St Albans - a nice place to live?

(93 Posts)
roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 08:57:54

Yippeeeeee we are moving house!

I'm v. excited (some may say obsessed - i.e. my dh) and starting to look at areas to move to, all in Herts or Bucks as that's where our familes are.

So does anyone know much about St Albans? We are looking to stay wherever we move to for the whole of our dcs' schooling so we are looking for primaries and secondaries. We are CofE christians and I would particularly like the dcs to go to church schools if poss - I had a look at the Townsend school website and really liked the look of its ethos. We haven't got a huge budget for the area (£250K) but there are houses on rightmove that fit into that price range (not many, admittedly).

So does anyone live in St Albans and vouch for it (or not?) What I'd really love is to give someone the names of streets with houses in our budget and for someone to tell me if they're reasonably nice areas or not. We don't live that far away so I'm planning on doing a drive around. We are also looking at other areas like Tring, Chesham, Berko, villages in between those places, Hemel (possibly but not convinced), and Rickmansworth (we used to live near there so still got friends and know the area).

TIA!

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 09:05:01

Or Wheathampstead?

all I know is taht I went to St Albans for work and thought it was one of the most lovely places I have visited 0- they had a lovely market where I bought some olives and Monsson had a sale and I bought a top.

Probably not what you are looking for but I for one would be overjoyed to live there.

princessmel Sat 03-Feb-07 09:24:40

I live there and I love it.

Abbey school is C of E but very hard to get into. Most of the good schools are actually. You need to be regular worshippers at the Abbey or the second way to get in is to be in the local, very tiny, expensive catchment area.

The town is nice and has good shops, cafes, market etc.

I've lived here all my life. We live on the outskirts now so not really walking distance to town centre. Its slightly cheaper on the edges.

chonky Sat 03-Feb-07 09:28:39

I lived there for a year and loathed it (sorry). We lived near Fishpool St, very quaint and pretty but desperately dull. However I expect that my feelings about it were influenced by my twice daily commute of 1.5hrs to Canary Wharf!

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 09:54:24

Thanks for that!

Chonky LOL at 'seperately dull'! Probably the rest of the places on our list are just as dull! (if not more so!)

Dimpledthighs the market is good.

Princessmel, could I pick your brains? There's a house on the market in Canberra Close - it looks a bit old-fashioned decor-wise but we could live with that. Do you know where that is?

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 09:56:17

oooh and also Princessmel, is Townsend very ovre-subscribed, do you know? The other schools look good as well - I did my teacher training at Hertfordshire uni so I got to know a lot of the local schools - did a bit of teaching practice at Sandringham. Beaument looks good too - do you know much about these schools?

alibubbles Sat 03-Feb-07 10:20:11

I have lived in St albans for 21 years. DD and Ds went to both state and private schools.

DH and Dd do a lot of work for local estate agents, viewing properties, DD loves it! I know it very well too, so ask away.

I have been a governor of 4 schools over the last 15 years. My minded children are at Abbey Cof E and one just got in, not on church electoral roll, not a sibling and not in the catchment, but lives on the doorstep of an undersirable school!

Townsend is not oversubcribed in the same way as all the others. If you put it as your ist choice, you would probably get it.

House prices are still on the up, we are buying another 1 bed flat to let and that is £200k, the 2 beds are £250k +

All the schools are good, mostly excellent, each offerd something unique, so every school is good for someone, so it is really personal choice.

Sandringham for Arts and Drama, Beaumont for languages, Francis Bacon for Maths & Science, STAGS is a business and Technology school ( old girl's grammar) but I loathe the place, so did DD, refused to go round it when in the door! ( I am there every week for something, so see quite a bit of it)

princessmel Sat 03-Feb-07 10:21:24

Hi, My children are only nursery age so not the best person to ask really.
My neighbour works at Beaument and says it also has a very small local catchment area. Unfortunatly the houses around it are pricey.

I'm trying find that street at the mo.

Our house was so old fashioned when we moved in but slowly its all getting done.

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 10:24:44

ooh than you for that!

Alibubbles you sound like an expert on schools!

Heres 'a link (hopefully) to the house in Canberra Close -

house

princessmel Sat 03-Feb-07 10:27:39

Ok, I think I've found the house on propertyfinder.com.
If I'm right then its over the Sandrigham side of town? And near to a few other secondary schools. You'd probably be in a few of the catchment areas there.

princessmel Sat 03-Feb-07 10:29:03

Yes thats the one. It said what I said really!!

fryalot Sat 03-Feb-07 10:33:11

I know that being a responsible parent, you are obviously more concerned about schools and St. Albans being a nice place to live, but.... for what it's worth..... It is the home of real ale, the home of camra, there are more pubs that sell decent beer in St. Albans than any other town in the country I think. I would LOVE to live there, but not sure how much time I would spend at home with the dcs!

