Friends of Alzey Celebrate 60th Anniversary during visit to Germany

The Mayor of Harpenden, Cllr Fiona Gaskell, accompanied the Friends of Alzey on an important visit to one of Harpenden’s Twin Towns, Alzey in Germany recently (the other is Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire in France). The trip marked a celebration of 60 years of the town twinning partnership, commemorating the strong links which have been maintained since 1963.

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Harpenden were warmly welcomed by Bürgermeister Steffen Jung, Mayor of Alzey with a programme of events and visits, culminating in a farewell dinner at which the Mayor of Harpenden was proud to present a specially commissioned framed painting by local artist Peter Brown to her Alzey counterpart. The Mayor in turn received an engraved plaque for display in the Town Hall’s Council Chamber.

Over the past 60 years a number of visits between the towns have taken place. During this time, town twinning has evolved and still plays an important role in maintaining friendships and connections with other countries. Twinning assists in developing mutual understanding, appreciation of cultures and also appeals to people who want their travel to provide new and meaningful experiences.

Many twinning relationships with Germany were born from the British movement for reconciliation after WW2 and played an important part in enabling overseas travel in the early years afterward.  Today, joining a Friends group gives members the chance to connect with residents of the twin towns in a variety of ways including via virtual online meetings or visiting in person.  Members can also attend a number of social events and activities such as annual dinners, quizzes and conversation evenings.

Alzey is a bustling and picturesque market town 30km southwest of Mainz in the centre of the winemaking region of Rheinhessen.  The visit coincided with its annual Wine Festival, a locally important occasion which celebrates the Town’s wine heritage. Alzey has an elected Wine Queen; a significant, well-regarded role for the town as an ambassador for Alzey and the Rheinhessen region helping to promote local wine production and its history.

The Mayor of Harpenden, Cllr Fiona Gaskell, said, “We are immensely proud to have maintained such a cordial and successful partnership with both Alzey and Cosne over the years, even in the face of recent challenges. Our relationship with these towns has forged long lasting friendships and has given everyone involved an opportunity to discover other cultures and create a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other’s way of life, as well as recognising our similarities.  It was a great pleasure and privilege to be able to mark the 60 year anniversary of our twinning partnership with our friends in Alzey this year.”

Further information on Harpenden’s twin towns and the significance of town twinning is available on the Town Council’s website. Susan Vinther, Chair of the Friends of Alzey was recently kind enough to share her thoughts on the role of town twinning in today’s times, information from this insightful interview is also available on the Town Council’s website:

Dec 7. New owners for St Albans Catherine Street dealership as Brayleys acquires Coupers

In a year of significant growth, which saw Hertfordshire-based car dealer group, Brayleys, celebrate its 20th anniversary, the award-winning automotive retailer has topped off 2023 by acquiring the Coupers dealership in St Albans.

Founded in 1933 by Mike Couper, one of the most respected personalities of the motor racing scene at the time, who competed at Brooklands and the Monte Carlo rally, Coupers represented many brands during its history, including Armstrong Siddeley, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Jaguar and latterly, Seat and Hyundai.

Having traded as Coupers in St Albans for over 90 years, the Catherine Street dealership was purchased in 1978 by the late Don Kendall who was succeeded by his son, Paul, who continued to run the business up to the sale. The city centre site has been Hertfordshire’s authorised dealer for Hyundai for more than 30 years and a Seat car service centre for two decades. Moving forward, it will trade as Brayley Hyundai and continue to operate as a Seat Authorised Repairer.

The change of ownership adds Hyundai to Brayleys’ portfolio of brands, which includes Kia, Honda, Mazda, Renault and Dacia. Brayleys already has a significant presence in Hertfordshire, operating Honda St Albans, Honda Hemel Hempstead and dual-franchise, Kia and Mazda Harpenden. The company, which launched in St Albans in 2003, is now the largest privately-owned franchisee for Honda UK.

