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

World Naked Bike Ride – London

What experiences are still on your “things to do” list? Ever wanted to cycle naked? Ever wanted to cycle naked around London? Ever wanted to cycle naked around London with lots of other naked people in front of thousands of tourists? Well on Saturday 10th June you have that chance as the ‘World Naked Bike Ride’ rolls into town!

I first heard about the naked bike ride when I arrived at King’s Cross station with the intention of meeting my travel blogger friend Sarah near Oxford Street. A tall chap outside the station entrance asked if I was here for the “naked bike ride”. Intrigued I said “yes” and proceeded to cycle up King’s Boulevard to Granary Square to see what was going on.

Some people were semi-naked while others covered up all their bits

Some people were semi-naked while others covered up all their bits

What was going on was hordes of cyclists congregating and one-by-one getting naked! Some reluctantly at first but others with gusto, revealing body paint, slogans and generally a lot of bare flesh. Certain faces and “bits” starred out in the photos below to protect peoples’ modesty.

Not wanting to look too interested in partaking I hung back, while not wanting to look too interested either, i.e. a pervert. However an organiser was keen to shepherd people into position so before I knew it I was stripped down down to my black Calvin Klein boxers (I stripped myself down and wasn’t aided in this process) and I was part of the gathered procession.

Unbeknown to me at the time my friend was just 50m ahead and had actually planned to take part. I only found he was there too later that week. So there I was, on my 1980s childhood BMX cycling along with lots and lots of naked people!

A light traffic jam as we head towards Piccadilly

A light traffic jam as we head towards Piccadilly

I’d arrived at King’s Cross alone so didn’t feel overly conspicuous but groups of mixed sex friends seemed slightly awkward, especially the groups you knew were doing his for the first time together.

Not everyone was naked I might add. Some were in their underwear, some were topless, and of course many were completely starkers. Bizarrely those who wore full underwear or bikinis looked more out of place and noticeable than everybody else. A case of naked safety in numbers I guess!

Naked bike ride London ambling along

Naked bike ride London ambling along

What lead to many cheers enroute was normal, clothed cyclists going about their business simply stopping, stripping and joining in with the ride! One student I met at Russell Square was early for a lunch appointment, asked me what was going on, and then promptly got me to hold her bike while she de-robed and then took part for half an hour or so. I wonder if she ever did tell her friends what she’d just been doing when she arrived at the restaurant?

Lots of people were fully naked

Lots of people were fully naked

I cycled all the way to County Hall by the London Eye before finally whipping off my boxers and … and nobody battered an eyelid! Although it wasn’t the warmest of days might I add! 😉 But it really was the case that being naked felt pretty normal within the gathered masses … and that’s the reason all these people were there in the first place … as well as supporting the ride’s cause against our dependency on oil of course.

Only when riding near Piccadilly did I feel a bit exposed and that was when a bus pulled out separating me from the pack and I became the “lead” lone cyclist as I reached a big group of tourists with no one else to share their initial gazing eyes. But as you’re cycling along at a certain pace any gawping group of bystanders are soon passed by.

You actually stood out more if you weren't naked!

You actually stood out more if you weren’t naked!

Any tips?

  • Take a backpack to put your clothes in
  • Maybe wear sunglasses to hide behind
  • Hope for a warm day!
  • Be weary of hiring ‘Boris Bikes’ the next day as many naked people were hiring them!
  • Ultimately just go for it!

What’s the worse that could happen? … other than possibly meeting a work colleague or a friend casually walking along the pavement enroute.

Anybody taking part this year? If so also check out the WNBR London Facebook page 🙂

There were lots of pauses along the way

There were lots of pauses along the way