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 10:33:30

Thank you! I might try and have a drive over there today. Altho our house is not on the market yet, so I'm just trying to get a general idea of what's available.

We are hoping to get our house on the market this month. We've been doing the whole big de-cluttering and house-doctoring thing!

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 10:35:15

Real ale Sqonk!

Well that clinches it then doesn't it? We'll have to move there!

fryalot Sat 03-Feb-07 10:38:44

and you know who to invite to the housewarming! (although I'll visit your new house first with kids, then I'll be in the pub round the corner, so perhaps not!!)

alibubbles Sat 03-Feb-07 10:38:59

Come and have a cup of tea, the place is a tip but you are more than welcome!

edam Sat 03-Feb-07 10:39:35

Don't go to Hemel if you've got a chance to live in St Albans. St A much nicer.

Wheathampstead can be dodgy in terms of choice of secondary school - if Harpenden schools are oversubscribed, children get dumped in less attractive St Albans schools. Big fuss last year when LEA messed up and left 60 Wheathampstead and south edges of Harpenden children with no secondary school place. I think they tried to fob them off with Francis Bacon which, according to the parents and the local paper, is not desirable (sorry Alibubbles). I'm no expert in St A schools though as I live in Harpenden.

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 10:40:52

Alibubbles I'd love to!

fortyplus Sat 03-Feb-07 10:42:24

Areas of Hemel are fine - just avoid the big ex council estates. John F Kennedy School is a Catholic School but open to other denominations - they were in the top 100 comprehensive schools for GCSE results inc English & Maths.
You would get a decent house for your money in Boxmoor or Apsley - both of which are local to the Hemel Hempstead School - also excellent. A friend of ours was Head of Maths at Townsend but sent his own children to Hemel School as he thought it was better.
Primary Schools - you want Two Waters, South Hill, Boxmoor or St George's. St Rose's has an excellent reputation but is a Catholic school & I don't know if other denominations get in.
Hemel also has a lower crime rate, or so I've been told.

MerryMarigold Sat 03-Feb-07 10:50:18

I was brought up in 'emel. St Albans is quite posh! (By comparison). Agree with all fortyplus has to say about areas and schools - you can still get something decent sized and not too pricey in Boxmoor (compared to St Albans), esp if you get something a bit modern. The Old Town and Piccotts End are also very nice places. My parents currently live in Tring which imo is very overpriced. We thought about buying there, but it is the same property prices as London (East London admittedly) and the commuting price in London was WAY over our budget. Also the primary schools were worse than in our area of Newham! Some areas of Tring aren't that great...I live in Newham and it is nicer than some parts of Tring and Hemel Hempstead, but I'm sure ALL parts of St Albans are nice.

Good Luck with the move - and hope you find somewhere.

fortyplus Sat 03-Feb-07 10:52:32

Yes - St Albans and Harpenden are lovely towns - Hemel is ugly by comparison. But it's fine as a place to live.

edam Sat 03-Feb-07 10:54:54

Hemel also suffers from a crazy roundabout in the very centre - it's a ring of roundabouts, like a roundabout doughnut. Scary!

alibubbles Sat 03-Feb-07 10:56:37

No offence Edam, FB over my dead body! BUT it is extremely good at getting top grade A levels in Maths and computing science, but then they do only have 4 pupils taking the subject. BTW I don't have an interest in FB. ( Mine went private)

Our local chines takeaways man's son went there and got 4 a's at `A Level and is at Imperial, London.

The pupils taking GCSE's when ready for them, and they are going to do the IB. new head, new uniform incl blazers, changes the school dramarically.

Rosylea, when are you coming? I know wher Canberra Close is, I cut through there to Stags and go the the Auction house near there.

KTeePee Sat 03-Feb-07 10:56:49

I would definitely recommend St A if you can afford to buy there! What ages are your children? You should have a very good chance of getting into Townsend if you are practising CofE. The other CofE primary is St Michaels which is possibly closer to Townsend than the Abbey.... Townsend is set at the end of a housing estate, most of which is ex-council so more affordable than other areas, not sure what it is like to live there....

