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Where to move to in the Home Counties (I know, I know...)

(50 Posts)
sniffydog Wed 03-Sep-14 14:35:39

Hello Mumsnetters,
We're in London with 3 kids (7, 5 & 2) and are desperate to relocate to the home counties but we need some local advice on options! I know this is a common question which 2 years of researching still hasn't given us a satisfying answer to.

The wish list:
- Good primaries (that we have a hope of getting eldest 2 into in-year)
- Good secondaries - state, mixed, non-selective, not church.
- max 40 mins commute into Kings Cross, Euston, Liverpool St, maybe Paddington or Marylebone at a stretch. Or inner areas like Kentish Town, Camden or Highbury & Islington.
- erm...'nice' a bit countrysideish but things to do nearby (activities for kids, pubs, restaurants etc for us)

We've been through the usual suspects and still haven't found the one. Or at least they all require a compromise...
St Albans: ticks all the boxes but quite big, expensive and just not 'doing it' for DW
Harpenden: nice but crazy expensive (£1m for a bungalow!) and a bit "dull" for DW
Berkhampstead: great but limited secondary options.
Hitchin, WGC: meh (sorry)
Bishops Stortford: very nice but secondaries are all church, selective or single sex
Hertford: nice but lots of stuff about very oversubscribed primaries and secondaries

If there's anyone I haven't managed to offend who has some suggestions for other options, we'd love to hear them.

Kahlua4me Wed 03-Sep-14 14:39:09

Wokingham and surrounding area? Excellent schools, both primary and secondary.

Or is that the wrong side of London? Fast train into Paadington, but not the others.

PenisesAreNotPink Wed 03-Sep-14 14:42:10

Berkhamsteds 'limited secondary options' are because both the local state and local private school are excellent. You don't need more options grin

I've worked in both, and they are both fantastic schools.

Berkhamsted is lovely. You will get more 'house' for your money in Boxmoor which is 3 miles away. It's the posh part of Hemel - 28 minutes to Euston. Boxmoor is next to Hemel train station. Hemel is not 'naice' like Berkhamsted is but it's perfectly ok. It has a good sports centre with indoor and outdoor pools. And a dance academy doing every class possible.

Berkhamsted is nicer for pubs and restaurants. Hemel is rubbish for pubs.

If I had a decent wodge of money I'd live in Berkhamsted.

sniffydog Fri 05-Sep-14 10:29:52

Thanks for the replies.

Kahlua, we'll check out Wokingham. I could live with Padington.

Er, '...Pink', I should elaborate. As I said, private is not really an option. I've heard and read lots of mixed things about Ashlyns. The gist was that it's an OK school but suffers from being the 'last resort' for people who can't afford private and don't get into the nearby bucks Grammars. If you have some more insight from the coalface, I'd love to hear it.

We checked out Boxmoor. It's lovely with amazing houses but the area is a bit strange - a kind of village on the edge of the town but with no village centre to it. You'd have to drive to everything. We love the idea of being in a town/village with a high st (and schools) we can walk to.

strawberrybubblegum Fri 05-Sep-14 18:26:14

Have a look at Saffron Weldon, just south of Cambridge. It's a really pretty place, and I've heard it's got a lovely community feel. Despite being further out, it's on a fast train line into Liverpool Street (50 mins, with trains leaving every 30 mins at peak time, slower trains between those).

I don't know about the schools, but a quick look on rightmove shows both a primary and a nearby non-selective secondary which are rated ofsted 'good', and a grammar as well.

It's 20-25 mins to Cambridge for fantastic culture and things to do - for you and also the kids as they get older.

strawberrybubblegum Fri 05-Sep-14 18:27:14

Forgot to say, the train station is Audley End.

amyhamster Fri 05-Sep-14 18:30:10

Tunbridge Wells

AvonCallingBarksdale Fri 05-Sep-14 19:21:21

Chalfonts - St Giles, St Peter, Little
Gerrards Cross

All go in to Marylebone
Grammar schools

netherstowey Sun 07-Sep-14 13:33:46

Rickmansworth, Chorleywood, Croxley Green , a few parts of Watford....
Trains to Euston , Marylebone , Metropolitan to the city...

Rivercam Sun 07-Sep-14 13:40:21

Milton Keynes, or the villages around

Bedfordshire is far cheaper than Hertfordshire, and has lots of nice villages


Kent - trains into Victoria or Charring Cross - Maidstone, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Ashford etc

Crossrail - consider places on the new Crossrail train link - house prices are bound to increase in the future

WooWooOwl Sun 07-Sep-14 14:45:28

I was going to say have a look at the places that will be on the cross rail link as well.

What looks like a long or difficult commute now may be very easy in a couple of years when cross rail is up and running, and house prices seem to be rising already because of it.

manicinsomniac Mon 08-Sep-14 15:45:55

Outskirts/villages of Milton Keynes.

sniffydog Mon 08-Sep-14 16:17:17

Thanks (again) for the replies. The crossrail thing sounds interesting. I'll looking into that more...

Just to clarify, we don't want Grammar schools so Bucks and Kent are no go. DW is from Beds (Harlington) originally and is not too keen to return. But are there some nicer towns in Beds that might convince her?

