Thanks to Hilary Osborne for writing a guest post about the patch of London she calls home. As the Editor of guardian.co.uk/money, you may know her from such stories as ‘House prices rise’ and ‘Shock fall in house prices’. I took that from her Twitter bio because it makes me laugh… follow Hilary on Twitter @hilaryosborne.
Tottenham borders is a phrase unlikely to be used by estate agents any time soon – they prefer to herald proximity to Turnpike Lane station and talk of tree-lined roads – but it’s the best way I have to describe the part of N22 I now call home. It’s just north of South Tottenham (or Soto as I’m led to believe it is known to some) and just south of Noel Park (Nopa anyone?); to the west of N17 and to the east of Turnpike Lane tube. The population spans the generations and seem to have made it here from all over the place. And once they get here, they seem to stay.
I had to think very carefully before upping sticks and making the move here from my old manor – a place that I had lived in and loved dearly for 10 years. I could make the walk from my flat to the train station with my eyes closed, I could trust the men who ran the local corner shop to watch my baby as I ran to the back of the shop to fetch a bottle of milk – I even knew some of my neighbours to speak to. Moving seemed a wrench but we wanted more space and the houses there cost upwards of £400,000. It was with a heavy heart that I waved off the removal van on its journey to my new property, some 1.2 miles away.
Anyone outside the capital would snort at the thought of that kind of distance making a difference, but you know how it is in London. When I swapped life in N8 for the other side of Green Lanes I was moving to an area with a completely different feeling and I was genuinely worried I would not like it nearly as much. Fortunately the past 10 months have shown me that life is beautiful in the Belmont CPZ.
Picture a place where terraces of late-1920s houses sweep down from roads of sturdy Victorian villas. Where all the homes have neat front gardens, and old men stand out in the sunshine painting their front gates. Where local shops (like Ordu-One) charge less than Tesco for chickpeas and Halloumi, a proper newsagent sells comics and the kind of old-fashioned greetings cards you actually do need to buy sometimes for elderly relatives, and there’s even a brand new Sainsbury’s Local in case you really do want to earn Nectar points on everything you buy. Where you don’t need parking permits on a Saturday so people can drive over to visit. Sounds like the stuff of dreams, doesn’t it? And I haven’t even mentioned the parks …
The sprawling Lordship Rec (technically just inside Tottenham) has just had £5m spent on it, a fact celebrated in September with a big festival. The makeover included the restoration of its Model Traffic Area – a faux-road system which children can use to practice riding bikes and scooters which apparently made the national papers when it first opened in 1938. It also brought some new bridges over the River Moselle which runs through the park and a new eco-building which will apparently one day be a cafe and environment centre.
The park is part of a route my friend Emily calls the ‘Three parks walk’. It’s not strenuous enough to earn you sponsorship, unless you are under five, but is great for pram-pushing mums and scootering toddlers. The walk takes in Downhills park, just across the road from Lordship Rec, then sweeps back to Belmont Rec.
This is the site of Belmont Junior School and nursery. The school, which was rated outstanding by Ofsted, has recently been a battleground for parents after the council decided it needed to expand to cater for Haringey’s recent baby boom. A campaign by parents seems to have brought a halt to the plans, but Haringey council says it will appeal. It’s seems unlikely that the fight is over yet.
So we have great shops, parks, and a great school, and some local controversy, but I will admit that we do have to travel a little way for culture. Not far though: Turnpike Lane now boasts art by creators of international renown – not many places can say they have a Shepard Fairey mural and that there’s the Banksy on the side of their Poundland. Moreover actual famous authors come to the local Big Green Bookshop (it’s even played host to the Gruffalo). And if you want local history you can head the other way to Bruce Castle Museum.
To be honest, there’s no great local pubs – you need to hike down to the Salisbury on Green Lanes or head up to Hornsey or Crouch End. For food it’s also a bit of a walk – either across the parks to The Banc on West Green Road or onto Turnpike Lane for the legendary Jashan. Unless of course you invest in a takeaway and a bottle of wine from the shop – why on earth leave Tottenham borders if you don’t have to?