Comment: Home is where the Hert is - for now

Harpenden is No1 for commuters, according to Jones Lang LaSalle

Harpenden is No1 for commuters, according to Jones Lang LaSalle - Credit: Archant

It’s not hard to see the appeal of Hertfordshire. The likes of St Albans, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City offer the best of both worlds, with London and leafy countryside both close at hand. But like all good things, there’s a catch – the steep price of property.

Back in 2002, I was one of the many London in-comers, moving out to the ’burbs. I followed my heart to Herts, but wouldn’t say I fell in love with it straight away. In my twenties and child-free, Hertfordshire suburbia felt a bit too grown up – the kind of place you’d move to to settle down and start a family. 15 years later, with three kids, two cats and a dog, it feels exactly the right fit. This part of England has everything a young family needs, with the London/leafy countryside double header providing what for many of us feels like the ideal balance.

It’s no surprise that the county regularly crops up in ‘best place to live’ lists – St Albans scored high in one such poll last year, while Hertfordshire was named the best place to raise a family in another.

Herts has long been a huge hit with the family market. While I first moved here before that life stage, many friends formed part of the exodus from north London with a baby on board and very often a toddler in hand.

That doesn’t mean we don’t think about moving away, though. As with anyone who’s not from round here – and many that are – the fantasy of a better life somewhere more affordable is one I often indulge. Who hasn’t browsed RightMove and found, say, a Northumbrian castle for the price of a terraced house in Harpenden?

Visiting family in Yorkshire offers a stark reminder of the down side of Hertfordshire life: the relatively huge house prices. I learned to ride a bike in my mum and dad’s back garden, but there’s no chance of that for my kids (riding the few metres between the bins and the tiny trampoline isn’t quite the same).

We all know it’s a simple matter of supply and demand, and being this close to the capital is never going to be cheap. It’s also unlikely that it will ever lose its allure, meaning the price we pay to buy here – though large – is always going to be a wise long term investment.

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Personally, the reality of leaving friends, schools and an area we love would be tough, but being close to family with a bigger house and good size garden would definitely take the edge off those down sides. So while my little piece of Hertfordshire feels difficult to beat, relative affordability elsewhere means I’ll never stop considering the alternatives.