I think Canberra Close is off Beech Road from the map and that is an ok area - popular with families wanting to send girls to STAGS.

I used to work with someone who lived in Beech Road!

He was a family man and definitely spoke very highly about St Albans. Apart from the small town feel of the place, he always boasted that he could get into central London quicker on the train that I could on the tube (I lived in East Finchley).

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 11:02:54

Thanks for that, 40+ and MerryMarigold. I have got, as my internet favourites, Google maps, rightmove, links to schools...so each house that looks good, I'm trying to get an idea of the area it's in.

Hemel Old Town is nice, isn't it? But where would the local secondaries be for there?

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 11:08:00

Alibubbles when are you free? And can you CAT? Or give me your e-mail?

I'm dh-less this weekend (he's in Prague on a stag do ) and today is pretty free - is today what you meant? Otherwise we could set up another day, no problemo.

I've got my 2 dcs (aged nearly 3 and 4.5) in tow today, if that's okay.

alibubbles Sat 03-Feb-07 11:13:02

I went into London on the train yesterday, less thasn an hour door to door to South Kensington, the train only takes 20 ins to Kings Cross. I commuted to Knightsbridge until 4 weeks before DD was born.

Rosylea All the primary schools are oversubscribed, and three school have been asked to take an extra 30 pupils each this coming Sept, so Portakabins are being put in place. The ouncil say it is because of an unexpected bulge, but when I was a governor the council knew about it 10 years ago, from the projections they had at the time. We discussed it at length!

St Peters, Maple and Aboyne Lodge are havuing to take more. garden Fields is not far from Canberra, they have a 2 form entry, but I think you would be likely to get Margaret Wix, or apply to thechurch schools

alibubbles Sat 03-Feb-07 11:15:07

DH is working with the estate agents today, I am on my own.

Where do you live at present?

alison@think-small.co.uk

KTeePee Sat 03-Feb-07 11:15:27

Might get into Bernards Heath too from Canberra Close....

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 11:20:47

Have just e-mailed you Alibubbles!

edam Sat 03-Feb-07 11:23:12

Rosylea, try Upmystreet.com - if you can get the postcode (Royal Mail postcode finder) of any street you are interested in, it will show you what the nearest schools are.

Herts. LEA is crap at realising how many children they have to cater for. Hence all the problems with secondary transfer for Wheathampstead children last year.

They keep saying there are spare primary places in Harpenden but only at two schools on the edges that no-one wants. All the other schools are over-subscribed. So they end up trying to send children from West Common (southern edges) to the other side of town to school. Ludicrous. Although hard to be too sympathetic as houses in West Common start at £1m+ so they can afford to go private!

There's also an issue with siblings getting first pick - if it's a high sibling year, people from the villages don't get into Harpenden schools. There were only 13 non-sibling places this year at the primary we've got for ds. And I know lots of church-going Catholic families who didn't get into St Dominics.

Buy in St Albans or Harpenden rather than one of the villages.

alibubbles Sat 03-Feb-07 11:34:19

I have just read the profile for my postcode on Upmystreet, it is scarily accurate, apart from bird watching!

edam Sat 03-Feb-07 11:36:29

Mine was very accurate except for house prices - because we live in a small street of normal houses in the middle of bigger streets of very expensive houses. It only goes on post-code sectors which cover about 300 houses (first four letters and numbers).

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 11:44:14

Yes, I've been having a look on Upmystreet.

I'm assuming that Harpenden is out of our price range - having said that I haven't actally looked. My sister works at a pre-school in Harpenden which is lovely.

I'm still working out whether it'd be better for the dcs to live in a smaller place (eg Tring) or a bigger place (eg St Albans). I know it's horses for courses really...my dh's ideal would be to live in the middle of a forest but in reality that'd be desperately desperately dull for dcs, esp. when they hit their teens...

edam Sat 03-Feb-07 11:47:29

I think Harpenden and St Albans are similar in prices, tbh, Harpenden might even be marginally cheaper. But there's not much available right now - I know people who have looked in the last six months and there's a real shortage of property.

Are your children primary or secondary age?

MerryMarigold Sat 03-Feb-07 11:49:09

If you live in Hemel Old Town, nothing is really, really local except the Old Bell Pub! Cavendish School would be about 15 mins walk (where I went, it was fab in my day, but not so good anymore I believe). But there ARE loads of buses. I used to bus from Woodhall Farm (big estate, quite nice really) to Cavendish, and JFK had a school bus from there too. Not sure about primaries in that area - it's been a long time. But the advantage of Hemel is that it's cheaper, so you get more choice (to pick the better areas).

