Area Guide: The popular Highfield area of St Albans
- Credit: Archant
Following the closure of two mental health hospitals in the 1990s, the Highfield area of St Albans has evolved into a safe, suburban neighbourhood that is hugely popular with families.
Highfield is a residential area of St Albans, located about two miles south-east of the town centre.
Only a few minutes by car from the A1 (M) and under two miles from St Albans City station and its fast services to London St Pancras, Highfield has great transport links.
Its quiet, suburban feel means it’s a secure environment for raising kids, as no through traffic on the estate means children area able to play safely.
Local resident, Stuart, moved to the area with his wife and young daughter last year after waiting months for a family home to become available – and it’s been more than worth the wait.
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“We absolutely love it here,” says Stuart. “The community spirit is phenomenal with a real village-type feel. People are so friendly everywhere you go and we’ve already made some lovely friends.”
Properties currently on the market in Highfield include a four-bed detached house for £700,000 and a two-bed end terrace for £430,000.
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The road names in the new developments were chosen by the local authority, and some are named after former hospital wards or doctors that worked there.
One, Puddingstone Drive, is believed to have been named after the puddingstone that now sits outside West Lodge in the park. The stone used to be located in the garden of Cell Barnes Hospital
Highfield Park is a lovely green space, popular with dog walkers and cyclists. It was created in 1996 after Cell Barnes and Hill End mental hospitals were closed and redeveloped and some of their vast grounds were then transformed into what is now the park.
The area has many features, including playing fields, a couple of ponds, a tree trail, two orchards and a maze.
St Albans City Youth FC play here, and joggers are regularly seen circuiting the pitches when they’re not in use for matches.
There is also an ‘outstanding’ children’s nursery, Ladybirds, located within the park (another popular option is the new Highfield Lane Nursery, on Puddingstone Drive).
Highfield Park Trust manage the area, which also includes two allotment sites.
Stuart says that having the park wrapped around the estate is one of the things he loves most about the area.
“We go walking through the various parts of the park and woods every day and every season has something to offer.
“My daughter is fascinated by the natural world as a result - conker and leaf collections aplenty - and it’s a great way to get some fresh air and forget about the stresses of life.
“The guys who maintain the park do an amazing job too - it’s always so neat and tidy and I’m proud to show it off whenever we have visitors.”
Events and amenities
Highfield has a bustling selection of amenities on Russet Drive. There is a busy Spar shop, a doctors’ surgery, a barbers and a fish and chip shop.
One YMCA – formerly Charters Health Club – is a community gym offering affordable sports and exercise classes.
Stuart loves the many “well-organised and well-attended” events that take place locally. These include bug and Easter Bunny hunts for kids, the Apple Day celebration of the park’s own apples, apple juice and cider, and the outdoor Luna Cinema.
“Highfield takes seasonal events very seriously - Halloween and Xmas are a big deal,” Stuart adds. “Halloween is immaculately observed by all involved and it’s so much fun, all roads buzzing with kids and big kids - a great way to meet the neighbours, too.”
Nearby local primary schools include Windermere and Camp (rated ‘good’ by Ofsted) and Cunningham Hill Infants and Junior schools (‘outstanding’).
Samuel Ryder Academy is an all-through school for students aged from four to 18, and was rated ‘good’ at its last inspection. Nicholas Breakspear Catholic School was also rated ‘good’.
The Earthworks charity on Hixberry Lane offers training and work experience in conservation and horticulture to local people with learning disabilities. It was established as the hospitals closed, and offers an opportunity for former residents, now re-homed within the community, to find meaningful employment.
Trestle Arts Base
Trestle is a mask and physical theatre company based in a converted chapel on Russet Drive. They have a café on site, and host regular events such as the Story Tent craft and story sessions for pre-schoolers.