‘Still think we’re ugly!?’ Angry photographer dedicates nearly two years to disproving Hemel’s ‘Ugliest Town in Britain’ title

Above: Natural beauty: A walled garden in Gadebridge Park and the Kodak Tower by Lynda Sargant (inset, below)
Above: Natural beauty: A walled garden in Gadebridge Park and the Kodak Tower by Lynda Sargant (inset, below)

A photographer who was outraged when Hemel Hempstead was named Britain’s ‘Ugliest Town’ last year has dedicated her time to a project proving it is anything but.

Lynda Sargant, 47, who runs her own business – lyndasphotography – was actually in the middle of a personal project to show off Hemel’s ‘beauty and character’ when the town received its unwelcome moniker after a survey by Crap Towns last August.

The story was picked up by the national media, putting Hemel on the map for all the wrong reasons.

When Lynda heard the news she said it gave her an even greater incentive to use her photos to show how

attractive the town really is.

Now, after dedicating a combined two years to the project, the result is being displayed in her exhibition – A Photographic Story of Hemel Hempstead – which started yesterday (Tuesday).

The showcase runs in the café area of the Old Town Hall until Christmas Eve and is open from 10.30am until 5.30pm.

Lynda still feels aggrieved about the survey and says it was totally unjust.

She said: “When I saw that it was on the BBC and in the national papers, but that the number of votes was less than 3,000, I felt it was a very unfair reflection on a town that has much beauty and it was unfair of the national papers to report it as being such.

“I was glad that I had already made arrangements with the Old Town Hall to put on this exhibition so that I could give a fairer representation of this town.”

And Lynda says she did not have to look too hard to find areas of beauty and character to capture.

“To start with I would look for whatever would catch my eye while I was out walking,” she said.

“I then started to focus on places that have been key and important in the growth of Hemel, such as the Old Town, the paper industry, the Kodak Tower and the Grand Union Canal, and also the beautiful countryside in Boxmoor and Gadebridge.

“It was very difficult to select which photographs to

include in the exhibition out of the hundreds taken, I eventually chose 28 to go up, but have included many more on my website where there isn’t the same restriction on space .”

Lynda is urging residents to take a look at the exhibition.

She said: “Ask yourself do you really think Hemel is ugly?

“I would urge people to come along, look at the delights of the town over a cup of coffee and decide for yourself whether the polls got it wrong.

“I hope that, as people look at the photos around the room, they will see glimpses of Hemel that you have maybe never stopped to consider before.”

The snapper hopes her work will help change people’s opinions of the town and likens it to people’s perceptions of ... Albania.

She said: “I hear people talk about Hemel with disdain rather than with pride.

“I’ve had experience of this before as I lived in Albania for five years and, though being an incredibly beautiful country, most people would speak negatively about it.

“It was while in Albania that I picked up photography, and when I showed my photos to friends, they all commented on how amazing the place was.

“Even my Albanian friends remarked on how good their country looked in my photos. I hope that this exhibition will have a similar effect, that people will look at the photos and gain a new perspective on this town and see that it has so much to offer and enjoy.”

You can see hundreds of photos from the project online