FIND COMMUNITY SPIRIT
Cities can be lonely places. Ruth Bloomfield discovers parts of the capital where residents are creating warm and friendly communities
WITH a determined avoidance of eye contact on its streets and a tendency to hide behind newspapers and smartphones on the Tube, London’s reputation for warmth is not great. Once Londoners get home from work, however, the story can change. There are pockets of the capital where communities thrive, with offers to help the elderly with their gardens, and volunteering at a local food bank or on a neighbourhood newspaper. Here is our pick of the areas that are known for community spirit.
BOWES PARK N22 & N13
What’s going on? Myddleton Road is named after 17th-century engineer Sir Hugh Myddelton who brought fresh drinking water into London on the New River: a very community– minded man, and today’s residents follow his lead.
Myddleton Road was dying on its feet until 2013, when a group of locals in this north London neighbourhood set up a street market to breathe life into their high street.
Street festivals with live music followed, while other volunteers run a community garden on a strip of wasteground, with regular weekend gardening sessions. Residents have set up drawing clubs, walking groups, and a community choir.
Debbie Oliver of Hobarts estate agents says: “There is a really tight community atmosphere there.” Any other special reason to live there? Bounds Green Junior School is rated “good” by Ofsted and St Thomas More Catholic School, for senior pupils, is “outstanding”. You’ll also get more home for your money than in adjacent Alexandra Palace or Crouch End.
Transport: Bounds Green Tube is on the Piccadilly line. Trains from Bowes Park reach Moorgate in 24 minutes.
And the downsides? Proximity to the North Circular Road turns local streets into rat-runs and pubs provide the only nightlife.
House prices: a two-bedroom house costs about £550,000, with threebedroom homes for about £725,000. Debbie Oliver says larger houses are rare but often need renovation when they do come up.
What’s going on? Peckham is changing. You only have to wander down Rye Lane, the scent of artisanal coffee in the air, to know that. But the rebirth of this outpost of south-east London as hipster HQ appears to have happened organically rather than to a masterplan drawn up by town planners.
When a couple of local residents launched a campaign to reopen the long-defunct Peckham Lido, more than 1,000 people raised £60,000 through a crowdfunding scheme. The Peckham Coal Line, a linear park running on disused coal sidings between Rye Lane and Queens Road Peckham, was also put forward by a group of residents, and Friends of the Peckham Coal Line is now a registered charity consulting locals about how the overhead park should be designed.
People living near Bellenden Road are organising a summer street party next month, and Denman Road regularly closes to traffic so kids can play outside. There are community groups, including Peckham Vision, set up to make sure locals have a say in the regeneration of their area — the group is currently fighting plans to redevelop the beloved Peckhamplex cinema; Friends of Peckham Rye Park run a traditional summer fête with a dog show, and the Peckham Peculiar is a free local newspaper. Any other special reason to live there? For the brilliant range of independent cafés, bars and restaurants, plus a something-for-
everyone vibe, with posh Bellenden Road, still-gritty Rye Lane, the brilliant Bussey Building for arts and gigs, and lovely Peckham Rye Park.
Transport: trains from Peckham Rye take 20 minutes or less to Victoria, London Bridge, or Blackfriars. Services from Queens Road Peckham to London Bridge take from 11 minutes, and reach Blackfriars and Victoria in less than 25 minutes.
And the downsides? It’s expensive to buy in Peckham and as developers move in, they threaten to eradicate some of its unique character.
House prices: the cheapest way to buy into Peckham is with an ex-local authority flat — a two-bedroom home would cost £250,000 to £300,000.
A one-bedroom purpose-built or period conversion flat would be £330,000 to £350,000. A threebedroom period terrace house costs from about £650,000, but you will need to pay £1 million-plus for one of the large, lovely Victorian piles in the streets off Bellenden Road.
Catalyst for change: Myddleton Road Market, started by locals, breathed life into Bowes Park’s shopping scene and scooped a Great British Markets Award
£650,000: a three-bedroom Victorian house — a doer-upper — in Astbury Rd, Peckham. Call Acorn (020 8012 2626)
£569,950: a two-bedroom terrace house in Eleanor Road, N11, close to Bowes Park. Hobarts (020 8012 3511)
A Dog’s Purpose must be on: Rooftop Cinema Club at Peckham’s Bussey Building arts and entertainment venue
So cool: Peckham multi-storey car park, reborn with Frank’s Café on the roof