 1st .

Eric, who died in 1983, lived in the West

Common area of Harpenden during the height

of his fame as part of TV’s Morecambe and

Wise double act.

The Eric Morecambe Centre (EMC) will include

a 511-seat theatre with state-of-the-art

production equipment to allow major touring

shows to be staged as well as those put on by

local groups.

There will also be an exhibition space, two function rooms, a local history room, bars on two floors and a coffee shop with views across the park.

The EMC is being built along with a new Harpenden Leisure Centre by St Albans City and District Council in an ambitious £20 million project.

Councillor Anthony Rowlands, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Heritage and Public Realm, said: “The Council approached Eric’s family and asked permission to name the centre after him and I am delighted that they have agreed.

“Eric Morecambe was one of Britain’s most-loved and treasured comedians as well as one of Harpenden’s most famous residents.

“Given the huge contribution he made to the country’s entertainment industry, it is only fitting that the town’s culture centre should be named after him.

“It will be a fantastic asset for Harpenden and will be a focus for the promotion and enjoyment of the arts. I’m sure Eric would have approved.”

The auditorium of Harpenden Public Halls - which the EMC is replacing – had also been named after Eric.

THE HUB is more than a “cafe” to

Redbourn, its a “social” centre. 

By Simon Barnes.

Started 9 years ago, we hadn’t clue about Coffee

or Retail but Lindy & I agreed if we were going to

invest a lot of time and money in a new venture

we wanted it to be “special’.

We both enjoy sharing our passion and a good

chat with customers which led us to a coffee bar

for cyclists.

We took a short lease on a c1600 year building

to give it a go.

And it WENT !!

We soon discovered how much there was to learn, what fun it was and the thrill of offering a really good quality coffee.

We took advice to ensure our coffee offering would be the best ever and opted for Allpress coffee, a NZ roasters with a roasterry in East London AND have all our Barritas trained by them in London.

We broadened customer base to anyone enjoying our style and coffee, added some REAL “homemade cakes “, Redbournbury Mill bread [including Zuckermaus) !

Only being able to serve one customer at a time has been challenging but staff have risen to the task and customers. We are still very pleased to still gain comfort from their favourite coffee and cakes.

Lindy and I, (below) although being in our 70s, love the venture, introducing us to so many people, many becoming friends. Our staff are all local people and we are dog friendly.

We’d like to thank all our customers who have continued to support us during the year And with the vaccination programmes now under way we hope to open up our regular service in the Spring.

Hold your events SAFELY in meeting rooms at Rothamsted Conference Centre from May 17

As a result of the latest Government guidelines, Rothamsted Conference Centre in Harpenden will re-open from 17th May 2021 with all our rooms available at 50% capacity. We have a robust Safe Events Strategy in place, supported by a detailed COVID-19 Safety Policy and Covid-19 Risk Assessment. These comprehensive documents contain all the information our customers need to understand the many safety measures and procedures we have put in place to enable safe, socially distanced events and meetings in our conference centre.

Reduced room capacities; Room Hire Only rate or a Day Delegate Rate (DDR) depending on your needs; Shorter meeting times are available; Outside seating or table service in our Restaurant or Cafe from 12th April; PPE and hygiene stations for staff; Face coverings: All visitors to the conference centre are required to wear face coverings at all times, unless seated for eating or drinking. Hand sanitiser stations:

These are placed throughout the conference centre for your use; Robust cleaning regime

Email our Events Team to discuss your event requirements further or call 01582938500. 

Harpenden Leisure Centre 

“The number of visitors has exceeded

our expectations with the new gym

and the children’s swim school being

the most popular activities.” said

Tony Marmo, the Council’s Head of Commercial and Development.

Reopening Hours

The centre will now open from

April 12 as follows:

Monday - Tuesday 7am - 8pm

Wednesday             7am - 9pm

Thursday - Friday   7am - 8pm

Saturday                  8am - 2pm

Sunday                    8am - 3pm

Gym and Swimming

The new centre, on the edge of

Rothamsted Park, has a

25-metre-long swimming pool,

a learner pool, a state-of-the-art gym,

a spin room and sports hall,

There is also a cafe and a changing village.  Two exercise studios, a sauna and steam room are due to open next month when there is a further easing of COVID restrictions


Owned by St Albans City and District Council, the Leisure Centre is managed on its behalf by contractors 1Life.