Commenting on the deal, brokered by automotive consultancy MotorVise, which acted for Coupers, Brayleys Chief Executive Officer, Paul Brayley, said:

“I’m delighted at our acquisition of Coupers, which has a long and proud heritage in St Albans. It has extra meaning for me as it was also the starting location for Brayleys twenty years ago, when I took over the Honda dealership on Hatfield Road. The addition of Hyundai to our portfolio will further broaden our customer reach in Hertfordshire and strengthens our position as one of the largest automotive retail groups in the South East.”

Paul Kendall, who has led Coupers for the past 25 years, said the company’s 24 staff would transfer over to Brayleys, under the terms of the purchase. He said:

“It is very much business as usual at the dealership in Catherine Street, and I know both the team and valued customers will be in great hands with Brayleys, who will continue our tradition of delivering exceptional customer service. The whole process involving the sale of the dealership was smooth and handled in a professional manner.”

Earlier this year, Brayleys also made its debut ranking in the list of Best Workplaces compiled by Great Place To Work® UK. Company inclusion results from feedback provided by staff about how the business they work for supports their overall health and wellbeing, both inside and outside the workplace.

On achieving this independently monitored national recognition, Paul Brayley said:

“Brayleys takes great pride in making the business feel very much like a family. To have that recognised formally based on the views of your team is a fantastic achievement for the company and we look forward to working with the team in Catherine Street and welcoming them to the Brayleys family.”

Photo: Paul Brayley (left), is pictured with Brayley Hyundai apprentice technician Emma Badzek, and Paul Kendall (right).


The iconic Harpenden Trust purple tabards are now again visible in Harpenden as the Trust announces a partnership with Harpenden Library to provide volunteers for the library to open on Wednesday afternoons. NOW OPEN .

Following the last lockdown, the Library was unable to open on Wednesday afternoons due to lack of volunteers to do so. In response, Herts Libraries and the Harpenden Trust have worked together to enable a volunteer-led Library ‘Express’ service on Wednesday afternoons. 

The local community will now be able to access the Library on a Wednesday afternoon from 1pm-6pm, when it would otherwise be closed to the public. During this period, a Library ‘Express’ service will be in operation so that Library users can access the self-service facilities which will include borrowing, returning and renewing library material, paying library charges and collecting reserved items.

Richard Nichols, Chairman of the Harpenden Trust, said: “The Harpenden Trust’s founding principle over 70 years ago was the fostering of good neighbourliness across the town. Our mantra was then, and still is for Harpenden people to help Harpenden people, although over the years the way in which that takes place has expanded to embrace a far wider spectrum of help.”

“Today, it includes areas in which community organisations may also be supported. Libraries are at the heart of Hertfordshire communities, as places where anyone can go, without judgement, to read, borrow, learn, access information or get online. I am delighted we are supporting Harpenden Library, increasing the time our community has to access our local library and am hugely thankful to our volunteers who have offered to give their time and support to do so.” Richard continues,

Richard Marpole, Library Manager, Harpenden Library, said:

"Hertfordshire Libraries are very pleased to be working with the Harpenden Trust to extend public access to Harpenden Library on a Wednesday afternoon. These additional opening hours for the Express service will have a genuine positive impact for the wider Harpenden community. We would like to thank all of the volunteers and members of the Harpenden Trust in extending this key service to the residents of Harpenden.”

Four family-sized homes for social rent have been provided in Harpenden by St Albans City and District Council.

The three-bedroom properties were offered to people on the Council’s Housing Register who need larger accommodation.

Four two-bedroom Council houses, where the new tenants previously lived, are now available to people on the Register who have been waiting for a permanent home of their own.

The new semi-detached houses in Viking Close, off Noke Shot, were built in a little used garage site owned by the Council.

They have been equipped with several sustainable features to reduce harmful carbon emissions.

These include air source heat pumps instead of gas boilers, solar panels and electric vehicle charging points.

The homes have the Government’s top energy rating of A and are likely to produce only 0.8 tonnes of carbon emissions a year compared to the household average of 6 tonnes.

