Moving to St Albans from abroad...any advice much appreciated!!

(18 Posts)
mylittlepeas Mon 30-Jan-12 19:56:31

Hello All.

I've been reading through the St Albans posts avidly! But wondered if you could all give me advice on a move to St Albans.

We currently live in Prague (having been in east London for a good chunk of primary education) we have been in a Prague a year, but are looking to come back for secondary schools (husband is czech and kids bilingual). We don't want to move back to East London and are thinking of moving to St Albans for hubby's commute to London etc.

We can't afford private education and have been looking the good state secondaries, am I right in thinking that's Sandringham, Beaumont and STAGS? I am also looking for an in year admission to primary school for my youngest (probably Bernards Heath/ Fleetville/ Wheatfields or Oakwood Primary) depending on who has space etc. as it's constantly changing.

I understand I pretty much have to live on top of the school to get a place! I was looking at Sandringham secondary school but I also want to live somewhere near a cafe or somewhere to walk that's not deep in suburbia where I need the car to drive everywhere - where should I look? We don't have a huge budget (3 bed house).

I saw there were some properties for sale in the village of Sandridge but no nothing about the village - is it too far to commute to the station? Is St Albans traffic as awful as I read about? How long would it take to get to the station? And more importantly what kind of village is it like? Is it a place with lots of kids/ other teenagers? Or is it totally the wrong thing to do with kids who would grow into bored teenagers?? And is the walk to Sandringham school through the footpath I've seen really a possibility??

I'd be really grateful for advice so I can really start looking properly instead of just viewing streets on google maps!

Thank you!

33goingon64 Sat 04-Feb-12 19:55:36

Sorry no-one has replied yet. I only have a tiny baby so can't help with advice on schools or on sandringham really. You could certainly drive to St Albans station from Sandringham but it's too far to walk (does he cycle?). Good luck!

DarkMatter Sat 04-Feb-12 20:27:16

Hello, we were on a three bed house budget, and went for Highfields, which is a new estate. The more usual type of 3-bed in St Albans is a 1930s semi, or for a house closer to the centre, a small but cute Victorian terrace. Houses near Sandringham School (Marshalswick) are bigger and more modern, but it's not such an attractive area and is deep in suburbia. There is a parade of shops in Marshalswick, but it's not v appealing to walk to.

We used to live near Sandridge, it is cute, pretty small, mixed housing, one or two pubs and a cute looking village shop. Riding stables nearby, and country walks. Would be easy to walk to Sandringham School. Would take a while to get to the station, unless driving, then prob 7 mins... but then you'd have to factor in pricey car parking each day. If your husband cycles to station, well worth looking at everywhere along the Alban Way, a great cycle route that goes right to the station:

PushyDad Wed 08-Feb-12 01:25:06


Sandridge is quite a small village. Blink and you will have driven past it smile The bus service isn't fantastic so you will need a car to get to the station.

I recommend buying near Marshalwick. It will put you in the catchment area for STAGS and Sandringham. I have experience of both schools and I would recommend both of them. The other state schools in the area are ok I suppose - it depends on what your expectations are (I don't mean to sound snobbish).

As for primary schools you've missed out Skyswood and St John Fisher which are in between Sandringham and Marshalwick.

Marshalswick has a nice parade of shops plus LLoyds and Barclays branches. A small but well stocked library is across the road. The bus service to the train station and then onto the town centre is about one every 15min during peak periods and it takes about 15min. Fast train into St Pancras is 20 min

Houses towards Sandringham are cheaper than the ones heading towards the town centre. This is where the £1m plus houses are smile

Other parts of St Albans either aren't served by any nearby schools (the council is trying to sort that out) or else they aren't particularly good.

I didn't realise St Albans has a 'traffic' reputation smile Having lived in SE London and N London, any jams we might have in St Albans are inconsequential in comparison. There are ofcourse certain rush hour bottlenecks near the town centre but nothing of note between you and the station.

In terms of things to do, it is obviously not London. Having said that sporting facilities are good. Being a relatively affluent area there are no shortage of people/companies offering after school activities like football, dance, swimming, martial arts etc. Next town over is Hatfield. That has a multi screen cinema with lots of eating places.

The main selling point, at least as far as I am concerned, is the people. In the 13 years we've been living here we have lost wallets and gadgets in public places and they have always been returned to us.

Hope that the above helps.

RachieJosie Wed 08-Feb-12 17:59:58

Hi there, we are going through the St Albans postcode lottery at the moment and have had to pull out of a beautiful house after discovering quite how competitive the catchments are. One school, St Peter's Primary said 'no chance' of entry when we would have been less than 1/2 a mile away! Another, Aboyne said of a house 0.3 miles away that we would probably get in but it couldn't be garunteed at that distance. Having spoken to many other schools and estate agents this week the advice has been from everyone, try to live as close to the school as possible otherwise you cannot garuntee you will get in.

We are moving from London and going to St Albans as it feels a bit like a mini Chiswick or Putney (unsure if you know those London locations, hope you do!) The connections to London are super fast and one estate agents tipped us off that they had a client who by going from St Albans Abbey and connecting in Watford each day had saved nearly £2000k on the price of her season ticket.

Spent a while in Marshalswick today checking the place out as we are now buying there and it really is a well equipped and up and coming part of town. People are snapping up properties and extensions/conversions were going on everywhere as people are buying to be near the good schools. I would second what Pushydad said about the Marshalswick shops, you will find everything you need there from mini supermarkets, newsagents, hardware stores, hair dressers, pet stores... Didn't spot a Starbucks or any cafe but you wouldn't have to go far to find one. Plus there seemed to be quite a few swish looking pubs around. The Quadrant (as the shopping area is called) won't win any prizes for architecture but would certainly avoid having to head into the city centre for most things.

