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.

Calling all jigsaw lovers!

Harpenden will hold its first ever Jigsaw Festival

on 4 & 5 June 2021 at High Street Methodist

Church. Organised by volunteers from two

Harpenden churches, this will be a community-

wide event with all proceeds going to two

nominated charities. Jigsaw festivals have proved

popular events around the country, where

hundreds of made up jigsaw puzzles are displayed

either to buy or just to view, whilst refreshments are


Further details will be released later, but at this stage, in order to make the event a success, the organisers are looking for the community to get involved with any of the following tasks:-

· Assembling your own puzzles and donating them.

· Donating unmade complete puzzles for others to assemble and Making up jigsaws donated by others.

If you are willing to help in any way, or require further details, please contact:-

Email: harpendenjigsaws@gmail.com, or telephone: 01582 713056 or visit the festival website:harpendenjigsawfestival.co.uk.

Follow progress on our Facebook page Harpenden Jigsaw Festival




John Murray is the new president of Harpenden Village

Rotary Club. He has lived in Harpenden since 2001 when,

after a career including spells in the oil industry and running

his own business, he was appointed chief executive of the

Society of Maritime Industries.

John is married to Christine and they have two grown-up


This is not his first Rotary presidency. He joined Darlington Rotary Club in the 1970s and was president in 1989-90. He has been a member of Harpenden Village Rotary Club since 2001.

John commented: ‘The core ethos of Rotary is encapsulated in its motto, Service above Self. While serving and supporting the community, both locally and through our international contacts, may appear to be on hold at present, as a result of Covid-19, I can assure you that our club members are working behind the scenes to ensure that during my year we will be able to deliver on our remit.’


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 by the late spring of next year.

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.

SUMMER OPENING for The Pudding Stop on the Harpenden

High Street.

Famous in St Albans for their home made puddings and cakes, served in a ‘Coffee Shop’ +takeaways. WHERE? In the old Rolands Carpet store nxt to Marks and Spencer. The interior is currently being converted ready for opening in mid Summer

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)

Aug 1st. Summer opening for

Harpenden’s new culture centre - The Eric Morecambe Centre (EMC)

It will includea 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.

New Parking spaces available

Everything you need to know about the New Sports Centre NOW OPEN  inc Safety

Dear 1Life Customer,

The highly anticipated opening of Harpenden Leisure Centre is now open You can stay up to date with what’s going on by following our social media pages @facebook.com/harpendensc1life @harpendensportscentre

Please find a list of FAQs below:

Q- What are the new centre opening times?

A – The initial opening hours will be reduced and will stay under constant review, we aim to extend our opening hour at step 3 of the Government Roadmap – 17th May.

Mon: 7:00- 20:00 Tue: 7:00- 20:00 Wed: 7:00- 21:00 Thu: 7:00- 20:00 Fri: 7:00- 20:00 Sat: 8:00- 14:00 Sun: 8:00-15:00   

Q- How can I tour the new facility?

A – You are able to virtually tour the whole facility now, please visit our webpage https://www.1life.co.uk/Harpenden-Leisure-centre/

Q- I want to use the Gym or Swimming Pool, how do I book?

A – Please download the 1Life Live More, Live Well App, logging with your email and 4 digit pin then book.

Q- Will the Health Suite and Crèche be open from 12th April?

A – No, we will aim to have the crèche and health suite open by step 3 on the Government roadmap 17th May.

Q- Will Swimming Lessons return from 12th April?

A – Yes, Swimming Lessons will recommence from 12th April, with reduced class capacities – if you haven’t yet been able to book your child in, please remain patient, and we will be putting on more and more lesson times as the week’s progress.

Q- Will the Gym Equipment be socially distanced and do I need to clean the equipment before and after use?

A – Yes, the gym equipment is all socially distanced and you will be required to wipe down equipment before and after use – it is your responsibility as a member to help us keep the gym clean and safe.

Q- When will Group Exercise return?

