Love them or lose them

Conservation areas with caring communities are becoming increasingly rare. As English Heritage flags up the villains, James Phillips finds the villages that commuters will love
Little Hadham
© Andy Paradise
Little Hadham nestles along the banks of the Ash and contains many timber-framed cottages and farmhouses
English Heritage, the country’s conservation watchdog, is shocked by the number of the country’s 9,300 conservation areas that are now at risk.

In a recent survey it found that one in seven of these areas, where local councils have powers to protect whole neighbourhoods, are in serious decline, offering a street scene of shoddy replacement windows and doors, neglected road and pavement maintenance and street clutter.

Urban and suburban conservation areas were twice as likely to be at risk as rural ones.

Homes & Property went in search of best kept conservations areas for Londoners to live in.


Bletchingley derives its character from the rich red brick and tile that are the dominant building materials.

The busy A25 runs through the village but fails to detract from its old-world charm. These include an island of early buildings, which may have replaced earlier market stalls, and traditional rural shop fronts. The village is a local centre for the antiques trade. There are five pubs including the picturesque Red Lion and Whyte Hart.

When Anne of Cleves’ marriage to Henry VIII was dissolved the ex-Queen lived at now-demolished Bletchingley Place.

Commuting: morning rush-hour trains from Oxted to London Bridge take between 34 and 42 minutes; two trains to Victoria have a journey time of 42 and 45 minutes.

Annual season ticket: £1,740.

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Ingatestone Hall clock tower
Ingatestone Hall clock tower


The parish of Ingatestone and Fryenden has three conservation areas. The high street area was designated in 1969 and was one of the first in Essex. Station Lane, a residential area near the station followed in 1981, and the rural village of Fryenden in 1991.

Ingatestone is an old coaching town on the London to Colchester road. The A12 now bypasses the town centre, which has a mix of brick and pastel coloured buildings and a good range of shops, restaurants and old coaching inns.

Ingatestone Hall is a fine Tudor house which is open to the public. It was built by Sir William Petre in 1548 and the Petre family still live there.

The Anglo European School is a popular comprehensive school and is the first state school in the country to introduce the International Bacca-laureate.

Commuting: there are two morning rush-hour trains from Ingatestone to Liverpool Street with a journey time of between 32 and 35 minutes.

Annual season ticket: £2,760.

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This is not the most attractive corner of the Thames estuary but this Essex hilltop village is the exception. There are views over the Thames to the sea and the village itself, which has been a conservation area since 1969, has many quaint half-timber medieval buildings and some fine Georgian houses.

In medieval times, the village was an important centre of the wool trade and the old wool market building is a local landmark, as is the Bell Inn, a pub with a fine dining restaurant.

Commuting: there are four early morning rush-hour trains from West Horndon taking about half an hour to Fenchurch Street.

Annual season ticket: £1,824.

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A group of villages - most of which are conservation areas and all with Hadham in the name - in the valley of the river Ash between Ware and Bishop’s Stortford.

Much Hadham, with its long high street, timber-frame and brick buildings, is the best-known. The village claims to be the birthplace of Edmund Tudor, who started the eponymous dynasty, but it was also where the sculptor Henry Moore lived. His foundation is based at the nearby hamlet of Perry Green and many of his sculptures can be seen from public footpaths.

Commuting: seven morning rush-hour trains take between 43 and 51 minutes to reach Liverpool Street from Bishop’s Stortford.

Annual season ticket: £2,976.

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Sarratt, surrounded by the Chilterns, is a village in two parts. The Green Sarratt and Church End, both of which are conservations areas.

Set between Chesham and the prosperous small town of Rickmansworth, The Green Sarratt is a linear village, with a collection of brick, flint and timber-framed cottages and houses and a number of larger Georgian houses stretched out along the road for more than half a mile and overlooking a long leafy green dotted with ponds.

Deborah Brooks and Paul Griffiths in Little Hadham
© Andy Paradise
Deborah Brooks and Paul Griffiths in Little Hadham
The smaller hamlet of Church End is dominated by the church and Goldingtons, a fine country house with surrounding farm buildings.

Commuting: one morning rush-hour train from Rickmansworth to Marylebone takes 26 minutes. Or five morning rush-hour Tube trains to Baker Street on the Metropolitan line take 34 minutes.

Annual season ticket: Zone 1 to 6 travel card is £2,032.

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Deborah Brooks, 50, and her partner, Paul Griffiths, 54, own and run the acrylic fabrication company, PG Acrylic Solutions. Three years ago, they bought Ford, a 17th century house in Little Hadham in Hertfordshire.

The house, which has five bedrooms and two sweeping gable roofs at the front, needed some work. "We put in new bathrooms, new floors and wood-burning stoves. We found a bread ovens so the house once might have been the village bakery," says Deborah. "There are nice pubs in many of the local villages in the Hadhams."

The couple are now selling the house, which is on the market for £669,950. Call Hetheringtons on 01707 875161.

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