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Could you help me narrow down this list? - Essex and Herts locations

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fightingforty Thu 27-Aug-15 10:30:18

Hello

Thinking of moving to be closer to aging parents who live in Suffolk, but may move to Norfolk - tsk! (though this may make it easier if we move to herts rather than essex)
Don't know areas at all. Have done some googling, and will visit but think we have too many places at the moment on the longlist.
They are:
Chelmsford (Old Moulsham) plus Writtle, Sandon, Danbury, Little Baddow, Stock, Great Waltham, Terling
Colchester (Lexden) plus Colne Valley villages, Castle Hedingham, Halstead, Stoke by Nayland, Great Tey, Wivenhoe
Saffron Walden or Clavering
Coggeshall
Cambridge
Hitchin
Bishops Stortford and Much Hadham, Hatfield Broad Oak
Hertford or Ware

See what I mean!

Our needs are:-
Commute to city doable every day - no more than 1.5hr door to door, so realistically no more than 1hr on train max. DH will commute mostly every day. I'll be 2x week. We have 2 toddlers.
Good state schools, and poss private secondary, but prefer not.
Budget of £950k, 4 bed, period, large garden.
Things to do for children - both in terms of proper kid's stuff - playgroups and what not, and more family stuff, like National Trust, the beach, woods etc
Lively place with some culture and cafes- I appreciate the villages will not have this so much, but I'm also aware Chelmsford and Colchester are not quite the places I would like to live culture wise (again from google searches - I could be wrong but the picture I get is not great), and so perhaps a village would suit better, but with access to a few shops etc nearby.
Pretty countryside nearby
Not TOWIE Essex (I don't think these places are but I don't know them)
Friendly places

So which ones would you knock off, and which ones would you definitely visit? And have I missed anywhere?

Am very anxious about all this as had bad experience of moving in the past sad

Thanks v much

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