Back to the home counties in our most liveable counties series this month. We’re looking at Hertfordshire. Being so close to London, it has its fair share of dormitory towns, which we have kept firmly off our list. There are plenty of far prettier and bustling places to set up home and some stunning houses to choose from too. For the kids, there are great schools and attractions like the Harry Potter studios. Other draws are the big stately homes of Cassiobury Park and Knebworth, which hosts huge outdoor concerts most summers. Nature abounds too, with the Chiltern Hills to explore and the Lee Valley Boat Centre for messing about on the water.
One of the most sought after towns in Hertfordshire and rightly so. No less than three of its secondary schools are rated ‘outstanding’ and there’s plenty of green space for the scamps to run around in. It’s a great place to bring up kids. Its town centre has everything you need and more, including an AGA shop, plus excellent transport links to London. The Fox and nearby White Horse are great for getting your gastropub fix and the Harpenden golf club is not a bad spot to tee off a weekend enjoying the surrounding countryside.
The only city on our list and it’s got outstanding primaries and secondaries galore with plenty of historical charm to boot. There’s a big stock of tudor houses and other character properties being snapped up at the moment. Londoners have been moving here to escape the city on mass for sometime now. It’s a lively place for nightlife as well with some good festivals held throughout the year. The annual beer festival, held in September is one to look out for. It’s got a strong food scene too. Hatch and Lussmans are both well worth a visit.
Ware, situated close to the River Lee nature reserve is a great place for those moving out of London to start families.There are some good state school options like Presdales. St Edmund’s College is a good private option. It’s a bustling town with plenty of independent shops and chic restaurants. There’s lots of new build housing estates, but a good deal of listed buildings too.
Although the town is a great place to live itself, you should definitely take surrounding villages into consideration. Lots of celebrities have set up shop there. Prices are often higher than Ware, but well worth it if you can afford it. Otherwise, living in the town is a great compromise.
Much Hadham was home to the great 20th century sculptor Henry Moore. His former house is now base to the Henry Moore Foundation and is open to the public in the summer. Many of his sculptures still remain in the garden and can be glimpsed from the outside. The Moore connection contributes to what’s already a beautiful village with lots of footpaths and bridleways and a ford in the village centre. Woods on the east side of the river are well worth a visit, particularly in spring when the bluebells are flowering. The village is not far from Bishops Stortford with some very good school options and Stanstead is close by for weekend getaways.
Just south of the Chiltern Hills you’ll find the village of Kings Langley, which gets its name from the Plantagenet palace that used to sit here. It’s still got a regal air to it with posh shops and some good restaurants. Watford and Hemel Hempstead are both about five miles away, so you needn’t travel too far if you’re looking to catch a film. There are some very good schools in the towns too.
Ovaltine used to have their factory here, which has now been turned into flats, just in case you’re looking for something a bit left field. Otherwise, there are plenty of period properties to pick. If life ever gets a bit too much, there’s a vast paintballing centre on the outskirts of the village where you can take out your frustrations on friends and family.
Officially consisting of Ayot St. Lawrence, Ayot St. Peter and Ayot Green, The Ayots are an exclusive cluster of hamlets just outside Welwyn Garden City. So exclusive in fact, it’s actually very rare that a property comes up for sale in the Ayots themselves. They are an exceptionally pretty place to live though. In Ayot St. Peter’s there’s a stunning example of an arts and crafts era church. The area is also a dream for walkers with lots of footpaths and charming pubs dotted about. Because of the lack of housing stock, close by Wheathampstead could be your only option. You could do a lot worse. It’s almost as charming as its neighbours.
Welwyn Garden City, next door, was built with the express purpose of giving somewhere for commuters to live and shuttle to and fro from Kings Cross. Transport links are therefore very good.