Town and Country (part three)

In the third (and final) part of my look at potential areas to live, I’ve focused on London boroughs which are slightly more central than Enfield and Barnet – better transport links are offset by higher prices, and there are very different characters depending on where you look.

Haringey

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Haringey was another borough which once formed part of the county of Middlesex, and today is one of the smaller London boroughs, situated on the border of where inner and outer London meet. The western half of Haringey is generally greener and has a lower rate of crime, but transport links are relatively poor and property values generally high. The east of the borough is home to some of the most deprived parts of the UK and as a result is significantly more affordable, although projects such as the Tottenham regeneration scheme have brought significant investment to the area.

Bounds Green

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While Bounds Green officially lies in Haringey, it is also very close to the border with both Barnet and Enfield – in some ways this means that the area lacks a bit of identity, but this also means that property prices have remained relatively affordable given its excellent transport links. The area is in Zone 3/4 in terms of travel cards and boasts not only a station on the Piccadilly Line, but also a National Rail station on the railway line out of Moorgate, although train frequency on the latter isn’t as good as some other services. The price for a reasonable one bedroom flat seems to be around £280k, which is a little high but not bad compared to some other areas close by. My only reservation is that there is very little in terms of nearby retail facilities, and traffic near the North Circular tends to be particularly bad in Bounds Green.

Crouch End/Muswell Hill

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At the north western edge of Haringey lie the most desirable areas, situated in a hilly area near Alexandra Palace. With plenty of green spaces and lots of independent shops, it’s not a surprise that both Crouch End and Muswell Hill are popular with affluent families, but the lack of public transport connections is a serious hinderance for me (although is an attraction for others). Prices are high in general, and while there are more affordable properties towards the border with Barnet, these tend to be even further away from public transport. Closer to Wood Green there are rail stations at Horney and Alexandra Palace, but these are a bus ride away.

Tottenham

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Tottenham covers a large patch of east Haringey, with Edmonton to the north and Walthamstow to the west. Over the years it has transformed in character from a working class suburb, to crime hotspot, and now seems to be going through a large regeneration in part due to the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium which has increased investment into the area. That said, some parts of Tottenham are still no-go areas after a certain time, and there is still a way to go before it sheds its reputation. Public transport links are mixed, with Seven Sisters providing an excellent connection for South Tottenham, and London Overground covering other parts to varying degrees of success – I know for a fact that it is hard to get onto trains at White Hart Lane and Bruce Grove on a weekday morning. Others parts of Tottenham fare even worse, and are generally only covered by bus-routes. Property prices vary greatly, but closer to Seven Sisters flats can be expensive at over £300k, with White Hart Lane being a little more affordable.

Tottenham Hale

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Tottenham Hale lies slightly to the east of its namesake, and thanks to investment in the late 00’s has managed to shake off some of the stigma of the rest of Tottenham. The area also benefits from a well served tube/train station and also the River Lea, with nearby Hackney Marshes giving some much needed green space and character. Tottenham Hale has benefitted from investment over the past 10 years and also has several developments, such as Hale Village. It still isn’t a crime-free area, but it is a little more desirable, unfortunately leading to vastly inflated prices even compared to the rest of Tottenham. A one bedroom flat in a new development costs close to £400k, around a third more than flats in the rest of the borough that I have seen.

Wood Green

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Wood Green is arguably the centre of Haringey, with a popular shopping centre that has a large selection of restaurants and even a cinema. The famous ‘Green Lanes’ runs through the middle and carries on down to Turnpike Lane and eventually Finsbury Park. In recent years the area has got a bad reputation in terms of crime and anti-social behaviour, but it remains popular with many due to its excellent transport links on the Piccadilly line and regular bus services. This is reflected in property prices, as while there are some relatively affordable (sub £250k) flats, you need to have closer to £300k to get something that isn’t on a busy road or isn’t ex-local authority. Further south lies the Haringey ladder, so-called for the perpendicular way its streets are laid out compared to Green Lanes – this is a desirable area and remains out of my price range, as does the similar Warehouse District close to Manor House.

Waltham Forest

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As with most outer London boroughs, Waltham Forest came into existence in 1965 after it was carved off of one of the home counties, in this case Essex. As a result some of the borough is indistinguishable from Essex towns such as Loughton and Buckhurst Hill, with whom they share borders with. The A406 North Circular cuts through the centre of Waltham Forest, and as a result the character on either side is quite different – the north is much more suburban in feel, with lots of green areas, whereas the south is very much more urban, but benefits from significantly better transport links, being the terminus of the Victoria Line. In recent years this has made it popular with young professionals looking for quick links into central London.

Chingford

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Chingford probably deserves more than one entry on this list – several places in Waltham Forest carry the name Chingford in their title, but for simplicity I will try and cover all of them in one. Historically part of Essex, the area almost feels as though it is still part of the county, even more so than parts Enfield and Barnet; Epping Forest surrounds the Northern edge of the town and there’s a general remoteness, helped by the fact that most of Chingford seems to be on top of a hill. Areas like Chingford Mount, Chingford Hatch and Friday Hill are all pretty much residential, though the former has a relatively good selection of shops and a supermarket. North Chingford (Chingford proper) has the only train station, and a bustling high street mostly full of independent shops and restaurants – it’s a nice atmosphere and is bordered by the forest and a golf club. Unfortunately, the train station is located at the very far end of this, away from much of the housing in the area – there’s a standard 4tph service to Liverpool Street via Walthamstow Central, but this can get very busy in peak times. Property prices are much higher nearer the station, but can be considered cheap if you are in other parts of the area. I have seen decent flats within a 15-20 minute walk of the station for £240k, but my main reservation is more the fact that the area seems very quiet for somebody who is buying their first property, and not their second or third.