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 11:52:54

My dcs are still v.young - 4.5 (started full time school in January) and nearly 3. So it might sound a bit OTT to be thinking about secondary schools but the thing is we want to find somewhere we feel we are likely to be able to settle down for years to come, and we are looking for somewhre that ofers a good 'package' ifswim.

Our families spread between Kings Langley and Cholesbury, so we don't want to go too far. Anyother suggestions?

Thanks for all the advice; this is really helpful to be able to do a bit of intel-gathering!

alibubbles Sat 03-Feb-07 11:53:14

It doesn't give house prices for my lane, there are only 29 houses on it, and none have been sold for a few years, there is one for sale here, but no garage, it is a few doors away

fortyplus Sat 03-Feb-07 12:25:12

You can check the actual selling price of any house on the land registry website: www.houseprices.co.uk

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 12:43:44

Thanks for that 40+, that's worth knowing about.

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 12:46:45

In fact that is brilliant info to have - you are a genius!

edam Sat 03-Feb-07 14:56:50

Ok, in Harpenden good primaries are Wood End, Crabtree, Roundwood, St Dominics (RC), St Nicholas's (CofE). High Beeches also good, so I'm told. And The Grove is good but under-rated (oversubscribed this year though). You need to live in the catchment area for one of these, but areas vary year to year depending on applications, helpfully. Roundwood, St Nicholas's, St Dominics and The Grove all apply something called 'class size prejudice' which I guess is just a way of saying if there aren't enough places you don't get in.

Tbh all the Harpenden schools are good although The Lea is less sought-after (the only one with spare places) and Sauncey Wood is the one everyone wants to avoid (so don't move to the Batford end of town). But even SW scores better than average on all the government measurements.

Ds has got into Roundwood - we are very pleased as we know it's a lovely school, he's already at the nursery, all his friends go there and it just got outstanding in every area in the Ofsted report. But there were only 13 non-sibling places this year so we feel very lucky!

Judy1234 Sat 03-Feb-07 15:29:01

If I was not paying it woudl be Watford Grammar probably or one of the grammar schools in Bucks if you can travel that far. If I was paying it would be Habs boys or Girls in Herts for schools and they have daily school coaches from St A, loads of children from there go there.

St Albans is very easy to get into London from.

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 16:08:33

I see where you're coming from Xenia but personally I'm just not convinced that these very high-achieving schools are necessarily best for all students - I'm looking for one that hopefully will give good pastoral care, a good moral and spiritual ethos and community involvement...(as well as good exam results). I'm a teacher so I guess I'm much more critical of schools than most.

Some of my family went to Berko Collegiate and the kids there had the morals of hyenas.
(With apologies to anyone whose children are there! Maybe my lot fell in with a bad lot...)

I don't think there's such thing as the perfect school; you just have to find one that you are most comfortable with (hopefully). I'm aware how privileged I am even to be having this conversation - so many people have little or no choice in where their children go to school.

edam Sat 03-Feb-07 16:08:37

Xenia, dh went to a very, very sought-after grammar school in Bucks. And hated it. Most of his friends went to Oxford and Cambridge but it turned dh right off and he didn't go to university. Still, he had a better time than the poor boys who it turns out were sexually abused by a teacher who was protected by the headmaster...

edam Sat 03-Feb-07 16:17:58

People move here to get their kids into the schools I've mentioned, Xenia. Clearly not good enough for you, though. I went to a very selective girls' school and thoroughly enjoyed it but I'm more than happy with my local schools without sending ds all the way to Watford every day.

fortyplus Sat 03-Feb-07 17:27:45

roseylea - from Hemel Old Town you wouldn't get into Hemel School - I think it would be Cavendish, which used to have a good reputation but has had a lot of problems in recent years. (eg 3 Heads!)
The Primary School is George Street, which I believe has a good reputation.
Parts of Boxmoor are pretty. There's a lot of common land owned by the Boxmoor Trust. Blackbirds Moor runs alongside the canal and is the setting for lots of pleasant activities - an annual conker festival, cricket matches and an annual visit from Carter's Steam Fair.
If money was no object I'd prefer Harpenden or St Albans, but here's the comparison...
I live in a pleasant 4 bed Edwardian house on the outskirts of Hemel worth about £400K. My brother owns similar (tho with a garden twice the size of mine) just off Harpenden High St and reckons it's worth £1million.
You pays yer money and yer takes yer choice...

