This is classic “metroland”, as eulogised by the poet Sir John Betjeman in his 1973 TV documentary about the London suburbs that grew up around the Metropolitan railway at the end of the 19th century.
The town of Rickmansworth, or Ricky, as the locals call it, and its surrounding estates and villages, together straddle the M25 some 20 miles north-west of London in the wooded Hertfordshire countryside.
'Rickmansworth is a classic commuter town with good schools and beautiful surrounding countryside'
Rickmansworth is famous for its watery setting: it sits at the junction of three rivers - the Gade, the Chess and the Colne - and the Grand Union Canal. It was once known for its watercress beds but now its network of rivers, lakes and towpaths has been transformed into the Aquadrome - a nature reserve where residents can fish, take part in watersports, cycle, picnic or visit the café.
Graeme Warren, of estate agents Savills, describes Rickmansworth as a classic commuter town with a busy, bustling town centre with good schools and beautiful surrounding countryside, here and in the nearby Chiltern Hills.
It is an area of outstanding natural beauty popular with weekend walkers and hikers. It has an easy commute to London - 30 minutes to Marylebone station or 55 minutes direct to the city on the Metropolitan line.
Houses and flats for sale in Rickmansworth
In Rickmansworth itself there is everything from small Victorian cottages to Twenties and Thirties detached and semi-detached houses and modern flats.
Moor Park is a conservation area where large detached houses sit in wide, tree-lined roads with well-kept grass verges.
Loudwater, another conservation area, has similar properties including the famous McNamara houses, recognisable by their cottage-like appearance and thatched roofs; and Chorleywood is a village in a deep wooded valley with its own shopping centre, a fine common and Edwardian houses inspired by the Arts & Crafts architect CFA Voysey, who built his own house, Orchard, here in Shire Lane. Period houses and cottages can be found in favoured villages such as pretty little Chenies, Chipperfield, Sarratt and Flaunden.
The area attracts: there is demand from people working for local employers such as Comet and Skanska UK, while first-time buyers like the modern flats or the small Victorian cottages, and there is always a demand from families moving out of London.
Staying power: strong local demand and a good mix of properties means there is scope to trade up and down. Renting: most tenants in Rickmansworth commute to London and some families are happy to take on 12-month lets.
Postcode: WD3 is the most favoured Watford postcode; it covers Rickmansworth, Chorleywood and Loudwater. Chipperfield is in WD4, and Moor Park is in the Harrow postcode HA6.
Best roads: in Rickmansworth itself, the best roads are The Drive, The Clump and Valley Road - where houses sell for between £1 million and £3 million - and anything on the Loudwater and Moor Park estates.
What’s new: Croxley Green, between Rickmansworth and Watford, has a number of new homes schemes. Merchant Taylors Place (01923 297311) is a development on a former private sports ground of 156 (46 affordable) three-, four- and five-bedroom houses and converted flats in Durrants House, a Victorian mansion, by Barratt Homes. Prices from £365,000 to £630,000.
Sanson Place (Preston Bennett, 020 8954 8626, and James Estate Agents, 01923 710 500) is a development of 10 three- and four-bedroom houses by the Winston Group for completion in early summer; prices range from £535,000 to £599,950.
Woodland Chase (Gibbs Gillespie 01923 771771) is a development of 36 three-, four- and five-bedroom houses by Howarth Homes. The third phase is launching this Friday and Saturday, for completion in October. Price range from £449,940 to £949,950.
One (Sewell & Gardner 01923 776400) is a development of 28 one-, two- and three-bedroom flats being sold off-plan by Oakford Homes in the centre of Rickmansworth close to the station. Prices start at £199,950 for a one-bedroom flat, £285,000 for a two-bedroom flat and £395,000 for a three-bedroom flat.
Up and coming: according to Savills’ Graeme Warren, there is a strong demand for building plots and for houses in the £500,000 to £750,000 price range which can be extended or remodelled.
Schools: most of Rickmansworth’s state primary schools do well at Key Stage 2 (age 11) but the following are judged “outstanding” by the Government education watchdog Ofsted: Harvey Road in Croxley Green, Little Green Junior in Lincoln Drive and Christ Church CofE on The Common in Chorleywood.
The state secondary schools do well, too: St Joan of Arc RC in the High Street is judged “outstanding”; Rickmansworth in Scots Hill and St Clement Danes in Chorleywood, both now academies, are both judged “good with outstanding features”. Watford Grammar School for Boys and Watford Grammar School for Girls are both partially selective and accept students from Rickmansworth; both are judged “outstanding”.
There are a number of prep schools: Charlotte House (girls, ages two to 11) - the girls’ artwork is displayed at the station - is in The Drive; Northwood Prep (boys, ages three to 13) in Moor Farm and York House (co-ed, ages two to 13) in Sarratt Road. The Royal Masonic School in Rickmansworth Park (girls, from the nursery to age 18) is popular. Merchant Taylors’ (boys, ages 11 to 18) is a top-performing school.
Shops and restaurants: for such a wealthy area, Rickmansworth’s town centre is a disappointment, with a high proportion of charity shops. Cinnamon Square stands out as a bakery with a popular bakery school attached.
The Feathers is a lovely old inn in Church Street. There are local shops in Moor Park and a small shopping centre in Chorleywood. For a better choice of high street names, Watford is close by.
The Scotsbridge Mill at Croxley Green and The Gate at Chorleywood are modern gastropubs. There is fine dining to be had at two restaurants at Chandler’s Cross: Colette’s at The Grove, a hotel with its own golf course and spa, and The Clarendon.
Open space: the Aquadrome is the watery nature reserve on the edge of town and beyond that, there are beautiful walks in the Chiltern Hills.
Leisure and the arts: The William Penn Leisure Centre (named after the founder of Pennsylvania who was born in Rickmansworth) is the local council-owned swimming pool. Watersmeet is a multifunction community hall which hosts weddings along with films put on by the local film society, an annual pantomime and amateur dramatic shows.
The annual Rickmansworth Festival takes place in May. The town has a public 18-hole golf course and there are golf clubs at Chorleywood and Batchworth Park but the most exclusive is Moor Park, with two championship courses.
Travel and commuting: Rickmansworth sits just inside the M25 between the M1 and the M40, so offers quick journey times to Heathrow, the north and the west. Rickmansworth, Chorleywood (both Zone 7, annual travelcard £2,320), and Moor Park (Zone 6, annual travelcard £2,136) are all on the Metropolitan line which offers a direct service to the City in around 55 minutes. The Chiltern Turbo is a fast train service from Chorleywood and Rickmansworth to Marylebone which takes around 30 minutes.
Council tax: Three Rivers council (Liberal Democrat-controlled) set the Band D council tax for 2011/2012 at £1,458.24.