Why it's time to move to Letchworth Villages
PUBLISHED: 12:50 25 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:27 20 February 2013
The village communities surrounding Letchworth offer an enticing country life, as Pat Bramley discovers...
PICTURESQUE places like Willian and Weston are not much more than a dot on the county map but the small communities who live there can enjoy the best of both urban and country lifestyles.
On their doorstep are the amenities of the much larger centres of Letchworth, Hitchin and Baldock yet the villages and hamlets in this part of north Hertfordshire still retain their rural character and traditions.
Two of the highlights on the social calendar at Willian are the Guinness and Oyster Festival each March and the village fete in the summer.
James Nye, who owns The Fox pub opposite the duck pond, grew up in Willian and now hes creating a buzz, running fun charity events and attracting foodies from a wide radius as well as picking up prizes for the quality of the homemade food produced by his chefs. Last year the pub won the Great British Pub Food Award for serving the best fish and chips in the country and this year it has been named Hertfordshires 2011 Dining Pub of the Year in the Good Food Guide.
Each of the villages surrounding Letchworth has something to boast about which sets it apart from its neighbours.
Willian is one of the few places in Hertfordshire with a fishmonger. It also has a 14th century church.
Norton has a very friendly village shop and post office and an excellent primary school named after the local church, St Nicholas. The landlord of the village pub, the Three Horseshoes, allows parents to park in his car park while they drop off and collect children each day. Norton also has a highly regarded retirement complex with cottages and apartments at Norton Hall Farm.
As well as a village shop, post office and primary school, Weston has two pubs and an attractive cricket ground.
How much to live here
The estate agents at the Letchworth office of Satchells say the price range for village properties in the area starts at around 155,000 and goes all the way up to close to a million. In each community theres a healthy mix of ages and income groups. Property values can vary by almost 100,000 from one road to the next, according to the size of the plots and the style and quality of the building. There are pockets of expensive houses and roads where the properties are more ordinary but there are no large modern estates.
Villagers hop in the car and make the short trip to Letchworth, Hitchin or Baldock for the main shop of the week.
Letchworth has a pedestrianised shopping centre, also a 1920s arcade as well as specialist shops in The Wynd and health and beauty boutiques in The Gallery. Theres also a monthly farmers market on the third Saturday of the month.
Hitchin has a good selection of high street shops and lots of restaurants.
Baldock is the place to go for independent butchers and bakers.
Willians fishmonger sells fresh fish from fishing boats coming into harbours on the Sussex and the north Norfolk coast as well as takeaway fish dishes made by chefs at The Fox from The Food Barn behind the pub.
Weston is also home to businesses at industrial enclave Weston Barns while Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design is based at nearby Halls Green.
Letchworth, Hitchin and Baldock all have railway stations. Trains from Hitchin reach Kings Cross in under half an hour. The A1(M) provides a fast route north and south.
Comprehensive schools in the area include Hitchin Boys and Hitchin Girls, Knights Templar at Baldock and Fearnhill at Letchworth.
Fee-paying schools include St Christopher School co-ed for 3-18-year-olds at Letchworth, St Francis College for 3-18-year-old girls at Letchworth and Princess Helena College at Hitchin for girls aged from 11-18 years.