Bat and bird boxes were installed and 22 trees were planted on the site to further help improve the local environment.

This is in keeping with the Council’s goal of reducing emissions across the District to net zero by 2030.

Councillor Jacqui Taylor, Lead for Housing, and Councillor Paul De Kort, Lead for Resources, enjoyed a tour of the homes.

Cllr Taylor said: “One of our priorities as a Council is to provide more social housing in the District.

“The outstanding, high-quality homes we have delivered in Viking Close is a demonstration of that commitment.

“I am delighted that four growing households now have the homes they need while four other households on our Housing Register can move into the homes they have vacated.”

Cllr De Kort said: “These houses have been delivered by us despite the financial pressures that we are faced with in common with other local authorities.

“It is so important to provide new social housing in an area like Harpenden where house prices are extremely high and out of the reach of most people.

“As a Council, we have produced more than 70 social rent homes in the past ten years across the District on former garage sites.

“In doing so, we have also placed an emphasis on sustainability as the solar panels and air source heat pumps at Viking Close show.”

Pictures: top, Cllr Taylor, 4th from left,

and Cllr De Kort, 3rd from left, at

Viking Close with new tenants, from

the left, Mohammed Ahmed,

Hachemi Mansour and Parvaj Ahmed;

Right: Cllr Taylor with Cllr De Kort.



My wife and I were privileged to have a private viewing of the panels in February this year. They are incredibly beautiful and still in remarkable condition for their age.

A single image can change the face of History

Portrait imagery was the key aspect of the programme. Images whether painted or photographed could have an incredibly powerful influence on the population. Examples featuring Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, and Margaret Thatcher were used to demonstrate this power. Clever or deceptive dependent on your personal position.

Saving the Cottages for the Nation

The current owner, Ms Murphy, from Hertford, explained that she and business partner Alison Wright bought two adjoining cottages, which house the mural between them, specifically to find a way for the paintings to be brought into public ownership.

"The panels should be in the care of the nation - we are committed to finding a way of doing it."

"They are so rare that the paintings must be preserved for both present and future generations, as a sign of those past beliefs and turbulent times," he said.

"We have been pursuing this aim for a number of years and have now launched a public appeal as the only way to preserve them for posterity."

The owner added that if the money couldn't be raised, they would have to apply for a change of use to residential.

Hopefully Simon Schama’s programme will awaken the local Herts authorities to take action now.

Ron Taylor. Editor.

Hemel’s hidden treasure featured by Simon Schama on BBC TV’s ‘The Face of Britain’ Wed Sept 30

Simon Schama visited Piccott’s End Cottages to show an important aspect of the history of British portraiture, revealing some beautiful and compelling images that demonstrate their eternal power.

Defacing religious paintings

The cottages in Hemel were a resting place for Pilgrims on their journey from Ashridge to nearby St Albans Abbey in the 1530’s. The interior wall panels had been painted extensively with religious murals reflecting imagery of the Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Saints. Scenes include Jesus's baptism, St Catherine of Alexandria, St Peter and St Margaret. During the Reformation the faces of Jesus, Mary and the Saints were obliterated (defaced- see below) to make the images powerless in the sight of anyone who visited the cottages. At some time post Reformation the panels were covered by linen and NOT seen again until 1953.

If you like Brioche style bread then CHALLAH from Zuckermaus will be a new taste experience.

It’s made from enriched dough with sesame seeds and poppy seeds giving a light crust with a soft texture inside. Toast it and spread with butter for a taste sensation.(Challah is fixed in Jewish cuisine being eaten on ceremonial occasions and holidays)

The range of cakes from Zuckermaus Artisan Bakery is pretty amazing as you will have seen on earlier reports.

This  time it was another test for my taste buds.

Starting with Cinnamoned Apple cake. This had 2 layers of Bramley apples encased in a dairy free cake glazed with apricot jam.

Next to taste was Austrian Applestrudel. Homemade filo pastry, bramley apple slices marinated in cinnamon, sugar, flaked almonds and raisins. Warm it in the microwave and serve with custard or cream.

