Lavender fields and sunflowers in Hitchin

You don’t have to go to Provence in France to see beautiful lavender fields. There are many dotted around the UK and one just happens to be 35 miles north of London outside the small market town of Hitchin (‘The Travel Bunny’ has a full list of English Lavender fields on her blog). The very end of July/start of August is the perfect time to visit but be quick as the season is a short one and you don’t want to miss out! Hitchin Lavender’s flowering season is between mid-June to the end of August.

Hitchin sunflowers, lavender and wigwam in the background

Hitchin sunflowers, lavender and wigwam in the background

The lavender fields in Hitchin are set on a rolling, south facing hill with lovely views across the Hertfordshire countryside as you look down from the top. They have sunflowers on the eastern side of the complex too which right now happen to be in full bloom and are a lovely, complimentary addition to the dozens of rows of various types of lavender.

A trio of Hitchin sunflowers

A trio of Hitchin sunflowers

A sunflower poking up above all the others

A sunflower poking up above all the others

With the Hitchin Lavender fields you simply park up and pay your entrance into the field which is £5 per adult, with children between the ages of 5-14 being £1. Anyone under 5 gets in for free. Adults get given an A4 sized paper bag and a pair of scissors to pick the lavender, wildflowers and the sunflowers (sunflowers are 50p a stem). Any extra bags you’d like for children or if you fancy a whole load of lavender is another £4. Simply pay in the farm shop, in the museum, or up on the main field itself.

Down among the lavender

Down among the lavender

But it’s not just for people wanting to pick lavender. Entrance permits you to “Instagram” and photograph away until your heart’s content, although portrait shooters and commercial photographers are charged a £50 fee. In fact when I was there it was a 50:50 split between photographers and lavender pickers.

A cute little family photoshoot

A cute little family photoshoot

I visited on a Tuesday evening as I wanted to take my shots in the setting sun but it’s also open late on Friday’s until 21:00 too. I wasn’t alone in my thinking when I visited but the lavender field covers a large area so there’s plenty of room for everybody.

When I arrived there was an Indian film crew, two “brides” doing magazine covershoots and at least 3 families with small children with their accompanying professional photographers. It was as much fun watching them as it was taking photos myself. It seems that Hitchin Lavender is becoming a nice addition to the tourist trail for visitors to London who want to see and appreciate a bit of the green English countryside.

Hitchin lavender visitors to the UK

Hitchin lavender visitors to the UK

Before I even got to the main field we stumbled across a group having a yoga lesson as well! I can’t think of a better place to have one, and this particular location has both a large wigwam and outhouse building for various outdoorsy arts and crafts activities too.

Hitchin lavender yoga at the base of the hill

Hitchin lavender yoga at the base of the hill

Lots of people were either taking arty shots looking down along the rows of lavender, taking close-ups of the bees, snapping photos of other people or simply enjoying wandering up and down with the lavender brushing against their shins. I took the majority of my shots amongst the sunflowers, many of which seemed to be facing the “wrong way”, lagging slightly behind the sun as it swept slowly across the field, but the odd one was bathing directly in the evening sunshine, making for some beautifully saturated yellow colours.

A clever sunflower facing into the setting sun

A clever sunflower facing into the setting sun

Hitchin sunflowers and a sunburst

Hitchin sunflowers and a sunburst

As the evening drew to a close the sun began to set behind a hazy bank of clouds so I wasn’t able to take any sunburst photos but here’s the one I took the year before that happened to win their annual photo competition … and it was simply taken on an iPhone 6 so nothing fancy.

My competition winning Hitchin lavender photo

My competition winning Hitchin lavender photo

I didn’t buy anything from the café/shop this time round but did take a look to see that there’s an array of food to choose from, comfy chairs to sit on (both inside and out) plants to buy and a whole assortment of different lavender products to purchase, ranging from candles, to bath salts and body oils. A new addition is a little museum that explains some of the facts and figures, and history of lavender farming in the region.

The Hitchin lavender cafe and shop

The Hitchin lavender cafe and shop

As the evening drew to a close I nothed that I’d taken over 50 photos so I put away my camera, filled up my paper bag with lavender and then walked back down a 150m aisle of lavender, arms out wide touching the tops of the lavender as the sides brushed against my legs. The bees seemed to be far too full on nectar to be remotely interested in what I was doing. You return the scissors back near the entrance and then that’s the lavender fields visited for another year, although with a few weeks to go I might well go back before the Summer’s over.

Who wants to visit? 🙂

A bee enjoying the sunflowers

A bee enjoying the sunflowers

Hitchin lavender from the top of the hill

Hitchin lavender from the top of the hill

See a model village in a model village in a model village!

Who doesn’t like a good model village? But what about standing next to your hotel room in a model village. Or better still seeing a model village in a model village in a model village in a village. If you head to the model village in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds that’s exactly what you can do.

Standing next to our dormer window hotel room of the model Dial House Hotel

Standing next to our dormer window hotel room of the model Dial House Hotel

This particular model village doesn’t contain the global wonders of the world, all in one convenient spot. So don’t expect to see Big Ben next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge or a waist high version of Paris’ Eiffel Tower. No instead this model village … is of the actual village that you’re actually in!

We headed to Bourton-on-the-Water as part of a romantic break in The Cotswolds which also included horse riding, duck racing (watching – not riding), cream tea eating, “pottering”, but best of all visiting the model village. In fact it was so good I went twice in the same day!! The model village is a 1/9 replica of Bourton-on-the-Water built in local Cotswolds stone, was opened in 1937 and is the only grade 2 listed model village in the country.

The model River Windrush

The model River Windrush

It’s a very twee thing to visit but equally quite wonderful, and the perfect thing to do on a Summer’s afternoon in the British countryside. There’s even the River Windrush running through the village with this shot above showing off the effort they’ve made to get the bushes to look like trees that would be 9x bigger in real life! So apart from soaking up the painstaking attention to details what fun things can you do when you’re in there?

Take some low shots to re-inact actually being at ground level. Find your hotel and then get your girlfriend to stand next to your room so she looks like a giant. Then try to capture the exact same shot in real life later that afternoon with your friend/boyfriend/girlfriend in the same spot. We stayed at the delightful Dial House Hotel which commands one of the best spaces in the village, is neatly set back off the road with copious grounds behind it. Our room was up in the roof overlooking the river and here’s our model/real shot that we tried to line up as best we could.

The view of the model Dial House Hotel and real Dial House Hotel

The view of the ‘model’ Dial House Hotel and ‘real’ Dial House Hotel

 

The view of the 'model' Croft Restaurant and 'real' Croft Restaurant

The view of the ‘model’ Croft Restaurant and ‘real’ Croft Restaurant

Get down low on the floor and take pictures your friends might think are ‘real’ shots when they are not. So here’s the Bourton-on-the-Water Post Office in the main High Street. On busy days there are always going to be people in the background so these guys in the background kind of give the game away 🙂

The model or maybe the real Bourton-on-the-Water post office

The model or maybe the real Bourton-on-the-Water post office?

If you want to blow your mind away go to the part of the exhibition next to the exit as that’s where you get to see a model village in a model village in a model village in the village. The smallest of the model villages gets a bit unrecognisable but it makes you think how much smaller they could actually go!

The model village in the model village in the model village in the village

The model village in the model village in the model village in the village

It was the perfect way to while away an hour and more information can be found on their webite at http://www.themodelvillage.com/