Area Guide: The historic village of Walkern
- Credit: Archant
The village of Walkern sits in a picturesque rural setting on the River Beane, surrounded by countryside but just a few miles from the bustle of Stevenage.
According to current Zoopla estimates, the average house in the village is worth £490,633, with the properties available ranging from neat new builds to period homes and barn conversions.
Walkern has historic links pre-dating the Magna Carta and St Mary’s Church is considered the oldest in Hertfordshire, with parts of it believed to have been built around 1000AD.
Walkern’s main claim to fame is that it was once home to Jane Wenham, commonly (but erroneously) regarded as the last woman in England to be convicted of witchcraft. Jane, who became known as ‘the witch of Walkern’, was condemned to death in 1712, but her conviction was eventually lifted.
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Anna Ives moved to the village in 2014, and has since had a daughter who will attend the “excellent” village school.
“We immediately felt at home and welcome here,” Anna says. “We made good friends with our neighbours who are all so friendly. Little things like a ‘good morning’ from a stranger are a real difference of village life compared to a town.
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“Unlike some of its surrounding sister villages, Walkern benefits from a family run shop stocking all your everyday needs and includes a post office. There is even the most delightful hidden gem of a tea room, Brewery Tea Rooms & Gift Shop, which also sells a treasure trove of gifts and homewares.”
Anna, who runs her independent HR consultancy, HR Puzzle (www.HR-Puzzle.com ), from the village, believes Walkern has something for everyone. She says: “There are two playgrounds suitable for children of all ages and there are plenty of accessible walks to enjoy of a summer evening in and around the village - complete with a pond and its resident ducks! If you are lucky you will spot horses, ponies and a few pheasants.
“The villagers come together at events on the green complete with village hall and club house at key dates in the year, many of which are supported by other local small business that have a base in Walkern. The two local churches (St Mary’s and Walkern United Reformed Church) are also very active in supporting the community.”
Anna adds: “Walkern certainly feels like living remotely in the countryside with a strong community but remains a very short drive to neighbouring Stevenage and all its amenities and transport links.”
With its range of shops and hostelries – including an art gallery – Walkern is an ideal spot for walkers or day-trippers to explore, while also being a lovely place to live.
Artist Stephen Lowe runs Walkern Gallery, which is also his studio and home, exhibiting his own work and that of other artists. Stephen moved to the village in 2002, and says: “I am not sure if Walkern’s a typical village or not but there are times when I think The Archers is being scripted from the local pub!”
Stephen is currently busy painting the stage set for the upcoming pantomime, Rumpelstiltskin. “Scenes include Walkern Hall Dungeon, Hoggit Hall and Deep in Box Wood which should scare the children just a bit”, he says.
The gallery has been closed temporarily to allow Stephen time to complete this project, but will open again at the end of the month.
Stephen adds: “Many of the residents get involved in events with football clubs, cycle club, shooting club, book clubs and theatre club all in spite of many holding down difficult jobs. It’s a great place to live.”
Further amenities include a doctor’s surgery, a hair and beauty salon, a petrol station and a craft shop.
The village also has an active History Society, while the Walkern Sports and Community Centre has three football pitches and a cricket square. The Jubilee Pavillion has a licensed bar and can be hired out for private events.
Around 100 children aged four to 11 attend Walkern Primary School, which was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted at its last inspection. The school’s main building was built in 1926, and has been extended several times since.
Food and drink
Brewery Tea Rooms & Gift Shop offers freshly-baked scones and a range of cakes, plus a lunch menu including everything from soup of the day to smoked salmon sandwiches. Afternoon tea is available by reservation only, including vegan and gluten-free options.
The White Lion and The Yew Tree pubs are both on High Street. The White Lion is a former coaching inn built in the 16th century which serves up traditional pub grub in a family-friendly setting, while The Yew Tree is a pub and Chinese restaurant which also offers takeaway options - great news for locals and visitors alike. As Anna says: “We are fortunate to have two lovely country pubs, each with their own unique style, atmosphere and events throughout the year.”