fortyplus Sat 03-Feb-07 17:33:33

Xenia - you wouldn't get in to Watford Grammar or Aylesbury Grammar from Harpenden or St Albans. All the selective schools will only allow applicants from certain postcodes.
I think it would be Verulam School for boys - not sure about the girls.
My brother's step daughter went to STAGS and absolutely hated it - she's a reasonably intelligent girl but left with only 3 GCSEs - after hundreds of £s worth of private tuition.
She now works for a Solicitor and is learning conveyancing, but it's a bit of a waste. She wasn't an Einstein but should have achieved far better academic results than she did.

mrsmalumbas Sat 03-Feb-07 17:33:38

We used to live in St.Albans and loved it - we had a little house within walking distance of the town centre and it was great. Very pretty, good shopping, accessible to London, nice things to do on a weekend e.g walk around the big paark by the Cathedral, explore the pubs in the old town etc. Only downside I would say is the traffic, and also it is quite expensive so it does depend on your budget. We lived there pre-kids so I have no experience of schools or anything, sorry. Harpenden also lovely but again expensive. But isn't everywhere in the SE?

fortyplus Sat 03-Feb-07 17:35:48

edam - my brother's son also started at Roundwood this year! He doesn't have an older sibling, either. He went to Roundwood Primary.

misdee Sat 03-Feb-07 17:41:04

i know several of thye schools in st albans collect kids from welwyn GC.

edam Sat 03-Feb-07 17:53:53

Hi fortyplus! <<waves>> I meant Roundwood Primary for ds. Obviously I'm hoping eventually he goes straight onto Roundwood Park for high school as it will just be so simple...

alibubbles Sat 03-Feb-07 19:11:20

DD got into Watford Grammar from St Albans, 2 girls from her school did. We didn't get any St Albans school. the only schools DD got were competitve entry, Dame Alice Owens, SAHS, Watford Grammar, Royal Masonic.

We live on the outer of the inner area, curiously DS got Verulam a year later on catchment, but went to Owen's which he hated so moved to Columba's College which he loved.

DD adored the High School, my mindies start there in September to be losing them, though I'll probably be dping thre school run!

GreatGooglyMoogly Sat 03-Feb-07 19:49:25

We usually live in St Albans (-currently we are on secondment in NY). We love it there! The house in Canberra Close looks pretty good and may be good for schools (-my dcs are pre-school so I don't know) but it isn't a great area as it is next to an industrial estate. It certainly isn't a bad area though Do you need 4 bedrooms?

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 20:01:01

Hi GGM!

No, we don't need 4 beds, just 3 (we have 2 dcs).

I didn't get to do my drive-around today as my dd has come down with tonsilitis!

I know what you mean about the traffic in and around St As, MrsMalumbas. I think we'd try to use cars as little as poss really, esp. for going into the city centre.

Part of me thinks it is crazy to be comparing secondary schools when the dcs are still so young - but I guess it has to form part of the decision of where we end up living, doesn't it? If I asked to visit any of these schools as a (very) prospective parent, do you think they'd let me, or would they tell me to come back in 5 years?

Also...I thought of this earlier...my mum is in her 60s and is agoraphobic. Here's the moral dilemma for you...how much do we factor her in to the decision as to where we live? As in, she would love us to be a taxi ride away. But that would mean our compromising on the area we want to live in, and on the schools that the dcs could possibly go to. If we moved to St As we'd be about 30 mins dive away, and I'd still see her at least 3 or 4 times a week...but is that enough? What do you think? Is blood thicker than...errrr....whatever? I know it's a hard one, but any honest responses would be gratefully received.

Thanks for all your insights and snippets. Dh and I are planning on sitting down one evening nex tweek and thrashing it all out...

roseylea Sat 03-Feb-07 20:55:53

Maybe I should post that last question in the 'sandwich generation' bit...

lizziemun Sat 03-Feb-07 21:14:38

roseylea

My family has just all moved out of Hemel.

My anut moved to leighton Buzzard for better school for my cousin.

She has just turned 10yrs, she went to Gade Valley and for the first 3years in school she had 16 teachers. Also they are closing a few infant schools in hemel so classes will be getting bigger.

Cavendish was a good school when i went their but now has a reputaion (sp) for drugs.

If you can afford it, i would go for St Albans any day over hemel.

roseylea Sun 04-Feb-07 16:22:33

Alibubbles, Princessmel and anyone else who might know -

what do you think of Markyate or Caddington? (I've never been there but it seems that house prices are a bit cheaper).