A – Group Exercise classes will return on 17th May, we will aim to share the new timetable two weeks prior.

Q- How will car parking work?

A – Parking will be paid for via the parking meters located within the car park, the first two hours will be free but you will still need to collect your ticket from the pay meter

   Q- I have an issue with my current membership, who should I contact?

A – For all membership related issues, please contact membership@1life.co.uk your query will be dealt with as soon as possible please don’t expect an instant response.

Q- I am a private hirer and want to find out more information about hiring space within the leisure centre, who should I contact?

A – We are not currently accepting private hire bookings, for those wanting to block book space in the Sports Hall, MUGA, Pool or Tennis Courts we will soon be releasing information on how to register your interest.

Q- What COVID restrictions are in place for swimmers?

A – We will have three 4m spaced lanes available for each lane swimming session, these sessions need to be booked online via the App prior to attendance, and each lane will be limited to 10 swimmers per lane at any one time.

Q- Will there be Sanitiser stations within the new centre?

A – Yes we have installed automatic sanitiser stations throughout the building.

Q- Where is the new entrance to the centre?

A – The new entrance is adjacent to the car park on the other side of the building, next to the skate park.

Q- Can non-members use the café?

A – The café will only be open for takeaway food and drink from 12th April due to COVID restrictions, we welcome non-members to use the café but the ask that you give consideration to our members and adhere to social distancing at all times.

Q- What are the Junior Gym operating hours?

A – Our Junior Gym operating hours are Mon-Fri 4pm – 6pm and Saturday 11am – 1pm only. All junior members are aged 16 or below.

Q- Will changing facilities and showers for the Gym be in use?

A – The changing facilities and showers for Gym users will be closed and not in use, we encourage all gym users to come ready to work out with their own water bottles.

Finally, we ask for you to remain patient with us during these uncertain times, rest assured we are working hard to ensure your new centre is safe and ready to open for 12th April.

All Swim School enquiries should be directed to swim.harpenden@1life.co.uk

All membership enquires should be directed to membership@1life.co.uk

Harpenden’s Summer Carnival on the Common has been cancelled by the Town Council.

Each year Harpenden Town Council and Harpenden Round Table work together to deliver the Harpenden Summer Carnival. Large scale events like these require significant lead in time to ensure that they are delivered safely and to a high standard. Unfortunately, the Government restrictions and roadmap relating to Covid-19 means it is not possible to deliver the event as planned in June 2021 and it has sadly been cancelled.  

We know the cancellation of Harpenden Carnival in June will be disappointing news, however we are committed to delivering it even bigger and better in 2022.  

Despite this news, Harpenden Town Council is planning to deliver a variety of exciting events for the summer and autumn months once restrictions are relaxed. This includes the return of the Harpenden Food and Drink Festival on Saturday 18 September 2021. The Food and Drink Festival will bring together businesses from the local area for a wide range of food & drink stalls and cookery demonstrations, while children’s activities, live entertainment, and much more will be on hand throughout the day.   

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.

Harpenden Library open again

Visitors will be able enter the library for up to 15 minutes to browse the bookshelves and to use the self-service kiosks for borrowing and returning items. Social distancing measures will be in place including queue management, screens on enquiry desks, hand sanitiser stations and quarantine areas for returned books. Customers will also be expected to wear face coverings during their visit.

Hand sanitiser stations

and quarantine areas for returned books.

Bring your library card

book a PC in advance if you want to use a computer

Scan the QR code or leave your contact details for Test and trace

Stay at home if you are self-isolating or have COVID-19 symptoms.

OPENING HOURS: Monday: 10am - 5pm:

Tuesday:1pm - 5pm;    Wednesday: Closed

Thursday: 10am - 5pm;  Friday: 1pm - 5pm

Saturday: 10am - 4pm.  Sunday: Closed

During lockdown, many local residents have been making full use of our library resources online, including e-books, e-audio books, digital newspapers and magazines, online courses and the Online Reference Library, however I am sure you will agree that re-opening Harpenden library is an important step for our local community.