Finally and my favourite,  Linzer cake, named after a town in Upper Austria. Ground almond, cloves and cinnamon in the base with a layer of red currant jam, topped with a pattern and flaked almonds. Very like Bakewell tart.


Phone: 07766072772

Free deliveries in Harpenden, St Albans and surrounding villages

How do Banking Hubs operate?

A recent example shown

below give you an example

of what to expect in Harpenden.


Cottingham will be only the fourth branch to open ( Dec. 9) in the UK after the opening of a hub in Brixham in Devon earlier in November.

The new hub is a face-to-face facility that will allow customers to access their account, deposit cash and cheques, pay bills and make withdrawals.

Photo below.

A counter service will be operated by staff from the Post Office, whilst selected banks will also provide community banking advisors, initially from five banks, on rotation to offer specialist advice and handle more complex enquiries on a drop in or appointment basis.

The schedule for community bankers is listed below and is based on local market share to reflect the needs of customers within the hub catchment area with each firm paying towards the hub’s running costs.:

Monday - NatWest Tuesday - to be confirmed  Wednesday - Lloyds

Thursday - Santander  Friday - Barclays

April 11. A retired Bank Manager from Harpenden asks questions about a Banking Hub in Harpenden.

What is it we want and why?

The hub bandwagon is picking up pace, the answer to the last bank closing in a town!  We need to look at the banking situation to-day, not fond memories of yesteryear, technology and society have moved on. Before joining the “yes” crowd I have a few questions:-

What services does a hub offer, full cashier service, cheque & cash, either depositing or withdrawing?

Will it open 1 day a week only for each bank included in the hub, as I believe happens?

Will a cashpoint machine be available for all bank customers, with no charge, and operate outside banking hours?

What about answering other banking questions, will a senior clerk be available?

Who will benefit from a hub, as we move to a cashless society, with card payments and direct payments available?

Finally how busy are the existing hubs already set up, what is the footfall?

Please let me know, at least some of the answers, to enable me to come to a meaningful conclusion.

Retired Bank Manager.

April 13. Derek French’s response to the retired Bank Manager  about BANKING HUBS

Harpendia's description of the Brixham and Cottingham Banking Hubs answers most of "Retired Bank Manager's" questions but as an acknowledged expert I can address some of the others.

In the larger towns over 15000 population, Harpenden at 31000 and with village hinterland 43000, is clearly in that bracket, demand for counter services is too much for a post office shop but not enough to justify 6 individually branded branch banks remaining open at significant cost. Whatever our age and digital familiarity we all have from time to time a banking administrative issue that is best dealt with face to face with someone qualified from our own bank and a full Banking Hub as described provides for both of these need types. 

The footfall and usage of both types of service in the existing Banking Hubs is more than sufficient to justify the presence which meets demand from all age segments as identified in the Accenture research reported on the Express's front page on Easter Monday. Improvements to the Hub's offering are being reviewed in the light of usage experience and for example provision of an external ATM is being discussed. The first Hubs are managed by Post Office Limited - quite separate to a franchised post office shop like WH Smith in Harpenden - but only because initially the only potential provider with a system that links all banks for deposits and has its own cash infrastructure is the Post Office: that may  change in the future. 

Harpenden Town Council's  very good application has gone in but the present voluntary scheme, introduced to pre-empt legislation, dictates no Banking Hub will be considered until the last bank in town announces closure which Barclays have yet to do and even the presence of Nationwide Building Society, despite its absence of provision for local businesses and other organisations, could pose a block on a full service Banking Hub being provided. The legislation, now nearing the end of its parliamentary process, still lacks the essential "in-person" line although our MP and others are apparently pressing for this to be included. 

The art of pottery making can be such a joy.

by Ron Taylor (Editor)

Did you know there’s a Pop Up Pottery every

Wednesday in Harpenden.

A permanent studio with kiln, clay making and

paints - all the elements to enable you to

discover your creativity whilst making friends

with other potters of all levels.

