16/08/2013 06:09 BST | Updated 15/10/2013 06:12 BST

Hemel Hempstead - Seeing the Beauty in the Beast

This morning as I raced along in my mini, I was forlorn to hear on the radio that my beloved Hemel Hempstead was announced 'the UK's Ugliest Town'


Imagine if your kindest and dearest girlfriend was being termed 'ugly' and belittled by the world, wouldn't you rush to her defence? I felt the same.

You see for the last 12 years Hemel Hempstead has been my home, but more than that she holds great memories and friends.

Hemel might not be conventionally beautiful, but she is interesting, quirky and fun to be around. Before living in Hemel Hempstead I lived in Middlesex, which is really London, where I never got to know my neighbours, and was very used to the polluted air and the constant background noise. I know, all of London is not the same, but I am sharing my experience.

In contrast, when I moved to Hemel, all the neighbours said hello instead of the usual avoiding eye contact that I was used to. I was pregnant and one neighbour even came around especially to give me her phone number in case I went into labour and my husband wasn't at home.

My view changed from a landscape of concrete and a postcard sized garden to lush greenery and rolling hills. I travel into London a few days a week and always notice the difference in the quality of the air, friendliness and noise levels.

When I frequented the local church, it was small enough that the priest got to know my family and me. Rather than being a faceless person in the congregation, as I had been in other parishes.

The town centre in Hemel Hempstead has recently had a makeover, but this doesn't matter, because it's what underneath that has always counted.


Hemel does have beauty; it just may be not the traditional Angelina Jolie kind. With her crazy magic roundabout and winding canals, Hemel has the unconventional beauty of Lady Gaga, not everyone gets it, but those who do are fans for life.

I am Jenny Garrett, Executive Coach, founder of Reflexion Associates, a leadership and coaching consultancy and author or Rocking Your Role - the how to guide to success for female breadwinners. Find out more about me, my programmes, speaking engagements and training at