Area Guide: with its sweeping commons, impressive period manor houses and local woodland, Harpenden is a jewel within Hertfordshire
- Credit: Archant
Harpenden offers a traditional English village atmosphere; locals insist that it is still a ‘village,’ so the term is used loosely here (it has a population of around 30,000)
Charming commuter town Harpenden is the largest parish in the St Albans District, situated just twenty-five miles north of London, midway between St Albans and Luton, with a postcode of AL5. Without council tax exemptions, smaller properties in Band A would expect to pay a council tax bill of £1,011.01. Band D homes would receive a bill of £1,516.51 and the most expensive houses in Band H could expect a bill of £3,033.02.
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, interwar 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.
The average price for a two-bedroom flat in Harpenden is £312,944; for a terraced home £671,611; and for a detached house, it’s £1,179,378.
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Harpenden is home to many high-performing independent and state schools. As a result, the area is very family-oriented with a thriving community spirit. The town has a superb choice of primary and junior schools. St Hilda’s, a private primary school for girls, dates back to 1981. The school prides itself on its academic rigor and strong work ethic, fostered by its unique House system. Active parents’ association ‘Friends of St Hilda’s’ organises regular social events in the community.
Other top primary schools in the area include High Beeches Primary School, on Aldwickbury Crescent and Sauncey Wood Primary School in the east.
There are three state secondary schools, all of which have an Ofsted rating of ‘outstanding’. St George’s School in Sun Lane takes boarders. Together with academies Roundwood Park and Sir John Lawes, all three produce above average A Level results.
Hertfordshire County Council has recently responded to the high demand for school places in the area with plans to build a new secondary free school on the corner of Lower Luton Road and Common Lane.
Harpenden is suitably located for commuting. Luton airport is seven miles away. From the local train station, London St Pancras can be reached in just under half an hour. Trains leave regularly, every 15 minutes, on the Thameslink line. An annual season ticket costs £3,620.00 (£4,432.00 with Tube extension). The rail service is fundamental to the local property market. Nearly 30 percent of buyers for properties above £1 million come from London.
Sports and Leisure
Harpenden has a large variety of sporting opportunities. Its superb 238 acre Common supports many thriving sports teams in the area, especially for golf and cricket. Harpenden Cricket Club has been playing on the Common for over 150 years. The town proudly flies the Green Flag Award year after year for the Common’s well-maintained facilities.
Leisure amenities include a number of parks and nature trails. 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. A disused railway line between Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead, The Nikey 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.
Shopping and eating out
The spacious tree-lined high street is comprised of several bespoke shops, cafes and three supermarkets. There are lots of quirky independently owned venues, offering a variety of fare from Thai to tapas.
Courtyard dining can be enjoyed at Lussmans Harpenden. Overlooking Leyton Green, the Fish and Grill restaurant is situated in an 18th century former coach house. White Horse at Hatching Green and The Fox on the northern edge of town are both fine examples of the great British gastro-pub dining experience. Chain restaurants Pizza Express and Prezzo are a popular choice too should you fancy classic Italian.
Harpenden has a vibrant Farmer’s Market culture. Every 4th Sunday of the month, the local market offers a delicious and vast array of colourful fruits 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. Harpenden is 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. In August 2013 Alzey celebrated 50 years of Town Twinning with Harpenden. The Mayor of Alzey will be visiting the area later this year. Among the historic homes in Harpenden is Flowton Priory, known for its Tudor roots and links to the church.