AND be guided by Trevor Withers (right) and

Gill Winsley who run the studio with a group

of helpers on behalf of the Network Church.

You’ll learn how to mix the clay, shape it on

the pottery wheels, or build things by hand

as well as decorating your finished item, and

so completing your very own work of art.

The Pottery is open from 4 - 6pm (primarily for Families and 7- 9 pm for adults.

You will need to book an appointment to ensure availability.

I called in recently and was most impressed with the set up watching a mixture of ‘potters’ at work on various stages of their creations.

Some people participate for the sheer joy of working with clay and glazes, others for the therapy it brings by being involved in a creative process and mixing with other like minded individuals.

Course leader Trevor Withers is a pastor of the Network Church which believes in a creative God, who made people in His image, therefore to also be creative. In many people that spark has been buried and extinguished by the weight of life. ‘We'd love to help you find it again!’ said Trevor.

The Pottery is set in the grounds of YWAM at the Oval so is easy to find and there’s plenty of free parking. Please contact to book a space.

The Harpenden Trust have given their support, which has enabled the purchase of new wheels and other equipment.

Trevor Withers has written some thoughts here about creativity and theology, You can also download or view the following information in their Values Booklet PDF (English)

August 1st 

Why Harpenden should open a smoothie bar.

by Charlotte Bateman

Last week I met up with a friend at Gail's in Harpenden, and it got me thinking about what our local cafe scene is missing. Now, I adore a Gail's. Their crusty sourdough is the best I've tried and I can never resist one of their muffins bursting with juicy blueberries, or indeed their devilishly gooey flourless chocolate cake. Where I struggle in Gail's, and Harpenden cafes in general, is what to drink.

You're probably thinking, that's ridiculous; we've got baristas coming out our ears for God's sake. Well, I don't drink coffee. I will occasionally force myself to drink green tea for the antioxidants, but I cannot stomach a cup of milky dishwater aka English Breakfast. And while I do enjoy a hot chocolate, it simply doesn't quench my thirst during the summer months.

What I look for to compliment my sweet treat is a smoothie. Not a bottled one, hidden away in some fridge with the Sanpellegrinos. I want fresh, vibrant fruit and vegetables, whizzed up in a blender and dispensed into a domed takeaway cup. Like at Joe & The Juice. This Danish juice bar chain which serves up nutritious smoothies, shakes and toasties, now has 338 locations across the world. They even opened one in St Albans last October.

Given its close proximity to Harpenden, I'm not suggesting we need a Joe & The Juice as well. Plus, I'm not sure the loud, pumping music that has become synonymous with this chain, would appeal to all customers. But a juice bar of some sort could be very popular in my opinion. We love our health and well-being services here in Harpenden, whether it be Chilli Pilates, Aldwickbury Park golf course, the leisure centre, the smaller PT gyms like Marchons, the beautiful green spaces and walks... And it's not as if we haven't dipped our toe into the smoothie pool before. Many of you will remember The Blueberry Cafe which was part of the independent wellness spa Breathing Space. It served the most amazing fresh smoothies with my personal favourite being the Green Reviver. They also had a delicious lunch menu, featuring salads (that actually tasted good) and protein packed wraps such as the chicken, bacon and avocado wrap filled with creme fraiche and pine nuts. Unfortunately, after 15 years trading, Breathing Space and The Blueberry Cafe shut their doors in 2017. This always came as a surprise to me because whenever I went for a treatment or for a smoothie, the place was heaving with customers.

Despite its closure, I believe a cafe similar to The Blueberry would stand out on Harpenden's high street. There are so many coffee shops now. And if you fancy a chilled beverage and are willing to fork out £7 for a SMALL milk shake, there is of course Shaking Cow.

When it comes to nutritional value however, our cafe scene is seriously deficient which is why Harpenden should open a smoothie bar.


August, Local journalist Charlotte Bateman investigates Fashion Shops in Harpenden

September, Local journalist Charlotte Bateman investigates Charity Shops in Harpenden