Area Guide: The upmarket town of Harpenden
- Credit: Archant
Popular with London commuters, Harpenden has the feel of a village with the amenities of a busy, well-connected town.
Local resident Susan Leggott said: “I love the strong community feel of Harpenden. Even though it is a town not a village, people here seem to feel very invested in it and have a village mindset and are generally supportive and engaged in community initiatives.”
With its abundance of open spaces, semi-rural character and good connectivity, Harpenden is a property hotspot for city escapees.
The area boasts a broad range of property types. Well-maintained Victorian, Edwardian and inter-war family homes sit alongside contemporary new-builds. Centrally located and just a stone’s throw away from the station, The Avenues has some of the most desirable properties in the area. A plethora of pleasant detached properties, set aside picturesque stretches of woodland, can be found on West Common.
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Among the historic homes in Harpenden is Flowton Priory, known for its Tudor roots and links to the church.
The average Harpenden property cost £771,901 in 2016 according to Rightmove, up 5 per cent on 2015 and 14 per cent on 2014.
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Detached properties sold for an average of £1,210,440, semi-detached sold for £672,834 and flats went for £363,964.
Harpenden is home to many high-performing independent and state schools and the area is very family-oriented as a result. Popular primaries include High Beeches, Wood End and Roundwood, all of which were rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted at their last inspections.
There are three ‘outstanding’ state secondary schools; St George’s (which takes boarders) Roundwood Park and Sir John Lawes. All three produce above average A Level results.
A shortage of school places in the area has finally been addressed, and a new secondary free school is being built on the corner of Lower Luton Road and Common Lane in Batford. Katherine Warington School is due to open in September 2018.
Local private options are girls’ primary, St Hilda’s, and The King’s School, which teaches boys and girls from pre-school to Year 11.
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 rail. Commuting isn’t cheap, however: an annual season ticket costs £3,688 (or £4,512.00 with a Tube extension).
Sports and leisure
Harpenden’s superb 238 acre Common supports many thriving sports teams in the area, especially for golf and cricket, and Harpenden Cricket Club has been playing on the Common for over 150 years. The Common and Lydekker Park have both been awarded the 2017/18 Green Flag Award in recognition of their first-class facilities and environmental standards.
The Harpenden Carnival and Highland Games are held in the huge Rothamsted Park, which is also home to Harpenden Football Club and has a skate park.
Harpenden Rugby Football Club play in London 2 North West, the seventh rung of the English rugby union ladder. Three ex-players, Maro Itoje, George Ford and Owen Farrell – all of whom also attended St George’s – have all gone on to play for England.
A disused railway line between Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead, the Nickey Line, has been redeveloped as a scenic walking and cycling route. Harpenden Leisure Centre hosts the nearest council-owned swimming pool.
Herts 10K is an annual event in aid of Rennie Grove Hospice Care, starting and finishing at Rothamstead Research in the north of Harpenden.
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.
Shopping and eating out
The spacious tree-lined high street is bursting with shops and cafes. 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 newly renovated Harpenden Arms has been drawing in 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 dining experience.
Okka café and restaurant is another popular spot, particularly for Sunday brunch - you can’t book but it’s always heaving.
Courtyard dining can be enjoyed at Lussmans’ 18th century former coach house overlooking Leyton Green, and Italian chain restaurant fans are well taken care of, with branches of Pizza Express, Prezzo and Strada.
Harpenden has a vibrant farmer’s market every fourth Sunday of the month, offering a delicious array of colourful fruit and vegetables. It is held along Bowers Parade, just off the high street.
Harpenden has held Fairtrade Town status since February 2008, proudly supporting the sustainable Fairtrade Towns Movement.
Harpenden enjoys a rich, diverse historical background, as documented by the Local History Society. Its development has been heavily influenced by its geographical setting, on the dip slope of the Chiltern Hills. At the central core of the town, between the River Ver in the west and the River Lea in the east, lies a dry valley. It is this valley which gives Harpenden its name. ‘Herpe dene’ means ‘the military path through the valley’.
There is a strong tradition of scouting in Harpenden, dating back to the early days of the movement. At least one of the local scouting groups has been running non-stop since 1908. The Harpenden Gang Show recently earned the accolade of being the world’s longest continuously running variety Gang Show, with a performance every year since 1949.
Harpenden has maintained a close link with Alzey in Germany since 1963, celebrating 50 years of Town Twinning in August 2013.