Why do families move to Chelmsford?
In the wider world, Essex gets a bit of a bad reputation. Between the white-stilettoed stereotypes of yesteryear and the cosmetically-enhanced cast of TOWIE, there is a very particular kind of imagery that flickers through the average mind when Essex is brought up.
What this masks, however, is how picturesque and pleasant living in Essex can be – particularly in its county town of Chelmsford. Granted city status in 2012 and recently named the best place to live in the East of England and ranked 10th in Halifax’s 2016 list of places with the highest quality of life in the UK.
Reflecting this, Chelmsford has seen a steady growth in popularity over recent years – equating to a 40% increase in house values. It’s become a particular favourite of young families, many of which are choosing to move in order to provide their children with the best opportunities, without comprising on their own work or lifestyle.
Intrigued? Here’s the lowdown on why Chelmsford is so appealing.
One of Chelmsford’s biggest draws for families is its selection of excellent schools, catering for children of all ages.
Perryfields Junior School in Springfield is ranked as the top-performing school in the county, although intake is only students aged 7-11. Younger children should be looking for a place at Newlands Spring Primary School on Copperfield Road, or Westlands Community Primary School on Beeches Close.
In regards to secondary schools, bright students should be aiming for one of Chelmsford’s exceptional academies; the King Edward VI Grammar School (mixed intake for ages 11-18) or Chelmsford County High School for Girls (girls aged 11-18). Alternatively, consider New Hall School, Boreham, which is the local independent school, accepting boys and girls aged 3-18.
Another appealing factor is the broad range of property available, with housing styles to suit every lifestyle and taste. Across the city, you can find practical homes from the 1970s, charming Victorian terraces and spacious detached properties from the 1920s.
New-build lovers should head to the north of Chelmsford to look at homes on the Beaulieu development, which is set to provide a community of up to 3,600 new families. Properties range from 1-bed apartments right up to 5-bed family houses, in traditional and contemporary styles.
Those in search of a home with some history should consider looking to outlying villages like Writtle, Great Baddow, Springfield and Broomfield. These picturesque locations are on the fringes of Chelmsford but celebrate a quieter pace of life, complete with Norman churches, duck ponds and rural pubs.
A word of caution; while older homes may be bursting with character, they often suffer from expensive defects like damp, timber decay and poor insulation. Before moving your little ones into a period cottage, have a property survey carried out to check for problems. A local surveyor will be the most familiar with common property issues and may will be able to provide advice for newer homes, too.
Despite its proximity to London, Essex is where the beautiful British countryside really opens up opportunities for enjoyment.
With 574 acres of land, Hylands Park is one of Chelmsford’s most popular locations for a scenic day in the sunshine. Access to the property’s prestigious grounds are free and open to families of all ages and welcomes dogs – even going so far as to host one of the largest dog events in Essex.
Baddow Hall Park is equally as beautiful, if considerably smaller. It does make up for its compact size with its exciting new BMX track, packed with slopes and slaloms and perfect for active kids and seasoned bikers. The park also features a wildflower meadow, woodland areas and a children’s adventure play area.
Residents moving into the Beaulieu Park development should visit Brook End Gardens, which is a community space complete with a children’s play area, formal and recreational gardens. The park is particularly popular with kite enthusiasts, who make the most of the breeze and lack of nearby powerlines to hone their skills.
Of course, there’s plenty of fun to be had outside of Chelmsford centre.
Barleylands Farm Park in Billericay offers young families the opportunity to become immersed in nature and wildlife. It’s particularly fun in spring, when children can watch animals compete during the ‘Wacky Races’ season.
Great Notley Discovery Centre and Park, Braintree, has a more universal appeal. Its parks and playgrounds are ideal for children of all ages, while the high ropes tree challenge will keep restless teenagers occupied.
Otherwise, there are plenty of coastal escapes, from the well-known resorts of Clacton and Southend-on-Sea to more reserved destinations like Martello Beach, Jaywick and Frinton-on-Sea. Depending on whether you prefer sand or shingle, and crowds or quiet, it’s worth doing a little bit of research before heading out for the day.
Chelmsford offers excellent transport links around the city, into London and across Essex.
To the north, the A131 offers easy, if not exceptionally fast access into Suffolk and Norfolk, travelling via Braintree and Sudbury before becoming the A134 to pass through Bury St Edmunds towards King’s Lynn and Norwich. Moving clockwise, the A12 links Chelmsford directly to Colchester and Ipswich, while the A130 heads southeast to Basildon, Southend-on Sea and the Thames estuary.
London commuters that are committed to their car will want to take the A12 via Brentwood to reach the M25 or the North Circular. Alternatively, Greater Anglia offers a frequent, regular rail service from Chelmsford train station that takes passengers into Liverpool street in little over half an hour. A second station is due to be built at Beaulieu, however completion has been delayed until 2025.