We're just after a good Comp in a nice town. Is that too much to ask these days? confused

elvisola Mon 08-Sep-14 16:25:08

Radlett. There's a bit of movement within the primary schools so you would get a place at some point. Kids generally go to the Watford/Bushey secondaries - Watford Grammer, Parmiters, Queens. Also an eagerly awaited free school opening hopefully for intake from Set 14.

It's a village with an upmarket feel. Lots of boutique shops, nice restaurants, good pubs. Nice mix of people.

Has it's own theatre and green spaces but close to St Albans, Watford and Borehamwood which all offer other amenities.

MumTryingHerBest Mon 08-Sep-14 19:50:01

elvisola Radlett... Kids generally go to the Watford/Bushey secondaries - Watford Grammer, Parmiters, Queens. the OP has said that they don't want Grammar schools so I don't think the Watford schools are going to be a good idea (SW Herts 11 plus exam). Although they are only semi-selective (25% academic & 10% music/sport or technology) the majority if not all places after cared for, SEN, academic & music go to siblings where this is not the case it comes down to distance so Radlett may be a bit too far out (it would be classed as outer catchment for the boys and girls grammar).

Not sure which free school you were referring to but if it is the one being sponsored by St Clement Danes (Baldwins Lane), I believe the catchment will be WD3 and Watford. I'm not sure it will include Radlett (have they been to any Radlett primaries to give a presentation?).

Nusalembongan Mon 08-Sep-14 19:53:40

Tring? Nice but I suspect not as expensive as Berkhamsted.

GRW Mon 08-Sep-14 19:54:59

Leighton Buzzard is a bit further out but has fast train links to Euston, and is in Beds so has a 3 tier education system with middle schools from year 5 to year 8. I've heard positive things about Cedars for secondary. Some do go to the grammar schools in Aylesbury about half an hour away.

goshhhhhh Mon 08-Sep-14 19:55:36

Great Dunmow - can get train from Stansted

HolidayPackingIsHardWork Mon 08-Sep-14 22:09:07

Chelmsford, Saffron Waldon?
How about right into London in Barnett? (I don't know it well, but I am told the secondaries are very good. )

elvisola Mon 08-Sep-14 22:15:53

Mumtryingherbest - I was referring to Harperbury.

flingingmelon Mon 08-Sep-14 22:22:52

If you think Hitchin may be meh for heavens sake don't move to Bedfordshire. Just spent six months rectifying that mistake. Bedfordshire is very slow and uninspiring compared to London. I'd you want a total change of pace try it, but if you like flat whites and fashion, beware.

williaminajetfighter Mon 08-Sep-14 22:35:58

Wallingford in Oxfordshire? V pretty, good schools and community feel and stunning countryside. Didcot train gets you into London fast. Good location as close to Reading, Oxford, Cotswolds etc.

Otherwise I would head south circa Tunbridge Wells.

williaminajetfighter Mon 08-Sep-14 22:39:19

Sorry ox not quite Home Counties. I would also look at Essex. Some v stunning villages.

Nusalembongan Mon 08-Sep-14 22:41:01

Oxfordshire is gorgeous mostly. Agree Bedfordshire is pretty dire.

zipzap Tue 09-Sep-14 00:43:15

Another vote for Milton Keynes. I've written on here before about it but:
- 35 mins into Euston
- Some great schools around - ds1 is at a fantastic junior school (and he mentioned several people moving out/new people starting so definitely should get in if you live reasonably close as it's big enough - 700ish kids - that there's movement with people having to move during the year), ds2 is at a great infant school and there are several senior schools that they feed into that all have good results, different strengths so you can go with what your dc is good at - or you can apply to the grammar schools in buckingham or Aylesbury
- Loads of parks and green space - both within all the grid squares and on the outskirts, with an active Parks Trust that organises lots of events and things to do that are often free or just cost a pound or two
- Plenty of reasonable places to eat with kids or more grown up places
- Lots to do with kids - cinema, art centres, sports stuff, local youth clubs, scouts, brownies, guides, etc, water sports, playgrounds, soft play,
- Decent shops - be it the shopping centre for John Lewis etc, out of town massive Primark, big supermarkets, smaller local shops etc
- Great theatre plus smaller theatres and venues for more local productions
- It's growing and thriving so has a good feel to it, lots of investment in the place
- Easy to drive around - none of the scary roadscape of places like Oxford and older towns. Grid roads make it quick to get around and if you miss your turn then just go up to the next roundabout and come back again
- Rugby World Cup is coming for some matches next year, the MKDons stadium is state of the art and getting more and more fixtures from other people - rugby stuff, women's final was here, etc and they have an incredibly good education section that not only does a lot of stuff in the community with football lessons for kids but they do parenting courses, run arts and drama productions, and loads more.
- There's more but I have just realised the time and I should be in bed. Shout if you want more details or areas to look at.

Also - this is the thread that I put some of the good things about MK for a weekend away for somebody looking for somewhere for a weekend away with a teenager; gives an idea of some of the activities that are here:

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