Area Guide: Harpenden's vibrant Southdown neighbourhood
Herts Ad Property team
- Credit: Archant
Described by one local as "a bubble of normal friendly people in what can be a rather aloof area", Southdown has a distinct identity that sets it apart from central Harpenden.
Locals rave about the area's bustling village feel, which centres on the varied shops on and around Southdown Road and spills out into family-friendly streets such as Cravells Road and Coleswood Road.
The thriving selection of independent local businesses includes the Aladdin's Cave of useful items that is Southdown Hardware, plus a launderette, a pharmacy, a fireplace shop, a Co-op supermarket, and many more.
The community spirit is strong, with Southdown-specific events such as a Christmas lights switch on and a general sense among locals of pride in where they live.
Food and drink
Eateries range from Indian street food favourite, Sarakh, to newcomer The Goode Kitchen, with its courtyard garden and reasonably priced food, including an £8.50 full English.
There are also several pubs: the always-friendly Carpenters Arms, The Engineer with its outdoor pods and fine food, and the Plough & Harrow, which will be hosting its own music festival at the end of the month.
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The Elephant & Castle pub on the outskirts of Wheathampstead is worth a walk or bike ride, with its lovely beer garden offering the ideal setting for a weekend lunch.
There's a whole host of recreational activities available to visitors and residents alike. You can feed the ducks on the Common at Southdown Ponds, have a picnic in Hay Field and then explore the old clay mines at Brickle Dells, known locally as 'the Ups and Downs'.
This area of woodland off Walkers Road is thought to be named after the brick kilns once present on the site, and the undulating land now makes it a popular place for kids to play.
Greenway Spinney Local Nature Reserve, better known as 'the Spinney', is another well-used green space. Located between Aldwick Road and Grove Avenue, it's maintained by a group of dedicated locals.
A walk to Nomansland Common across the fields is another appealing option, or further still to Heartwood Forest.
A stroll down The Grove, past the Grade II listed former B&B of the same name, may result in an alpaca sighting.
Allotments are available for hire via SHAGS, more formally known as South Harpenden Allotments and Gardens Society.
There are also a couple of kids' playgrounds within Southdown.
The Grove Infant and Nursery School is a popular three-form entry school, accommodating around 340 children. Rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, it shares its grounds with The Grove Junior School (rated ‘good’). Also ‘outstanding’ is St Dominic's, a Catholic primary on Southdown Road.
Securing a local state secondary school place has proved difficult for some Southdown children in recent years, with Harpenden's three ‘outstanding’ options, Roundwood Park, Sir John Lawes and St George’s, all oversubscribed.
Katherine Warington School, which opened on Lower Luton Road in September 2019, has changed that. The purpose-built school is part of the Harpenden Secondary Schools Trust with the three other local secondaries, the University of Hertfordshire and Rothamsted Research.
Property-wise, you get ever so slightly more for your money in Southdown than you would in central Harpenden.
Homes currently on the market include a three-bed semi on Barrons Row for £650,000 and a two-bed end terrace cottage on Grove Road for £405,000.
Southdown sits between the M1 and the A1(M), while the M25 is immediately south of neighbouring St Albans.
Harpenden station, with its fast rail link into London St Pancras, is a 15 minute walk away.
There are regular buses from Southdown to both St Albans and Luton, and both places are about 15 minutes away by car.