Area Guide: The ever-popular town of Harpenden
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
A wealthy town popular with London commuters, Harpenden is sought-after for its semi-rural setting, outstanding schools and fast rail links
Harpenden enjoys a rich, diverse historical background. 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’.
The area boasts a wide range of property types, from period cottages to contemporary new-builds via a healthy supply of luxurious family homes.
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 can also be found in the upmarket West Common area.
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According to Rightmove, the average Harpenden property cost £814,840 in 2017, up 5 per cent on 2016.
The majority of sales during the last year were of detached homes, which changed hands for an average price of £1,155,075. Semi-detached properties sold for an average of £714,648, with terraced homes typically fetching £543,177.
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The most expensive home currently on the market in the town is a five-bed detached house on Oakfield Road, in West Common, which has an asking price of £4,350,000.
At the more affordable end of the market, a one-bed flat on Southdown Road could be yours for £189,950.
Harpenden is home to many high-performing independent and state schools. Popular primaries include High Beeches, Wood End and Roundwood, all of which were rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted at their last inspections.
The town’s three state secondary schools, St George’s (which takes boarders) Roundwood Park and Sir John Lawes, are also ‘outstanding’. St George’s has the edge, having recently been named as the Sunday Times ‘Comprehensive School of the Year’ 2019 in schools guide Parent Power.
Parent Power editor Alastair McCall said: “St George’s offers a distinctive, dynamic school experience to the 1,300 children lucky enough to go there.
He added that it “thoroughly deserves recognition for offering the very best brand of comprehensive education”.
A shortage of school places in the area has resulted in the creation of Katherine Warington School, which is due to open on the corner of Lower Luton Road and Common Lane in Batford in September 2019.
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.
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 Harpenden Arms draws 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 experience.
Courtyard dining can be enjoyed at Lussmans’ 18th century former coach house overlooking Leyton Green, while Okka café and restaurant is another popular spot, particularly for Sunday brunch - you can’t book but it’s always heaving.
Harpenden also has a vibrant farmers’ market on the fourth Sunday of the month. Held on Bowers Parade, it offers everything from fruit and vegetables to pastries, plants and preserves. .
Sports and leisure
Harpenden’s superb 238-acre Common supports many thriving sports teams in the area, including Harpenden Cricket Club which has been playing here for over 150 years.
The Common, Lydekker Park and the huge Rothamsted Park have all been awarded the 2018 Green Flag Award in recognition of their first-class facilities and environmental standards.
The Harpenden Carnival and Highland Games are held in Rothamsted, which has a skate park and is also home to Harpenden Football Club. Harpenden Leisure Centre hosts the council-owned swimming pool, which is adjacent to the 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.
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.