The Main High Street, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, under creative commons from bestfors photostream - click pic for link.

The Main High Street, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, under creative commons from bestfor's photostream - click pic for link.

I warn you now, Harpenden is not going to be totally fairly covered, for several reasons. We found Harpenden through our logic that where money > sense, charity shops will be good; Harpenden is one of the most expensive parts of the country, and therefore the charity shopping must be excellent. Correct?


Equation fail. There’s just the four here. And to make matters worse, our visit was somewhat truncated because on the way there, we got stuck behind the hunt. That’s right, not 10 miles from London the barbarism begins – or at least, some sort of bizarre ritual which includes rich people chasing something along where I want to be driving.

Which means that we got to Harpenden lateish, and therefore didn’t make it to all the charity shops (which all seemed to close at 4:30pm). I can run you through the couple I went in (Cancer Research was a pretty big shop with some fairly nice clothes, and as usual in a poshish place, some decent books. I left with Round The World Again in 80 Days by Jean Cocteau, but declined the amateurish, but large set of Lord of the Rings themed paintings. Help The Aged was a fairly standard shop, next to the station – it didn’t seem as good as the Oxfam nextdoor). A schlep up the High Street brought us to Marie Curie… which was closing.

So, an unsuccessful jaunt. I should come back. But I probably won’t. Why? Harpenden has all the trappings of success and beauty: village green; Caffe Nero for gossip; expensive houses; fast train to London; there’s really nothing of substance to the place. As you promenade the High Street, it reads like an upmarket version of Green Lanes. Instead of greengrocer/kebab shop/gold shop/repeat, it’s hairdressers/interior design/estate agent/repeat. It’s a little frightening the sheer volume of hair salons, beauticians, etc. I didn’t find the people of Harpenden to be sufficiently attractive as to prove this is a good thing. It’s a little depressing that people aspire to this kind of lifestyle though. Where’s the vim and vigour? Where’s the variety? Where’s the life?

Find: Harpenden on Google Maps
Transport: Harpenden Station, on the City Thameslink line
Consume with: I don’t recommend the Caffe Nero (worst. service. ever.) but the chocolate shop looked nice: DeAngelis Chocolates
Visit: Get out, and have a gander at St Albans cathedral
Overall rating:
two ugly cufflink



Filed under 2/5, Hertfordshire

12 responses to “Harpenden

  1. Steve Gledhill

    As a nearby resident I would agree with some of the findings but it’s not balanced. I have never seen a hunt in the 30 years I have known Harpenden, so don’t panic.

    Harpenden is a commuter town so unless you go during a weekend all you will find are young mums with buggies crowding into pubs or older ladies crowding into beauty salons, hairdressers, the gym and the swimming pool.

    Three charity shops were however missed out in the area known as Southdown. When you return go there.

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  3. Klempers11

    Have lived here for over 15 years and never seen a hunt. You should def try Southdown for a bargain Charity Shop & one more thing …. you say the beauticians etc don’t really help the residents much but you didn’t see us BEFORE we all went there.

    P.S. For vim & vigour see LONDON. It’s a big town not far from here. Perhaps the Charity Shops of Kilburn would be more your thing. Some real bargains there.

  4. ohsimone

    Check the maps – have been to plenty in London, due to living there.

  5. Claus Graf

    I can see that questions are being asked about where is the life in Harpenden and where is the variety…

    Being a foreigner I couldn’t ask for a better place (on this island) to raise my family and kids. Harpenden is a fantastic place, peaceful, beautiful, child friendly, close to the “nature” and close to the City. If you want to see a variety, go a few miles nort towards Luton. I have enough of variety in Harpenden. Lovely people, many in the same situation as me. But people with a variety and backgrounds sharing some good value in life. Many would say well off people who wants to give their kids a good upbringing without the “variety” of social problems, chavs, binge drinking, addidas track suit people, people “hanging around”, people on benefit, aggressive people, youth gangs, knives, asylum seeks etc etc etc. I could go on for ages about your social dump hole on this island. So lets not complain about a place just because you cannot find these varieties there… Thanks.

    • nick

      Could not agree more Claus.
      just be careful though, you are not aloud to come out with such honesty in this country as the PC brigade will be jumping down you neck. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to live amongst chavs and thugs……wouldn’t most people choose not to?????? Of course, it’s just you are not permitted to say such things in this country. this country is full of these kinds of ‘bad’ areas, so wonderful that places like harpenden exist where you can get away from them!!!

  6. ohsimone

    I find that ignoring problems very rarely makes them go away, and therefore disagree wholeheartedly with this sort of isolationist, prejudiced attitude… Thanks.

  7. thanks for posting…I really missed Harpenden, I used to go there every 2 weeks for business meeting..and I stayed in Harpenden House Hotel..it’s very nice

  8. AMcLincomer

    Having moved to Harpenden from Scotland 14 years ago on a whim, best decision ever made! You have provided a biaised assumption of life in Harpenden. You missed out 3 of the charity shops and 4 beautiful gift shops (wide range of prices for every pocket). Plenty of life here and community spirit. Try visiting on carnival Day, Christmas Lights day, farmers market monthly, highland gathering or Classics Cars on the common. Huge Park where my kids grew up and loads of activities every week. Congratulations to film society for opening our new “cinema” in the town hall. Most of us are busy with what’s going on, rather than spending our days in beauty salons!

  9. Other things that make Harpenden great are the very active service organisations. Just look at the websites for Harpenden Lions Club, Harpenden Rotary, Probus and Harpenden Round Table and you will see that it is a generous, giving, warm and civilised community. Don’t knock what is good for the sake of it.

  10. ohsimone

    I can’t deny it – it’s a very biased and incomplete opinion (see the first sentence) . I am a blogger, after all, and I can only write about what I’ve seen, which wasn’t very much. It’s not to my taste, but I don’t uphold to any sort of standard of objectivity, it’s only my own taste.

    I actually have been back, and my opinion hasn’t really changed: I don’t dislike Harpenden actually, but it certainly wouldn’t be my choice of a place to live.

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