Sitting at the very edge of north London, Barnet faces the city in one direction and the rolling Hertfordshire countryside in the other. Still well within the boundary of the M25, it is a place of great contrasts, with homes that vary in price from £10 million in the wealthy enclave of Hadley Wood to little one-bedroom flats in modern developments in Barnet itself, starting from £150,000.
It attracts everyone from multi-millionaire football stars who park their Ferraris and Maseratis close to Spizzico restaurant on a Saturday night, to families looking for some of London’s best state schools, to first-time buyers on a tight budget.
Barnet has its origins in a 12th-century settlement and was the site of the decisive Battle of Barnet in 1471 in the Wars of the Roses, an event recalled in the town’s museum.
The Monken Hadley conservation area is a short walk north of the town centre. This is where the countryside begins. High on a hill with views over Canary Wharf, there are heaths, ponds, a cricket pitch and Georgian mansions. The charming village enclave of Monken Hadley, with its ancient flint church of St Mary’s, is on a bend in the road that suddenly slows to a single track as it passes through a white painted gate. It is a tranquil and rural spot, yet only 12 miles from central London.
Local estate agents say that Barnet feels like a country town but has the advantage of a Tube service into central London as well as excellent state schools.
Homes for all
Properties: everything from multi-million-pound gated mansions in Hadley Wood to the north-east of Barnet, and to a lesser extent Arkley to the south-west, to large Georgian houses in the Monken Hadley conservation area. There are Victorian cottages in Hadley Highstone, Victorian family houses in the roads north of Wood Street in the town centre, Twenties semi-detached houses and modern flats. Particularly sought-after are the Georgian houses built as country residences for wealthy London families.
The area attracts: Arsenal and Tottenham footballers, such as Spurs striker and Irish captain Robbie Keane and former gunners and Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp, go for the large gated mansions in Hadley Wood, which is also where singer Amy Winehouse bought a house last year away from the temptations of Camden. Families come to Barnet in search of state schools, and first-time buyers for the affordable prices and country town atmosphere.
Staying power: people stay because there is a wide choice of property, so it is easy to move up and down the property ladder.
Postcodes: EN4 covers Hadley Wood (not much under £1 million) and New Barnet (much cheaper), while EN5 covers the rest of Barnet and Arkley.
Best streets: Hadley Green Road and Hadley Common; Camlet Way and Beech Hill in Hadley Wood, and in Barnet itself the roads of Victorian houses north of Wood Street such as Granville Road and The Avenue.
Up-and-coming: around the Oakleigh Park station you can still buy a three- bedroom Twenties semi-detached house for £350,000 to £400,000.
What’s new: the Hadley Bourne Estate is in Dury Road in the heart of the Monken Hadley conservation area. Formerly St Martha’s Convent, the house and its outbuildings have been converted into three flats and three mews houses. Two homes remain, a two-bedroom flat for £1.15 million and a two-bedroom mews house for £750,000. Statons is also selling Parkview, a development in Park Road close to the town centre where prices range from £299,950 for a two-bedroom flat to £619,950 for a four-bedroom town house.
Schools: the high quality of Barnet’s state schools is one of the main reasons why families move there. The best-performing primary schools are: Foulds and Christ Church CofE, both in Byng Road, St Catherine’s RC in Vale Drive, Monken Hadley in Camlet Way, Whitings Hill in Whitings Road and Hadley Wood in Courtleigh Avenue. Queen Elizabeth’s School in Queen’s Road is a boys’ grammar school; Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School in the high street is a comprehensive which gets above-average results; and St Martha’s is a popular private girls’ school in Camlet Way. JCoSS in Castlewood Road is a newly opened Jewish comprehensive.
Saturday is glitz night
Shops and restaurants: The Spires, off the high street, is a small shopping centre with a Waitrose. For such a wealthy area, Barnet’s shopping centre is a disappointment. IKandy is a women’s boutique, Scrummager’s and Divine House, both in St Albans Road, are two interiors boutiques. Barnet’s restaurants cater for the glitzy Saturday evening crowd: Spizzico, The Reks and Savoro are favourites.
* MORE ON THE BOROUGH OF BARNET:
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Open spaces: Barnet is on the edge of the countryside, so there are endless opportunities for walking, mountain biking and horse riding. Hadley Common and Trent Park Country Park are on the London Loop, the round-London walking trail. Oakhill Park in Parkside Gardens is a Green Flag park. The Dollis Valley Greenwalk is a 10-mile walk between Totteridge and Barnet
Leisure and the arts: the Church Farm leisure centre in Church Hill Road is the nearest council-owned swimming pool. This is golf course country and Hadley Wood is a particularly popular parkland course. The Bull in the high street is Barnet’s community theatre and home to the Susi Earnshaw performing arts school where Amy Winehouse was a pupil. There is an Odeon cinema on the Great North Road.
Transport: High Barnet (Zone 5, annual travel card £1,760) is the last stop on the Northern line, with a journey time to Leicester Square of about 40 minutes. There is also a train service from Hadley Wood (Zone 6), New Barnet (Zone 5) and Oakleigh Park (Zone 4) to King’s Cross and Moorgate.
Council: most of Barnet is in the London Borough of Barnet (Conservative controlled), band D council tax for 2010/11, £1,423.02. The western side of Hadley Wood is in Enfield (Labour controlled), band D council tax £1,410.16.
One-bedroom flat £189,000
Two-bedroom flat £226,000
Two-bedroom house £301,000
Three-bedroom house £395,000
Four-bedroom house £562,000
One-bedroom flat £735 to £800 a month
Two-bedroom flat £900 to £1,100 a month
Three-bedroom flat £1,100 to £1,200 a month
Three-bedroom house £1,300 to £1,700 a month
Four-bedroom plus house £1,900+ a month
Source: Anscombe & Ringland
Photographs: Barry Phillips