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Saffron Walden: a Great Place to Live

Let’s move to Saffron Walden, Essex. Saffron Walden is a great place to go yeoman-spotting. It offers the Essex of rolling barley fields and medieval villages with green and stocks intact.

Saffron Walden

Saffron Walden

What’s going for it? Hidden gem alert! North-west Essex – squashed and all forgotten about between the M11 and the awright darlin’ ­Essex of popular myth to the south-east – is a treat. This is the Essex those anti-Stansted campaigners and ­local Boudicca Germaine Greer get so worked up about, the Essex of ­rolling barley fields, ­medieval ­villages with green and stocks ­intact, and a fine line in ridiculously yokel place names (Maggots End? Steeple Bumpstead?). I’m sure I’ve spotted yeomen, if only I knew what a yeoman was. Saffron Walden is its capital and, as you’d expect, is every inch the market town, with, of course, a market (Tuesdays and Saturdays, since you ask), a cracking parish church, grand as a cathedral, a crumbled-away castle, and the largest turf maze in the kingdom.

The case against

The expansion at Stansted is likely to shatter the peace further yet. The spirited ­Saffron Screen independent cinema aside, rather lacking in things to do.

Well connected?

Get yourself a bike and the station at Audley End is just a mile and a half uphill, alas – but down at the end of the day, when it counts: London Liverpool Street an hour, Cambridge 20-25 mins (two-four trains an hour). The M11 skirts by, too, with central London 50 minutes away, Cambridge 20 mins. ­Stansted airport’s a 15-minute drive.

Schools in Saffron Walden

Katherine Semar Junior is “good” with “significant strengths”, says Ofsted; St Thomas More ­Catholic Primary is “outstanding”, and RA Butler Junior “outstanding… in ­almost every ­respect”. Saffron Walden County High is “good” with some “outstanding features”.

Hang out at…

The cosy Eight Bells: nice farm shop, too. The Cricketers, of Jamie Oliver’s parents fame, at Clavering. Audley End stately home has smashing summer concerts.

Where to buy

Logically laid out: the conservation area in the ­centre of town is suitably pretty with town houses and cottages from the 15th century to the 20th; then a decent padding of ­Victorian and ­Edwardian terraces and semis; then a splodge of ­suburban ­estates. The ­rurally minded should ­explore the ­hinterland: great ­unspoilt villages such as Finchingfield and Thaxted.

Market values

Detacheds, £240,000-£650,000. Semis, £180,000-£380,000. Period ­cottages, £190,000-£350,000. Terraces, £150,000-£400,000. Flats, £95,000-£180,000.

Bargain of the week

Three-bedroom 1930s semi, needs updating, close to the centre, £170,000, with Kevin Henry.

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