BISHOP’S STORTFORD is a wealthy little market town surrounded by pretty villages. Aircraft coming in and out of Stansted Airport fly around it to avoid causing any distress to those who live here. It has a good shopping centre, with a newly extended mall and branches of Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. A market is held on most Thursdays along the twisting main street. The town buzzes with activities, including both operatic and amateur dramatic societies. The H20 nightclub and a couple of wine bars cater for ravers.
The older, more attractive buildings are in North Street, Windhill and the Old High Street. It is possible to buy a two-bedroom house in Bishop’s Stortford for as little as £190,000, but a three-bedroom semi would take you to £260,000 and you should expect to pay £370,000 for a four-bedroom detached. A new two-bedroom apartment in the heart of town would cost around £200,000. The better side of town is the north-west corner where Stortford College, the private boys’ school, is situated, and the houses are large and secluded. Prices here range between £585,000 and £825,000. There is an equestrian centre at Hallingbury Hall, Little Hallingbury. A substantial country house with nine bedrooms and land on the edge of town might cost £1.7m.
To the west, on the Hertfordshire-Essex borders, are the Hadhams. Much Hadham is probably the smartest village in the area. Its fashionable status derives from the fact that the Bishop of London once took up residence here, and subsequent bishops kept the palace going for centuries. It has a charming mix of Elizabethan cottages, 18th-century townhouses and Victorian almshouses, and the blacksmith’s forge has become part of a crafts museum. As in any village, the sizes and prices of the houses span a wide range. The 18th-century four-bedroom town houses with walled gardens can be bought for £670,000. A five-bedroom barn conversion at Little Hadham would cost £750,000.
Further north are the Pelhams. Stocking Pelham is a particularly pretty village where a good country house with three acres could easily reach £1.2m.
To the south-east is Hatfield Broad Oak, built on the edge of Hatfield Forest – more than 1,000 acres of National Trust woodland donated by the Puckeridge and Essex hunts. It is a handsome village full of Georgian buildings. There is some post-war development south and east of the High Street. Hatfield Broad Oak has a post-office-cum-general store, a butcher, beauty salon and florist. The influx of commuters and working wives who are out of the village during the day, and so shop elsewhere, is making life difficult for the shopkeepers. Barrington Hall, a grand country house set in parkland, is now the office of a perfume company. You do get the occasional stray aircraft overhead, but for the most part they disturb other villages such as Great Hallingbury.