I did a drive around this morning between St As and Harpenden - got a bit lost! and caught up in the diversion system for the high street.

edam Sun 04-Feb-07 16:38:39

Oh, that's the big downside of moving to Herts, the County Highways dept. make Coco the Clown look like he wasn't really trying. Potholes R Us. They've spent the last two years causing huge disruption digging up the main road through St Albans. Then ran out of money so had to abandon plans to use attractive finishes like York paving stones so it looks a mess. Now they are digging it up again!

Specialise in things like digging up a road to put speed humps down, waiting a fortnight just so everyone thinks it's going back to normal, then as soon as you relax, BANG, they are back digging them up again.

And for the next two years there will be roadworks on the M1 as they are adding a fourth lane. If you come here, you have to accept that the roads are a state and won't be getting better any time soon.

Harpenden Town Council is mad too, bunch of middle-aged Tory men always having a row among themselves and reporting each other to the Standards Board. Our Mayor is currently suspended facing charges of some kind of dubious behaviour. Luckily they don't actually run anything beyond one set of public loos, so it doesn't really matter.

Anyway, don't know much about Markyate or Caddington although I come across people who live in both and are happy about it. But major downside is the risk that your children won't get into the school you want - children in the villages are the first to lose out when there's pressure on school places in Harpenden and St Albans.

ntsmum Sun 04-Feb-07 19:29:36

rosylea - I'm a St Albans girl born and bred. I've moved just o/side but my parents are still there and I work in the town. I think despite the drawbacks - horrendous traffic for one, it's a fantastic place to live and once you're on the property ladder there you can't lose.

homemama Sun 04-Feb-07 21:11:26

Hi Roseylea, I lived in st albans for 5yrs and did supply teaching in quite a few of the primary schools. I moved 4yrs ago though so my info may be out of date.

There are 2 primary schools quite near that house (those still living there feel free to correct me) Spencer Junior and Garden Fields. I did supply in both and GF is far superior. The KS1 dep in particular was fab! Abbey school also very good as is St Helen's in wheathampstead (both CofE) but as someone already pointed out, wheathampstead kids often have problems getting the secondary sch of their choice.

Over the other end (near francis bacon), Cunningham Hill infants is a beacon school with a good reputation although the junior school isn't so hot! Wheatfields is also good (staff were lovely and pastoral care very strong) They are famous for their walking bus thingy!

The traffic is awful in st albans although when I lived there the bus service was very good compared to other suburban towns. IMO, it's a different place to live altogether from Hemel as it's built around a proper town centre whereas HH is lots of areas of lots of houses IYKWIM.

We still have a 1bed house there which we rent out very easily. I would say you're ok buying in most areas although if possible, avoid New greens and Cottonmill
<Alibubbles may say theyve come on a lot though!>

Any other questions, I'll try and help. Oh and a friend of mine taught at Sandringham secondary and loved it! (Not far from that house either)

2ManyPimms Mon 05-Feb-07 07:59:51

I live in St A. We are moving out to the Cotswolds for quality of life issues - but if you need to live around London, I could think of worse places to be.

The 2ndary schools aren't particularly outstanding. They are o.k., but considering they are drawing from some excellent (and I mean EXCELLENT) primary schools, they are disappointing.

Avoid the catchment area for Francis Bacon School (supposedly a specialist "Maths and Computer college"). Stay away from Cottonmill and New Greens. (I am sure they have improved, but still...).

There are many, many things I don't like about St. Al. at the moment - one being the HUGE amount of building that is going on and will continue to go on - adding to the traffic congestion and degredation in quality of life. The highways agency is a joke and the council is in the pocket of developers which means that what makes St Al. lovely is slowly going to disappear. The Buncefield Oil Depot blast has a worrying potential consequence - the chemicals from the spray they used to contain and extinguish the fire is leaching down into the water table. Not great. Tesco is going to muscle in and build a HUGE supermarket in an already overcrowded town centre area.

On the plus side, it has a cathedral, market and a loverly park with a water play area.

Good luck with your decision!

anorak Mon 05-Feb-07 08:40:46

Hello rosey, I live in Bricket Wood and think this whole area is very nice. Schools here are good too, Parmiters is an excellent school if you're looking at a secondary. Our local primary in Bricket Wood is very good too. It's called Mount Pleasant Lane.

