Looking to do the long term forever move out of London with our toddler DC. Harpenden is ticking all our boxes for obvious reasons - commute, schools, lovely surroundings, closer to our midlands-based parents. But even though we're moving from London, the stratospheric prices mean we could only afford a house near the outskirts. Having done a few visits and viewings, and reading around online, I'm a bit worried that a large majority of people we meet will be extrememly weathly and that as crusty lefties we won't really fit in? Also the level of competition to secure the right house to get into the good schools are scaring us a bit. It all just seems really competetive and cutthroat, it almost seems "too nice" for the likes of us, and I wonder if we'd be happier somewhere that's not so super popular...
So.. do non super-weathly normal people live in harpenden? Is the competetive and pushy atmosphere in my imagination?
Ooohhh was there last weekend for Sunday lunch and know exactly what you mean. Everone bsr me looked like they had just had a blow dry. Diverse it is not. Have you checked Hitchin out? It ticks your boxes as well, but has none of the Stepford Wives thing going on and a bit cheaper (and a better waitrose).
Grew up there. Don't live there anymore but still have friends and family there. And yes they are normal people. But despite being normal people they are living in a weird alter-world imo.
At one point we looked at living there - the attraction of the three great secondaries (and great primaries) was a lure. But there is such a "Harpenden Mummies" culture of uber competitive, uber snobbish (can't think of a different word) that I feel uncomfortable about it all.
It has a great train link (so does Hitchin, Baldock, Letchworth, Biggleswade). It has great schools. But people are too precious to pick up their own dog poo. Or park properly. And their child needs to go to every babygroup/toddler group/tutoring possible. It seemed to be the kind of place that as Belle says is a bit "Stepford Wives" about it.
And house prices! A min of 400K for a teeny 3 bed? In the less desirable part of town? You'd be better saving that money, going somewhere cheaper and going private.
I grew up very close to Harpenden and a lot of my friends lived there, so I've known it for over 30 years. Even compared with other parts of dormitory town Herts, I've always found it stifling, as if all the life has been sucked out of it. Nothing on earth would induce me to go back for longer than a couple of hours to visit a friend. I think it probably peaked when Jane Austen wrote about it in P&P and it's been getting progressively less exciting ever since. It would be a hell of shock to the system if you're moving from London.
If you want a quietish commuter town in Herts, any of the others already mentioned would be a lot cheaper and much less/not at all Stepford-like (maybe Royston, too). If you wanted somewhere a bit more lively and probably a little bit less expensive with really good schools, St Albans is worth a look.
Oh dear, sounds like my fears are justified. We're not really London people tbh and would rather be in the countryside. Vut yrs so far wece also been looking at Berkhampstead, Tring, Thame. Trtibg to avoid Bucks as don't want the stress of grammar schools
My friend moved there recently from inner London to the 'wrong' side of the rail line and she loves it. She is a chameleon though and adapts herself to yummy mummy/city dweller depending on who she's with