Area Guide: The thriving commuter town of Harpenden
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
An upmarket enclave beloved by London commuters looking for a pretty place to settle down, Harpenden is lauded for its excellent schools and handy rail and road links. We found out more.
Harpenden is renowned for its deluxe homes; last year, Park Avenue North was named as one of the UK's most expensive streets, coming 14th on a MoneySupermarket countdown, with an average value of £3.7 million.
Of the homes currently available for sale in the town, nine are priced in excess of £2 million, with the most expensive being a six-bed equestrian facility on Kennel Lane, Kinsbourne Green (£4.25 million).
Apartment living can be similarly expensive: a two-bed flat in Welcombe House, the former Harpenden House Hotel redevelopment, has an asking price of £2.12 million.
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Its excellent state schools are one of Harpenden's main selling points - and while the town is blessed with countless great primaries, it's the secondary schools that really draw the punters in.
Sir John Lawes, St George's and Roundwood Park are all ranked 'outstanding' by Ofsted, and St George's was also named as the Sunday Times 'Comprehensive School of the Year' 2019.
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Newcomer Katherine Warington School opened its doors in September 2019 in response to the demand for more local secondary school places.
For residents seeking a private alternative, there are several options. St Hilda's is for girls aged four to 11 (though its nursery also admits boys), Aldwickbury is a boys prep school. and The King's School, with its strong Christian ethos, teaches boys and girls from age four to 16.
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 train. The M1, A1(M) and M25 are also close at hand.
Shopping and eating out
The leafy, quintessentially English 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 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.
Sport 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 received the prestigious Green Flag Award in 2019 for the 13th year in a row. The award - which Lydekker Park also received for the third consecutive year - recognises first-class facilities and high 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. The council-owned swimming pool is adjacent to the park, at Harpenden Leisure Centre.
Harpenden Rugby Club play in London 1 North, the sixth rung of the English rugby union ladder. Four ex-players, Maro Itoje, George Ford, Owen Farrell and Jack Singleton - all of whom also attended St George's - have gone on to play for England.
The Nickey Line, a disused railway line between Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead, is a popular spot for walkers and cyclists.
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.