Area Guide: The picturesque Hertfordshire town of Berkhamsted
- Credit: Archant
The historic market town of Berkhamsted has recently been named as the Sunday Times’ best place to live in the south east. Jane Howdle found out if it’s worth the hype…
Berkhamsted is an upmarket commuter town in the Chiltern Hills, with much of the surrounding countryside classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Grand Union Canal runs through the town, which was once an important port. Still known as the Port of Berkhamsted, it is home to several boat-dwellers.
The canalside is a scenic spot whatever the weather, and a great place for a picnic in the warmer months. It is also an ideal spot to seek out local wildlife. Keen cyclists can cycle along the canal all the way to London.
The historic high street has a strong mix of chain stores and independents, with many cafes and restaurants. The beautiful art deco Rex cinema is run by James Hannaway, who also owns The Odyssey in St Albans.
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Between the high street and the train station is Canal Fields, which is Berkhamsted’s main park. It has a playground, a picnic area and a skate park. Berkhamsted Bowls Club is also based here.
There’s been a spike of interest in Berkhamsted since it was named as the Sunday Times’ best place to live in the south east earlier this month. Described by the paper as “affluent and attractive” with a “medieval centre… filled with chic shops and great places to eat”, its easy to see its appeal.
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Berkhamsted Castle was first built in the 11th century and is considered one of the most important early Norman castles. Its main claim to fame is that William the Conquerer was here when he received news of England’s surrender in the Battle of Hastings. It’s believed that the castle was last occupied in 1495 and now only ruins remain at the site, which is managed by English Heritage.
This sort of picturesque location doesn’t come cheap – according to Rightmove, the average selling price for a property in Berkhamsted last year was £649,197
The majority of sales were of detached properties, which went for an average of £956,673.
Overall sold prices in Berkhamsted during 2017 were 7 per cent up on the previous year and 15 per cent on the 2015 level of £563,054.
Homes currently on the market in Berkhamsted include a five-bed detached home on sought-after Castle Hill Avenue for £1,750,000 and a two-bed period cottage on Bridge Street for £420,000.
There are regular trains from Berkhamsted to London Euston which take between 30 and 40 minutes.
The M25 is only a 10 minute drive away.
There are many popular pubs in Berkhamsted, several of which benefit from canal views, including The Boat, The Old Mill and The Rising Sun. The Boat is a traditional hostelry, offering food and drink in a family friendly environment – and even a free drink if you fill in a few details on their website before visiting.
The Old Mill gastropub is, as its name suggests, a converted mill. The building retains many of its original character features and its mill race – the current running to or from the water wheel – still runs over a weir that passes through the courtyard.
The Rising Sun on George Street is renowned for its wide selection of drinks offered in a warm, welcoming environment.
Berkhamsted has many fine state schools, including Victoria Church of England Infant and Nursery, which was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted at its last inspection, St Thomas More Roman Catholic Primary (‘outstanding’) and Swing Gate Infant School and Nursery (‘good’).
‘Good’ state secondaries include Ashlyns School and John F Kennedy Catholic School.
Places at the hugely popular Chesham Grammar School (‘outstanding’), over the border in Buckinghamshire, are in great demand. Entry is via the 11+ exam.
Berkhamsted School is an independent co-educational school caring for children from the age of five months in the day nursery through to sixth form.