HARPENDEN is, if such a thing is possible, even smarter than St Albans. It has two cricket clubs, a leisure centre and an indoor swimming pool. The local amateur dramatics society and Harpenden Operatic Group regularly entertain at the civic hall. There is a Sainsbury’s, and plenty of boutiques, gifts and speciality shops. The green runs right through the centre of the village, providing a perfect spot to sit and watch the world go by in summer. Schools for all age ranges – both private and state-run – have a particularly high reputation.
Some of the most desirable properties are those close to the two golf courses or to the East and West Commons, although The Avenues have almost overtaken them now with the added attraction being that the walk to the station takes only ten minutes. A four- to six-bedroom detached house in The Avenues now tops £2.5m. East Common has its own golf course; West Common is more purely residential. In the area of the Commons you could pay £275,000 for a two-bedroom terrace; up to £1m for a large family house. Properties span various architectural periods from Tudor right through to the present day, and many of them have large gardens with the occasional tennis court and swimming pool. Those with shallower pockets could find a three-bedroom home away from the Commons at around £400,000.
There are some pretty villages within reach, any of which might have been lifted straight from the pages of Country Life. Redbourn, five miles away, is centred around a classic common and picture-book High Street. It is the site of Hertfordshire’s first recorded cricket match in 1666. Small shops and a post office provide for day-to-day needs, and there is an infant and junior school. However, it lies too close to the M1 for its own good and the roar of traffic can be heard. A four-bedroom cottage with half an acre will cost £530,000, while a five-bedroom house in two acres will cost £750,000. Hunt through the jumble of older cottages in the High Street to find something smaller and cheaper.
Kimpton, to the north-east, also has an attractive High Street with small shops, and there are good walks nearby in Gustard Wood. Commuters rub shoulders with long-established locals. Prices are slightly lower than in nearby Wheathampstead. There are plenty of terraced cottages but a modern four-bedroom house will cost £450,000. There is a village infant and junior school.
Flamstead, due west, is popular for its conservation area charm and active village social life. A thick blanket of green belt gives it a very rural atmosphere, and in the Flamstead Society it has an influential local history group. The village holds an annual charity Scarecrow Festival in August which creates an outlet for creative and artistic talent. Many of the older-established residents are allotment holders, and the garden show is an important annual event. For the amusement of the young there is a football ground and tennis courts, Brownies and Guides. The village has a general store with a post office, a playgroup and junior school, and there are two old pubs which attract customers from miles around. The cottages are a picturesque mix of brick and flint. A two-bedroom example will cost around £240,000-plus; a larger 17th-century three-bedroom house £300,000-plus.