Hi alibubbles, I drove past your road last Thurs morning and the police were towing away two crashed cars on the slip road down from the main road!

sunshinefairy Mon 05-Feb-07 08:46:23

Hi Im not in St Albans but in Hertford which I guess is the next biggest commuter town with 2 trainstations but is equal in expense to St Albans, Stevenage is also good for train links to london you could live in the surrounding villages.

alibubbles Mon 05-Feb-07 14:29:28

anorak, on my lane? What time was that? people always think it is one way, so I have had a few near misses at the top!

fortyplus Mon 05-Feb-07 20:53:53

roseylea - Markyate is a funny little place. A little High St running parallel to the A5 then all the houses up the hill on one side only. Big ex council estate. My best friend lives in Markyate for several years and it seemed ok. One thing to watch, though - if the Luton Airport expansion goes ahead it's estimated that Markyate will have 5,000 more houses built there.
I don't know Caddington.

I asked my brother what he'd do on your budget - he lived in Hemel till he was 26, then St Albans for 9 years, now Harpenden for 7 years.

He says people in Harpenden can be a bit snobby if you live in the 'wrong' area (eg Southdown.) In St Albans you'd be way out of town on an ex council estate. So he thinks Hemel is your best bet as for £250K you'll still get somewhere in a nice area like Boxmoor. From HP3 postcodes you can still apply for Parmiter's School.

I have a good friend who lives just outside Bedford who says that everyone who can afford it sends their kids privately as the state schools are poor. But I don't know if that's true. Caddington is in Beds.I think.

roseylea Mon 05-Feb-07 21:34:02

hmmm thanks for that; lots of food for thought.

Had a really busy day - the school where I work is being Ofsteded on Wednesday! Only found out today!

fortyplus Mon 05-Feb-07 21:36:44

EEK!

roseylea Mon 05-Feb-07 21:37:10

What do you think of this one 40+ (or others?)

house

fortyplus Mon 05-Feb-07 21:43:48

You wouldn't get into Two Waters from there unless you were very lucky - nearest is Tudor School - I don't know it but the reputation isn't good. You should be ok for Hemel School, though.
Ebberns Road has big problems with parking since they built a load of flats at the end.
It still has a lot of industrial units, but the land has been earmarked for housing.
On the plus side - it backs on to the canal on one side so nice walks towards Berkhamsted. Close to lots of open green space (Boxmoor Trust land).
Ebberns Rd is next to the Apsley Lock development - considered quite trendy. There's a good pub/restaurant called the Paper Mill, plus a couple of other restaurants including an Organic Vegetarian one.
I'll see if I can find the local paper if I haven't chucked it out already.
There's an Estate Agent based in Boxmoor called David Doyle - they must have a website.

fortyplus Mon 05-Feb-07 21:44:57

Silly me - I've just seen that the house you're looking at is on with D Doyle!

fortyplus Mon 05-Feb-07 21:52:41

Take a look at this - it's in an unmade road just behind the railway station backing on to common land - smothered in cowslips and orchids in early summer. It's sale agreed but they come up fairly regularly here

fortyplus Mon 05-Feb-07 22:03:00

Or what about this one... Brand new and I know where it is - been on the market ages so bet they'd take an offer!
You'd get Two Waters Primary and Hemel Secondary from there.

roseylea Mon 05-Feb-07 22:03:25

Thanks for that. I'm starting to find this house-hunting a bit depressing tbh (and I haven't even seen any houses in RL yet!)

I guess I'm just finding it depressing because this is such an expensive area of the UK, and because schools vary so much - you have to really play the game to get your dcs into the better schools, don't you? And I'm a bit pre-menstrual...

I so want to find somewhere that feels like home, where I can settle down (which I never really have) and my dcs can grow up. Sigh...

Sorry, rant over! I'll be back looking at house details all excitedly again tomorrow!

40+, e-mail me on lucydallas 28 @ yahoo . co . uk (spaces out obviously). I am off to bed in a minute but I'll be around tomorrow pm...

sandyw Fri 09-Feb-07 13:51:05

Hi, I've just been reading through this thread and haven't heard much about around the St Michaels area. We have an offer in on a house in the village and I thought the schools were meant to be very good there, can anyone confirm this, or am I looking in the wrong place? Many thanks.

