Area Guide: The affluent Hertfordshire town of Harpenden
Herts Ad Property team
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
With its outstanding schools, fast rail link into the capital and sought after semi-rural setting, Harpenden is a popular place to be — particularly among wealthy London commuters.
Lockdown has only increased the town's appeal to this demographic, and estate agent Ken Whittaker, of Whittaker & Co in Harpenden, says the drive from London has been "ever greater than before" of late. "Who wants a ground floor flat in Clapham with no garden now? No one."
Harpenden is one of the most expensive places to live in the UK, with the average second-hand sale price in the town last year coming in at a hefty £845,569, according to Savills data.
This has done nothing to deter movers, with Nick Ingle of Savills' Harpenden office saying the market is the busiest he’s ever seen it. “The most recent restrictions have done little to slow the pace of the market and there continues to be phenomenal demand.
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“New sales agreed remain well above the pre-pandemic norm, while the same is true of mortgage approvals. The speed at which sales have been agreed has also been extraordinary. From launching a property, arranging viewings, receiving an offer and agreeing a sale – in many cases this is happening all within the space of a week."
Ken Whittaker agrees, crediting "lack of supply and enormous demand" with Harpenden's popularity among movers, due in part to COVID shining a spotlight on the shortcomings of people's homes.
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"I think a perfect storm has brewed," he says. "Home schooling, mum and dad working from home, the need for more space, a bigger garden or a home office. Never has the home been so important."
Properties currently for sale in Harpenden include a £5m pile set in 4.5 acres on Bower Heath Lane and, at the more affordable end of the market, a one-bed ground floor flat on Beeching Close for £220,000.
Harpenden is ideally placed for commuting; it's seven miles from Luton Airport and London St Pancras is just under half an hour away by train. The M1, A1(M) and M25 are also close at hand.
Its excellent state schools are one of Harpenden's main selling points — and while the town is blessed with countless great primaries, it's the secondary schools that really draw the punters in.
Sir John Lawes, St George's and Roundwood Park are all ranked 'outstanding' by Ofsted, and St George's was also named as the Sunday Times 'Comprehensive School of the Year' 2019.
Newcomer Katherine Warington School opened its doors in September 2019 in response to the demand for more local secondary school places.
For residents seeking a private alternative, there are several options. St Hilda's is for girls aged four to 11 (though its nursery also admits boys), Aldwickbury is a prep school for boys, and The King's School, with its strong Christian ethos, teaches boys and girls from age four to 16.
Shopping and eating out
The leafy, quintessentially English high street is bursting with shops and eateries. As well as three well-stocked supermarkets there are lots of quirky, independently owned venues, offering a variety of fare from Thai to tapas.
Bar Azita's Mediterranean grill is popular with locals, while the Harpenden Arms draws the crowds with its fine food and wine.
The White Horse at Hatching Green and The Fox on the northern edge of town are two more examples of the great British gastropub experience.
Courtyard dining can be enjoyed at Lussmans' 18th century former coach house overlooking Leyton Green, while Okka café and restaurant is another popular spot, particularly for Sunday brunch.
Harpenden also has a vibrant farmers' market on the fourth Sunday of the month. Held on Bowers Parade, it offers everything from fruit and vegetables to pastries, plants and preserves.
Sport and leisure
Harpenden's superb 238-acre Common supports many thriving sports teams in the area, including Harpenden Cricket Club which has been playing here for over 150 years.
The Harpenden Carnival and Highland Games are held in Rothamsted, which has a skate park and is also home to Harpenden Football Club. The council-owned swimming pool is adjacent to the park, at Harpenden Leisure Centre.
Harpenden Rugby Club play in London 1 North, the sixth rung of the English rugby union ladder. Four ex-players, Maro Itoje, George Ford, Owen Farrell and Jack Singleton — all of whom also attended St George's — have gone on to play for England.
The Nickey Line, a disused railway line between Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead, is a popular spot for walkers and cyclists.
The River Lea runs through Batford Springs Local Nature Reserve — an ideal spot for kids to have a paddle during the summer months, or a play in the park off Marquis Lane.