AUDLEY END There is little more at Audley End than the station itself. The town it serves is Saffron Walden. It has a handsome market place with narrow medieval rows running off it, small specialist shops, a Waitrose and a branch of Eaden Lilley department store. It is a stronghold of conservationists who want to protect the charming streets of timber-frame houses. The huge common, once used for grazing cattle and medieval tournaments, now serves as a fairground and recreation area. Its most puzzling feature is a rare turf maze – archaeologists still don’t understand its purpose. Friends co-educational private school is a draw for many of the families who come to live here. There are quite a few inexpensive modern estates. A one-bedroom flat will cost around £90,000; a five-bedroom semi up to £380,000. The town can be rather touristy in summer.
The villages nearby are beyond the reach of most local young couples. At Wendens Ambo a five-bedroom barn conversion with landscaped gardens would cost around £775,000. The lane to the church has some particularly appealing cottages. Nearby Littlebury is also expensive, with a good collection of lath-and-plaster cottages beside the miniature River Cam, near the site of an Iron Age camp. A refurbished end-of-terrace cottage will cost £200,000; a Grade II listed brick barn conversion would be likely to fetch £570,000.
On the east side of Audley End is Wimbish – little more than a smattering of houses through the lanes. The presence of an army barracks pulls the prices down. Hempstead, Dick Turpin’s birthplace, is very popular, though the road to it is winding and slow. Finchingfield is much photographed because of the beautiful juxtaposition of church, pond and cottages, not to mention its windmill and Elizabethan big house. A four-bedroom period house with a garden could be bought for around £475,000.