Higham’s Park

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Higham’s Park could be grouped in with Chingford as there does not seem to be a clear geographical cut off between the two, but there is a separate train station and an actual park so that’s why I’ve made the distinction. The area is located to the south of Chingford, and borders the North Circular road – the train station is roughly in the middle and it’s on the same Overground Line as the trains from Chingford, except it is in Zone 4 rather than 5 (ie cheaper!). To the west of the station there are a number of large supermarkets and lots of flats – some of these are actually affordable at around, and not too far a walk either, but unfortunately they seem to be very small in general. East of the train station is where the park itself is – there’s a definite village-y feel, and prices reflect that, being around £300k for a one bedroom flat. Around the station itself there is a lot of development going on, but being brand-new these tend to be £400k+.

Walthamstow

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Walthamstow is the central-part of the borough of Waltham Forest, located below the North Circular Road and firmly a part of East London, as opposed to the more suburban areas nearby. Historically Walthamstow has had somewhat of a bad reputation, but in recent years has seen significant investment and a surge in popularity amongst young families and professionals who want somewhere trendy but don’t want to pay the prices which areas like Hackney have now attracted. A major appeal for many are the excellent transport links; not only do you have easy access to the A406 and M11, but Walthamstow Central is the northern terminus of the Victoria Line, and there are two London Overground train-lines through the area as well – this means that both the West End and city are reachable within about 20 minutes, while Stratford is just a 30 minute bus ride away. However this popularity means that prices have increased, particularly close to the desirable ‘village’ area, with its rural feel and tree-lined streets. A one bedroom flat can be anything from £280-400k, though if you’re willing to look further away from Walthamstow Central it’s possible to find cheaper properties than that near Wood Street and St James’ Street stations, though these lose the benefit of being walkable to the tube. I actually went to look round the area and was impressed by what I found, but finding a place within my budget may be a struggle.

Redbridge

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Of all the London boroughs on this list, I am least familiar with Redbridge, which sits to the East of Waltham Forest and is also bisected by the North Circular road. The borough has good road and public transport access, with the M11 and A12 both cutting across, as well as several stations on the Central Line and some TFL rail services – the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) will also serve parts of the borough when it opens. In all honesty I am only likely to be looking at the Western part of the borough, which is where my familiarity lies.

Woodford

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If you flick down this list, you’ll see that three of the areas in Redbridge have Woodford in the title – arguably these could be condensed into just one entry, but locals would argue that these are pretty different areas. Woodford ‘proper’ lies above the North Circular and is generally suburban character – there is a central line station (Woodford) which is in Zone 4 and has reasonably good travel times into the city, with the West End being a bit further on. Property in Woodford itself tends to be relatively rare, with most that I have seen being on the edge towards Epping New Road and even some closer to Highams Park. It’s a relatively quiet area, which has some benefits, but property prices are surprisingly high, being around £280k for a one bedroom flat. My major concern is the central line, which is not the most reliable of lines and also is overcrowded and hot! This is an issue that I have with all areas close to the line, but Woodford (or indeed nearby Woodford Green) don’t really have the ancillary benefits to counter balance this.

South Woodford

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South Woodford is arguably the most desirable part of the general Woodford area, and straddles with North Circular. There’s a relatively bustling centre of activity around the station, with a cinema, restaurants and independent shops, as well as several supermarkets. It’s an area popular with those wanting to be closer to London, but not willing to give up the idea of living a bit further out – and as a result it has a very similar feel to areas like Loughton and Buckhurst Hill, though admittedly neither is far away. Property prices are generally quite high, depending on where you look; there are lots of newish developments close to the North Circular (and the station), but these aren’t cheap considering their size, and usually come with expensive maintenance fees. Further away from the station there are more affordable properties, priced from around £250k. I am generally keen on South Woodford, but my main issue comes from reliance on the Central Line – unlike many areas further west, there is no back-up in terms of trains or alternative tube lines.

Woodford Bridge

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Woodford Bridge lies to the north east of the rest of Woodford, close to the boundary line with Essex and affluent areas like Chigwell and Chigwell Row. It includes the lovely Repton Park estate, where flats cost upwards of £450k, and seems a lot greener than most of the borough thanks to large expanses of green space (even though this is bordered by the M11) – I’ve driven through the area in the past when going to the gym at Repton Park. The main problem with the area for me, is the fact it isn’t close to any tube stations. The closest are Woodford and Chigwell, the latter being on the Hainault loop, but both are on the Central Line and in general the area doesn’t really stand out to me.

Wanstead/Snaresbrook

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Outer East London is relatively uncharted for me – there’s a big space between Woodford and Stratford which is full of seemingly affordable housing and some wide open spaces. Two such areas are Wanstead and Snaresbrook, located to the south of Woodford and just above of the more salubrious Leyton. Wanstead is arguably more well known, thanks to the large expanse of green area known as Wanstead Flats, while Snaresbrook has a large crown court building and is surrounded by the remnants of Epping Forest. Housing in the area is generally terraced houses and some converted flats, but there are limited properties available within my budget. Having said that, even if they were, I am not sure that i could overcome my hesitation about living on the Central Line – these are stations in Zone 4 so there is no real comparable benefits as opposed to South Woodford, other than it being less built up. Wanstead is actually on the Hainault loop of the line, meaning less frequent (but possibly less busy) tubes.

Conclusions:

So this is a post which has taken about four months in total to write, and as a result my preferences in terms of areas have changed. My chief concern remains good transport links – living in Zone 5 and having trains which run at only 30 minutes off-peak mean that I feel a little like Cinderella when it comes to going home after a night out. Obviously other important factors include value (price/size wise), crime levels, distance from family and local shopping, so anywhere I buy has to be a solid compromise between these factors. At the moment I am leaning towards Walthamstow but who knows what I will think in another four months.

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