Greene’s Berkhamsted


One of the highlights of the  Graham Greene International Festival is usually the first event on the busy schedule. It takes two forms and the organisers tend to alternate year on year. ‘Graham Greene’s Common’ requires those who take part to be normally physically active as it consists of a three mile guided walk through the countryside bordering Berkhamsted which was very familiar to the author in his youth. The other option is the somewhat less arduous ‘Town Walk’ through Berkhamsted itself. Both are illustrated at intervals by readings from Greene: from his novels set in Berkhamsted such as The Human Factor and The Captain and the Enemy and his autobiography A Sort of Life. The walks are led by Brian Shepherd who has used his considerable local knowledge to devise these fascinating tours.

Berkhamsted Town Council has now incorporated details of the ‘Common’ walk on the ‘Town Guide’ page of its website. To access it, please follow this link:

If you are unable to visit Berkhamsted in person you can still listen to the commentary which was recorded by none other than David Pearce, one of the founder members of The Graham Greene Birthplace Trust. There is also a downloadable text of the commentary which includes some of Greene’s own writings about the place he grew up in and which featured in many of his works.


If you are visiting Berkhamsted itself you may simply want to follow the Graham Greene Trail which takes you through the town Greene knew so well. You can use the link below to download a map of the Trail, which has been specially prepared by Sylvia Hall, Bill Willett (Cartography) and Jenny Thomas (Illustration).

Graham Greene was born in the town in 1904 and lived there until he went to Balliol College, Oxford, in 1922. The map marks the main places in the centre of Berkhamsted with which he was associated and around which settings were created in several of his works, particularly The Human Factor and The Captain and the Enemy and the short stories The Innocent, and Doctor Crombie – although the town was sometimes given a different name.

Those who would venture beyond the town will find the beautiful countryside of Berkhamsted Common, Ashridge and Ivinghoe, for which Greene says he ‘began to develop a love…which never left [him]’ (A Sort of Life).

Click here to download the map as a PDF file