Hertfordshire is the low-profile home county, not as celebrity-friendly as Surrey and Sussex, or as much of a magnet as Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire to affluent west Londoners.
Yet this 634-square mile swathe north of the capital contains some of England’s loveliest villages. In our series looking at top London commuter options, we tip some of the best.
Where is it? In the Chiltern Hills, three miles from Tring and nine miles from Hemel Hempstead.
What it costs: about £400,000 for a two- to three-bedroom cottage. Four-bedroom family houses start at £800,000, and landmark houses with a bit of land are £2 million-plus.
The commute: Tring to Euston trains take from 35 minutes. An annual season ticket costs £4,920.
Schools: Ofsted rates the village primary “good”. Excellent senior schools in Berkhamsted and Tring.
Who would it suit? Close to the National Trust’s magnificent Ashridge Estate, walkers and riders love pretty Aldbury. There are two pubs, a shop, a post office and tennis courts.
And the downsides? Parking at Tring station can be a scrum.
2. MUCH HADHAM
Where is it? Five miles south-west of Bishop’s Stortford.
What it costs: about £450,000 for a three-bedroom house, and from £1.5 million for a five-bedroom detached house with large gardens.
The commute: 39 minutes from Bishop’s Stortford to Liverpool St.
Schools: a popular village primary. Who would it suit? Retired couples and young families enjoy village life and the good housing stock. Set in lovely open country, there are cute thatched cottages, Georgian manors, local pubs, a shop, tennis and football clubs and lots of fêtes and fairs. Little Hadham, the next village, has regular farmers’ markets.
And the downsides? Single-track roads mean occasional traffic jams.
3. THE AYOTS
Where are they? A cluster of hamlets — Ayot St Peter, Ayot St Lawrence and Ayot Green — sits two-and-a-half miles north-west of Welwyn Garden City.
What it costs: £500,000-£750,000 for a three-bedroom semi; detached five-bedroom houses from £1 million.
The commute: 25 minutes from Welwyn to King’s Cross. An annual season ticket costs £3,960.
Schools: Osted “outstanding” Codicote CofE Primary is nearby.
Who would it suit? Families and country-loving downsizers. There are three pubs, and a golf course and French restaurant at Brocket Hall.
And the downsides? These tiny villages are super-quiet and you have to drive everywhere.
BEST OF THE REST
4. BARLEY: Tudor buildings, two pubs, a shop, school, a GP surgery and 35-minute trains to King’s Cross from Royston, 10 minutes’ drive away. A two-bedroom period cottage would cost £300,000. A large five-bedroom detached house would be £1 million.
5. WHEATHAMPSTEAD: beside the River Lea, there’s a strong community, an annual music festival, kids’ clubs, a tennis club, wine club, two pubs, a café, useful shops and 39-minute trains to Blackfriars from Harpenden, three miles away. Three-bedroom houses cost £450,000-£550,000.
6. TEWIN: Set in the green belt near Welwyn, surrounded by ancient woodland and open countryside. “It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere despite being very close to Hertford and Welwyn Garden City,” said Sally Noakes, head of Strutt & Parker in Harpenden. The village has a primary school, pub, post office and convenience school, Trains from Welwyn North Station, two miles away, take from 29 minutes to King’s Cross. A three bedroom semi-detached house would start at around £400,000.
7. KIMPTON: An “incredibly friendly” village according to Lumley, with an annual horse show, a May Day festival during which the village all but closes down for three days of merry-making, and a new folk festival. There are more than 50 different societies to join and Kimpton (which is just up the road from Wheathampstead) also has a pub, a primary school, and a recreation ground. The station is at Harpenden five miles away. New build four bedroom houses are priced at around £550,000.