Contact: membership@1life.co.uk (for membership queries) - GMHarpenden@1life.co.uk (any other enquiries)

Early September opening for

Harpenden’s new culture centre -

The Eric Morecambe Centre (EMC)

THE LOGO for the centre is shown here -

It will include a 511-seat theatre with state-of-the-art

production equipment to allow major touring

shows to be staged as well as those put on by

local groups.

There will also be an exhibition space, two function rooms, a local history room, bars on two floors and a coffee shop with views across the park.

Art on the Common has been booked for Sept 18 &19.

This year's AOTC has been agreed for 18th & 19th September on their usual section of the Common. Over the coming months the organisers will be reviewing the Covid situation with the Town Council to ensure they meet any requirements that may be necessary to make the event as safe as possible.

More information to follow.

May. Affordable homes in Harpenden under initial development stages by TAYLOR FRENCH at the site of old allotments off Westfield Road. More information to follow with site plans and house details.

Classics on the Common is back. Wed Sept 22.

Organised by Rotary in Harpenden.

Event manager Richard Young said,

‘This is one of the largest one-day classic car events in the UK and it attracts nearly 900 cars and motor cycles. Rotary in Harpenden run it as a community event where classic enthusiasts mix with local families and their children to enjoy a wonderful show and we are also able to raise money for charity.


‘I am so very proud of the effort and enthusiasm of everyone involved - the Classics committee, the Rotary members and the army of volunteers – in making this major event happen.


‘We are proud to be able to help promote Harpenden and raise its profile. We know that many of the pubs and restaurants rely on this day as a bonus to their businesses and we are grateful for the generosity of everyone who came.


‘I would also like to thank Harpenden Council, the police and emergency services for their continuing support and encouragement.’


In eight short hours we collected close to £19,000 which, added to other donations, amounted to net proceeds of around £33,000. This will be distributed to our four named charities - Luton, South Beds and Harpenden Samaritans, Alzheimer’s Society, Carers in Hertfordshire, Rotary Doctor Bank - and other worthy causes.

Come and join us for a guided walk on the Luton Hoo Estate

This is a unique opportunity for a gentle walk of approximately 2 hours interspersed with fascinating historic information – Beautiful views across Capability Brown designed Bedfordshire countryside and returning along the majestic Lime Tree Avenue - Walk dates are: 23 - 30 June - 14, 21 and 28 July and spaces are limited - £5 pp -

Places are limited so book now to avoid disappointment:  Tickets

June. NEW additions to the Zuckermaus range of cakes:

Malakoff torte. (below) A coffee cake with rum soaked sponge fingers, covered in coffee butterceam. My favorite in the new range. Perfect to have with your morning cappucchino. Named after a french general by Napoleon III. Jean - Jaques Pelissier who conquered the Russian fortresses Sewastopol and Fort Malakow. Every bite is a piece of history.

Austrian Plum Cake. (below) A light sponge encased in a cheesecake filling topped with crumble. Delicious with a light fruity red wine.

Vegan Raspberry, Chocolate and almond slice. Who said vegans can’t indulge?



Phone: 07766072772

Free deliveries in Harpenden, St Albans and surrounding villages




The Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) at St Albans

City Hospital has been closed since

April 2020 due to COVID-19 to enable

the whole hospital to stay ‘COVID-19

free’ for the safety of all patients and

so that planned surgery could safely

take place.

Herts Valleys CCG are now looking at

future services at St Albans City Hospital

as they want to improve what they have

had, and to provide a service that supports

patients well into the future. Part of this

improvement concerns what role the

Minor Injuries Unit will have. They have made 4 options for consideration, recommending no 3. Whilst this may seem like a waste of consulting time I have been assured that people’s views will be taken into account and if there is strong support for one of the other options it will be reviewed.

SO please read the options here then complete the survey by Sunday Aug 1st.

