Area Guide: The bustling Southdown area of Harpenden
PUBLISHED: 11:33 05 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:37 10 October 2017
With its own shopping and community hub, Southdown is within walking distance of the centre of Harpenden yet very much an area in its own right.
Southdown sits on the edge of Harpenden, tucked away between the busy train station and vast Common. Some fine examples of post-war architecture can be found here, set amid numerous 19th century brick houses and pretty green spaces. Generally speaking, property is slightly cheaper here than it is in the heart of Harpenden.
The ribbed skew arch Midland Railway bridge is Southdown’s iconic tribute to Victorian railway engineers. It is famous for its extreme skew angle of approximately 65 degrees. Local gastropub, The Skew Bridge on Southdown Road, is named after this impressive landmark.
The Grove Infant & Nursery School is a popular three-form entry school, accommodating around 340 children when full. Rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, it shares its grounds with The Grove Junior School (rated ‘good’).
Another ‘outstanding’ option is St Dominic Catholic Primary School, which was founded in 1920.
Securing a local high school place has difficult for some Southdown children in recent years. While there are three ‘outstanding’ state secondaries in Harpenden - Roundwood Park, Sir John Lawes and St George’s – they’re always over-subscribed, and Southdown students sometimes miss out. Things will change when the new Katherine Warington School opens on Lower Luton Road in September 2018, however.
Sports and leisure
A whole host of recreational activities are available to visitors and residents alike. You can feed the ducks on the Common at Southdown Ponds, have a picnic in Hay Field and then explore the old clay mines at Brickle Dells. Golf is a popular sport in the area. There is an 18-hole golf course on the edge of Harpenden, accessible to private members and visitors on arrangement.
Harpenden station offers fast rail links into London St Pancras, and there are regular bus links to St Albans and Luton. Southdown sits between the M1 and the A1(M) and the M25 is immediately south of neighbouring St Albans. The nearest airport, London Luton, is roughly three miles away.
Southdown is awash with independent businesses, and Harpenden resident Shelagh Collingwood travels regularly from her home across town to take advantage of the shops on offer.
She says: “Although I live at the northern end of Harpenden, I still make a point of buying various necessities there. These are truly valuable independent retailers fighting above their weight in a mass market online world.”
Shelagh describes Southdown Hardware as “a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of extremely useful household items, sold in small and manageable quantities and often including items eschewed by the bigger, brasher stores that can’t be bothered with the minutiae of domestic life.”
She also favours Jelley’s Meats, “a traditional butcher’s selling a wide variety of meats and all sorts of delicatessen choices, and very happy to meet individual requests”.
Other local amenities include a public hall, a pharmacy, a dental surgery, a hairdressers, a laundrette and a Co-op supermarket.
For families, Big Space indoor soft play area on Southdown Industrial Estate is the ideal place to spend a rainy day. The site offers 300 sq m of play equipment, including a drop slide and bouncy castle, as well as a café serving meals and snacks. Adults go free, but kids’s prices range from £1 (under one) to £9 (five to 12 years).
The Engineer on St John’s Road is a popular local offering pub grub – including a Sunday roast – craft beers and two for one cocktails, all day every day.
Christians are well catered for here, with Southdown Methodist Church and the Anglican St John’s Church, known locally known as ‘the Church on the Common’ each offering regular opportunities to worship.