HERTFORDSHIRE: St Albans

The Straw House LRL R Peter Rabbit Heidi Henry and Harriett Saunders LR
L to R: The Straw House, St Albans. Peter Rabbit with Heidi, Henry and Harriett Saunders at Willows Activity Farm
 
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By Tim Saunders
 
Verulamium was a Roman town in the city of St Albans in Hertfordshire.
We discover this during a two-night stay at The Straw House in Spicer Street in the historic cathedral quarter.
“Warner Bros has built studios quite nearby,” reveals owner Pamela, adding that Britain has the best lighting engineers but other talent has to be flown in. “Which means we get lots of stuntmen from Germany and elsewhere staying here.”
After checking into the former straw hat factory with its tall ceilings and luxurious furnishings, we relax over a pot of tea and then make our way to the Norman cathedral over the road. We savour the atmosphere and then the children demand that we get back outside and explore the park. They have brought their little bottles of juice, part of the welcome pack in the apartment, and enjoy stopping every couple of minutes for sips. In time we pass Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, built as a medieval pigeon house in 1400, which claims to be the oldest pub in England. 
Walking through the park we come across parts of the old town walls built in AD 265 to 270. It’s remarkable how they’ve survived. Just up from here we find Roman mosaics. The children need to let off steam and there’s a splendid park.
Back at our apartment in The Straw House we hastily rustle up dinner and get the rascals to bed. The apartment is set over two levels with the kitchen/diner/sitting area on the ground floor and the bedrooms upstairs accessed via a spiral staircase. There’s a shower and toilet downstairs and a luxurious bathroom and shower upstairs. The children enjoy their baths and using the luxury soaps, shower gels and lotions. After finally getting the tinkers off to sleep Caroline and I relax. Of course the luxurious welcome pack that Pamela has kindly provided has already been well and truly ravaged by Harriett (7), Heidi (5) and Henry (2) who thoroughly enjoyed the Corkers crisps and the rose and pistachio chocolate. I did get chance to see that many of the products had been locally sourced. We enjoy the chilled wine and the wholemeal bread made at Redbournbury Watermill & Bakery just up the road.
Next morning we’re up bright and early to make the most of our day at Willows Activity Farm, 15 minutes away by car. All rides are included within the price of the ticket so no unwelcome surprises for the adults. A children’s paradise where they meet Peter Rabbit, Mr Tod and Squirrel Nutkin from the famous Beatrix Potter books. We visit Tiggy-Winkle’s kitchen where Henry plays with the range. Mr McGregor’s shed and garden keep them amused and we all enjoy watching Peter Rabbit on stage. Our three urchins enjoy handling the guinea pigs and playing on the JCB tractors. Caroline and I have a little rest during our ride on Tristan the runaway tractor. “We particularly liked mining for gold where the children each had to find eight pieces to qualify for a medal,” says Caroline. The water squirters are fun, too. My favourite was the goat racing and it was a shame that Billy no mates came last.
The following day there’s just enough time to stroll around the city and then head for The Odyssey cinema, 15 minutes walk away. It’s a beautifully restored art deco building where we watch The Incredibles 2.
We also visit Shaw’s Corner, playwright George Bernard Shaw’s home on the outskirts of St Albans. I can see how this idyllic location is inspirational.
Disappointingly, we don’t have time to visit the new multi million pound museum and gallery but it’s already on our list for next time.
 
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