Your views really do matter.

To take part in the survey go to https://survey.alchemer.eu/s3/90355210/urgent-care-at-st-albans or for more information: https://hertsvalleysccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/public-engagement

Ron Taylor. Editor www.harpendia.com

The Options:

1. Not reopen an urgent care service at St Albans City Hospital and ask patients to continue to use other nearby services in the same way as they have been doing in the last 12 months.

2. Reopen the minor injury unit as it was before the pandemic, as a service that is led and delivered by senior experienced and specially trained nurses. This wouldnot cater for minor illnesses.

3. Open a new integrated urgent care service that would offer a minor illness and injury service. It would be led and delivered by senior experienced nurses with the support of GPs.  It would offer some additional diagnostic services on top of x-rays. Appointments would be through the NHS111 service or GPs. There would be no walk-in patients.

4.Open a new urgent treatment centre that would provide a comprehensive urgent illness and injury service with a broader range of diagnostic services. It would be led and delivered by GPs with the support of senior and qualified nurses and health care assistants. It would offer both walk-in and booked appointments.

The CCG’s preferred option is Option 3 – a new integrated care hub - because it would provide the flexibility to design an enhanced minor injury and illness service that can meet local needs without overstretching resources. This option would also allow the service to be run on an ‘appointment only’ basis. Booked appointments ensure that patients are seen quickly by the right person and allows spacing of patients throughout the day to avoid bottlenecks of people attending at particular times, which in turn allows better infection control.

NEW & unique in Harpenden

BRAD & DILLS Coffee & Bagels

Takeaway Bar

The best tasting coffee and bagels in town.


Coffee blends selected from a London roaster to

give smooth rich flavours

Bagels made by an artisan baker and filled with

exquisite fillings to order

Even a speciality milk for a creamier flavour.


Brad & Dills are two Harpenden based

entrepreneurs with ‘on trend’ experience in the

hospitality business, having worked in London

and European bars and restaurants. It all started

in Harpenden with a mobile at The Skew Bridge back in March...testing the reactions of Harpenden coffee lovers with their food and drinks concept.

It didn’t take long for them to realise that everyone loved it.

They found the perfect location at the north end of Town next to Loveweds Jewellers.

NOW OPEN 7 days a week for Takeaway

Coffee & Bagels

Mon -Fri. 7.30am - 4pm

Sat & Sun.  8.30am - 4pm

Bagels available 9am - 2pm.

There’s even a few seats should you wish to

stay awhile.

Once tried never forgotten!

Film Night at Rothamsted Conference Centre

Further information about our events can be found here:



Here are the various films we are showing between now and November.

Woman in Gold (12), 20 August, 7.30pm

Victoria and Abdul (PG), 23 Sept, 7.30pm

Hampstead (12A), 22 Oct, 7.30pm

Official Secrets (15), 26 Nov, 7.30pm


Our modern and comfortable auditorium becomes

a cinema for the evening, showing a selection of

films from classics to the latest releases. Our

licensed bar is open for refreshments during the show.


Doors open at 6.30pm
Film starts at 7.30pm


Adults £10. Children £6.

A special discount of 20% if you buy 4 or more tickets for the same show.

Free parking
Follow the signs to Rothamsted Conference Centre, and continue to our visitors parking area. Enter the building from the front of the Conference Centre where our friendly staff will direct you.



Richard Young has been elected president of Harpenden Village Rotary Club in succession to John Murray.

Richard and his wife Mary have lived in Harpenden since 1989. Before then, they lived in several overseas countries through Richard's work in international banking. They have two daughters, one living in Wheathamstead, and three grandchildren.

‘During Covid lockdown club members continued to meet weekly via Zoom,’ Richard said, ‘listening to speakers and socialising with guests from all over the country. Although, thankfully, we are now moving back to face-to-face meetings we’ll still have some via Zoom to take advantage of its country-wide access.

‘My main task will be to lead the club’s re-energising with a wide range of social and fun activities.

‘We’ll also put greater effort into making the club’s activities better known. By capturing Harpenden’s interest in our club, we hope to encourage more local residents to join in the fun of membership.’