You can find the latest information about Hertfordshire libraries re-opening plans and our online services on our website.

April. 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.

'VINSANTO' will also offer food of the highest quality from Daniel Fletcher. Daniel, a former kitchen lieutenant for the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Jason Atherton and some of London’s best loved Michelin star chefs brings simple, approachable, European style tapas using fresh seasonal ingredients.

A reasonable price point, approachable wine list and warm but efficient service with an all day offering from hand made pasta to locally sourced cheese all create a simple but adept menu for lunch and dinner, as well as wines to buy at Vinsanto Retail.

Opening soon- Station Road.Harpenden.

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.

It’s good to talk

Demand for local counselling service

continues to rise – fundraisers needed

to help expand support for young people

facing mental health issues


Youth Talk, the St Albans based charity providing free,

confidential counselling to 13-25 year olds, is receiving

unprecedented levels of enquiries from young people suffering from mental health issues. The charity is looking to recruit a new army of fundraisers and supporters in order to expand its support for local, young people. Youth Talk will be highlighting its work during Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May).


75% of young people in the UK who are experiencing mental health problems aren’t receiving the assistance they need, something that Youth Talk is committed to helping address in St Albans and its surrounding areas.


David Barker, Youth Talk’s CEO comments: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the mental well-being of young people and we are now facing a silent pandemic of mental health problems. Youth Talk provides a safe space to talk in total confidence. Our fully qualified counsellors are experts in supporting young people – whatever worries or challenges they may be facing.


Everyone feels sad, angry, frustrated and scared sometimes. When these feelings are overwhelming or happening all the time, we encourage young people to talk about them. Talking about things confidentially can help young people to work out what is really worrying or upsetting them and explore what they could do to try to make things better. But we rely on the generosity of our local community to keep Youth Talk running and as demand increases we need to grow our service so that we can be there for the growing numbers of young people who need our help”.


Despite lockdown, Youth Talk has been offering over 80 sessions a week (up from 60 before the pandemic). Over the coming months the charity envisages, for the first time in its 23 year history, it will provide 100 sessions a week – always held in private, either in person under Covid friendly conditions at the charity’s base in St Albans or via Zoom in a safe and secure environment.


It’s easy for a young person to contact Youth Talk to make use of this confidential service which runs Monday - Friday. They can either fill in a self-referral form on the charity’s website www.youthtalk.org.uk or phone (01727 868684) or make contact via email info@youthtalk.org.uk


Since 1997, over 3500 young people have trusted Youth Talk to provide this free, confidential and expert support from a dedicated team of experienced professionals, but this help comes at a cost.


David Barker added: “It costs us over £50 to provide one young person with one vital counselling session - and this does not take into account all the other costs associated with running a charity like Youth Talk. On average each young person will have around 12 sessions with us but we will see people for up to a year if need be. It makes effective fundraising absolutely critical and we need more people across our community to get involved and support us.


A commitment by companies and individuals, donating over a period of time, is especially helpful allowing us to plan our support with confidence. Harpenden Building Society, for instance, has supported Youth Talk for the last 3 years and is planning to continue this relationship with us. We’re looking for additional, committed supporters like this.”


Having had to cancel many traditional fundraising events over the last year and with increased demand for support created during the pandemic, Youth Talk will be delighted to hear from people interested in getting involved with the work of the charity.


During Mental Health Awareness Week (May 10-16) Youth Talk will be running a social media campaign to help raise much needed additional funding. The charity will be sharing messages from supporters about why they donate to Youth Talk and encourage others to join them. Donors, future volunteers or those needing support, can also gain further information by visiting https://youthtalk.org.uk/

Photo credit: Youth Talk support sessions are always held in private, either in person under Covid friendly conditions at the charity’s base in St Albans or via Zoom in a safe and secure environment.