fuchsia0703 Fri 09-Feb-07 14:10:45

Hi Roseylea - we went through all this prior to moving to St Albans in May last year. I think I visited about 7 or 8 primary schools in total .. my decision was quite a difficult in that DD has special needs .. having said that because she was Yr 4 at the time .. there were spaces available in schools she wouldn't have been able to get into at reception age. Have you looked on the Jersey Farm estate which is a fairly new development on the north side of town .. catchment for Sandringham I would think. I would be happy to give you more details on the schools I saw if you are interested and I have also done the secondaries too (and I liked Townsend a lot too).

fuchsia0703 Fri 09-Feb-07 14:12:11

Hi Roseylea - we went through all this prior to moving to St Albans in May last year. I think I visited about 7 or 8 primary schools in total .. my decision was quite a difficult in that DD has special needs .. having said that because she was Yr 4 at the time .. there were spaces available in schools she wouldn't have been able to get into at reception age. Have you looked on the Jersey Farm estate which is a fairly new development on the north side of town .. catchment for Sandringham I would think. I would be happy to give you more details on the schools I saw if you are interested and I have also done the secondaries too (and I liked Townsend a lot too).

GreatGooglyMoogly Fri 09-Feb-07 18:47:03

sandyw ,St Michaels is lovely and walking distance to the main shops, plus the Abbey CofE school is supposed to be very good too. You definitely haven't made a mistake!

sandyw Fri 09-Feb-07 19:25:29

thanks GreatGooglyMoogly, I was begining to really worry that we've done the wrong thing, it certainly looks beautiful round there.

billiejo Sun 11-Feb-07 07:28:20

Hello there, was just wondering if anyone is familiar with the Chiswell Green area? we're going to be moving there from London shortly. I'm particularly interested to know what Marlborough school is like as it's the closest Secondary and the ofsted report is 6 years old!!! Dn't know anyone in RL who goes there. thanks.xx

lovelymoo Sun 11-Feb-07 08:00:12

Hi I live in chiswell Green and its a nice little village to live in. I don't have kids of secondary school age but i have heard that Marlborough school has got better in the last few years and is no a really good school. A few of my friends went there a few years back now and they have never complained about it.

You can always go and look around the school but Townsend isn't too far and that is also a good school

fuchsia0703 Sun 11-Feb-07 11:55:43

I was really impressed with Marlborough when I went to their open evening .. I have a friend with 2 children there and they're quite satisfied. With Townsend you have to bear in mind that it is a C of E school and its entry criteria are a bit different to the other schools.

edam Sun 11-Feb-07 12:30:57

Never heard anyone being snobby about Southdown. Very popular now as houses are a bit cheaper there.

billiejo Sun 11-Feb-07 20:24:23

Thanks lovelymoo and fushcia, this is going to sound mad but my ds1 isn't even in infant school yet!! but the move from London and all our friends seems so massive to us that i just want to look at every aspect. thanks so much for your advice.x

lovelymoo Mon 12-Feb-07 08:09:01

How old is your little ones my DC's are 3 and 17mths. The eldest is due to start nursery at the local school in september and the youngest at the preschool next door in sept/jan. I can help you out with anymore questions

billiejo Mon 12-Feb-07 19:59:45

Hi Lovelymoo, snap!! my kids are 3 and 14 months. where in chiswell green are you?

lovelymoo Mon 12-Feb-07 21:16:25

Not far from the three hammers pub. My eldest DD will be going to killigrew in Sept hopefully- we find out next month.

jajas Mon 12-Feb-07 21:39:01

How about Redbourn? I grew up there and went to St Dominics in Harpenden and then Loreto in St Albans. Find it all too busy and built up now but horses for courses I guess.

billiejo Mon 12-Feb-07 23:04:18

Hi lovelymoo. Our new house is on laburnam grove so not far from you?although we've only looked around the area once so i'm going purely from memory! Yes, i'm unsure what to do about nusery. Is there one attached to killigrew itself or do you go to the nursery/pre school at the methodist church? sorry, so many questions, bet you wished you'd never replied!!

lovelymoo Tue 13-Feb-07 08:01:17

Hi Billiejo

There is a nursery attached to killigrew school and there is a preschool at the church just by killigrew which they can go to from 2 1/2 until school age they run morn and afternoon sessions.
My eldest is there at the mo and loves it both are in easy walking distance from you.

I walk past your road on the way in the morns and know a few mums that have kids at the preschool and killigrew that live down your road.

Glad i help you

billiejo Tue 13-Feb-07 20:10:11

thanks lovelymoo, it's good to have a bit of insider info before moving to a new place....i'm quite nervous about the leap from london tbh. hopefully i may bump into you at the pre-school or nursery

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