I'm not sure if you have plotted the schools on a map of the city, but if you do you will discover that most of the best secondaries that are not fee paying are over to the east side of town. Properties on the West side that we were viewing tended to be being sold by parents of younger children who were 'moving east' to get close to Beaumont or Sandringham.

Re primaries I know Wheatfields has more kids admitted each year - I was told a 3 form entry plus apparently approximately 1/2 the kids that enter to Sandringham in each year group will have come from Wheatfields... this is of course all coming from someone who lives there though, not myself.

The final thing I wanted to suggest is to get really friendly with the estate agents. The best properties we saw and indeed the one we are buying never came online. Property moves fast in St Albans, particularly those near the good schools. Many had gone that we tried to see within 24hrs of them hitting Rightmove. We learnt that properties that are listed online appear faster on Zoopla as Rightmove takes longer to process and put properties up. SO if you are going for the school hotspots I would hit Zoopla (but use Rightmove's handy school distance calculator thing.)
Our house is a 1min walk from Sandringham, isn't listed online yet but had 10 viewings lined up already (they released the details less than 24hrs ago.) We are just very lucky we were the first to see it.

SLVC Sun 12-Feb-12 12:07:41

Some great advice here. I just wanted to give an alternate opinion regards to the trains to London - I would rather pay the extra £2K a year, than have to rely on the flyer between St.Albans Abbey station and Watford. It is literally one shuttle train going up and down the route and the station is not manned, so if the train doesn't show you are on your own. Plus it would at least double your journey time into London, even without delays or no shows.

edam Sun 12-Feb-12 12:22:30

Or you could come to Harpenden. Five minutes longer on the train, five miles from St Albans, but all three secondary schools are really great. So you'd have no problems about high schools. (One of them is only for regular churchgoers, but the other two are equally strong so that doesn't really matter.) Only note of caution is don't by right on the edge of town nearest to St Albans as occasionally it seems kids down there have trouble getting in to Harpenden schools.

Harpenden's a small town but lovely, has all the shops, cafes and restaurants you'd need, a great soft play place, the common, parks, duck pond, loads of events - highland gathering, carnival, classic (cars) on the common, regular discovery days on the common for small children to look at nature, full of families who have moved out of London.

edam Sun 12-Feb-12 12:25:06

We don't have a cinema (neither does St Albans) but we do have a cinema club that puts on artier films in the Public Halls. Loads of events and shows at the Public Halls now I come to think of it, from big name comedians to antiques fairs and model railway exhibitions. Plus am dram but that may not be your cup of tea...

SLVC Sun 12-Feb-12 20:09:21

Harpenden and StA are so close, facilities wise I'd not consider them mutually exclusive. I'm always taking DC to Big Space and to Harpenden's nicer swimming pool, and have Harpenden friends who frequent StA for shopping, the splash park and pubs!

MrsJohnDeere Sun 12-Feb-12 20:22:07

I agree with SLVC about the Abbey Flyer. When we lived in St A (left 6 years ago) I had to use that train to get into London and it was so frustrating. so many no shows and delays. Felt like I spent half the day waiting on train platforms for trains that never came. May have improved in recent years though.

Aside from the traffic, St A is much nicer than Harpenden IMHO <dons hard hat and runs>. We live out in a North Herts village now but go back to both most weekends.

edam Sun 12-Feb-12 23:41:23

Oh, of course St Albans is jolly nice, I was just pointing out to the OP that she might want to look at houses in Harpenden too and telling her a little about the town. The splash park in St Albans is fab, but no-one stops you using it if you live in Harpenden!

MrsJohnDeere Mon 13-Feb-12 07:41:00

Wasn't criticising you Edam, just offering my

nieval Wed 22-Oct-14 21:05:01

We currently live in Highgate and are moving to St Albans mid November, to the Marshalswick area. Skyswood, St John Fisher and Wheatfields are all very close. I'm catholic and would like to send my 3 year old son to a catholic priamary, St John Fisher ofsted is down as overall good. With not knowing anyone in St Albans yet, I don't know which is the better school. As much as I'd like to send my son to a catholic primary, it's more important to send him to the better school. Skyswood is 0.1 mile, St John Fisher is 0.2, Wheatfields 0.5 from our new house. St John Fisher is a lot smaller that the other's which could be a good thing but looking on their website, there is a lot more going on in the other schools. Please help!

newgirl Mon 03-Nov-14 21:01:52

Nieval - skyswood is v good. Wheatfields ok but a lot bigger. I think it might help to go to a catholic primary if you want catholic secondary but do ask/check their websites.

TheBookofRuth Mon 03-Nov-14 21:08:06

St Albans is getting a cinema, if they ever finish it. And I've not found the traffic too bad, although we do seem to have rather a lot of suicidal pedestrians.

JenningsRoad Mon 03-Nov-14 21:11:37

I have a ticket to Odyssey Cinema opening night!

Galichka Tue 12-May-15 22:27:26

Ladies, we are looking to move the Charrington Place development (0.3 miles from the St Albans City station). Would really appreciate your opinion on our chances to get into a good primary schools and then secondary couple of years down the road. Many thanks in advance.

IVC82 Sun 14-Jun-15 21:46:22

Ladies. Working at the Royal vet college in Hawkshead lane near brook mans park. Would love your thoughts and advice. My kiddo is nearly three, I need a three bed semi-d/detached within driving distance and decent train links for the hubby, although I'd be happy to drop him on route. Obviously good schools and nice neighbourhoods since I'm wishlisting! Budget max max 475,000 to buy a place. We are both happy to cycle.

Any ideas? I see that Hoddesdon gives much more space for money but no idea what it's like to live there? How is Potters bar for young families? st Albans is nice but expensive!!!

Look forward to your thoughts xxxx

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