I took my Dad to the giant Van Hage Garden Centre just off the A10 at Ware. He wanted to go back for the first time in 30 years, and revisit some of the attractive Hertfordshire villages he used to drive through when delivering to the old Spitalfields. Visiting garden centres is somewhere below cutting lawns on my list of fun stuff, but at least it keeps him out the house.
Older people seem strangely drawn to these places, and they clearly take a lot of casual shoppers out of town centres like Ware and Hertford. Van Hage is more a theme park than a place to buy plants.
Amongst it’s “attractions” are a skate rink, mini railway and a zoo specialisising in fat animals. Friendly meerkats were sunbathing. The car park was virtually full on a mid-November school day. Wait till Santa arrives next week.
Another octagenerian started talking to us. They tend to do that, even in the South. She has a card which gives her free coffee every day, which sound a bargain until you see the price of a piece of cake.
I asked the bargain-hunting lady if she’d been to the newish Wetherspoons in Hertford where she lived. Her animation indicated this was clearly a big thing for the County town.
North Hertfordshire in general has been slow off the mark in getting Spoons into the smaller market towns. Ware is an attractive little town, with a captive audience for a Spoons when it finally arrives.
My Dad rarely goes in pubs, but would actively seek out a Spoons for food. He’s never heard of Marstons, or Punch, or Chef & Brewer, and was surprised that the Spoons estate is so small relative to the big league.
Tim Martin has created brand recognition and loyalty most big firms would pay a fortune for.