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Things to do in Harlow, Essex

Harlow Town Centre © Stephen Bunch
Harlow Town Centre © Stephen Bunch

The Essex town of Harlow is one of a number of "new" towns constructed largely in the 1950's/60's. It was designed to be one of a number of satellite towns which were built to facilitate the overspill population from London.

Harlow is regularly estimated to have a population of around 76,000 but it would seem with recent housing developments, notably Church Langley and Newhall, to be probably somewhat higher than this.

Many residents commute the 30 or so miles south daily from Harlow into London or head northwards to Stansted Airport/Cambridge. It has easy access into London or Stansted by overground train (from Harlow Town or Harlow Mill stations) or via the M11 motorway. Locally the town offers employment opportunities in its numerous industrial manufacturing sites and retail premises.

Because Harlow was largely designed, rather than having evolved, it does have a modern, slightly artificial feel to it. There is an extensive network of pedestrian pathways and cycle tracks as well as one of Britain's first pedestrianised shopping precincts, "The High". Harlow is also home to the first residential tower block in Britain "The Lawn" which was built in 1951. The Lawn is now a Grade II listed building. The roads are famed for having large numbers of roundabouts and speed bumps.

The pre new-town Harlow area had some attractive, village-like places such as Old Harlow, Parndon, Latton Green, Potter Street, Churchgate Street and Netteswell, however these have largely merged into the new urban developments and the old architecture is now adjacent to modern sprawling council housing estates.

Despite the extensive rows of terraced houses there are also numerous green areas in the town including the Town Park which covers 165 acres. This is home to a yearly town show as well as numerous outdoor concerts, a firework display and pets corner which houses many small and medium size farm-type animals as well as fish and birds. The park, the town show, pets corner, etc. are all free admission.

Harlow also boasts a world-class sculpture collection displayed publicly around the town including works by Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin.

The town centre area has a small theatre (The Playhouse) several nightclubs/bars/restaurants and a music venue (The Square) which despite its small capacity has hosted many well known performers.

Description by David Bell

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