Streets of London: Chestnut Grove, SW12
Multicultural, sociable and conveniently located between three large commons, Time Out considers the benefits of living in Balham.
Until recently Balham was the poor man’s Clapham and the butt of Peter Sellers’ ‘Gateway to the South’ sketch. However in 2007, while retaining its sense of community and cultural diversity (unlike nearby Clapham), Balham has returned to the prosperous status it first had 100 years ago, when it became a fashionable area for affluent merchants wanting large manor houses away from the centre of the city. Over recent years, Chestnut Grove and surrounding streets Balham High Road, Hildreth Street and Bedford Hill have been revived with an influx of smart new restaurants, bars and boutiques. But the thriving Polish club, Caribbean shops, Indian restaurants and mosque have made sure this pocket of south west London maintains its inclusive multicultural spirit.
Highlights property-wise include the vast, spacious Victorian houses and low council tax of Wandsworth (Band A is £450.78 compared with Lambeth’s mighty £791.49). Starting handily right by Balham tube on the High Street and winding up to pretty Nightingale Square, Chestnut Grove is a classic Victorian terraced street with roomy family homes, some of which are split into flats. A relatively green and tranquil street considering its proximity to the hubbub, you can expect to pay £600,000 for a three-bedroom house while on nearby Boundaries Road, between £440,000 and £550,000.
(click to enlarge) A Chestnut Grove School B The Balham Tup C The Fat Delicatessen D My Back Pages E Du Cane Court
Nearby, the art deco Du Cane Court offers more affordable accomodation, from £169,950 for a one-bedroom flat. Apparently Hitler wanted to make the building (then the largest block of private housing under one roof) his SS headquarters in the event of him winning the war. Today, with its porters, strict security and stylish gardens designed by Seyemon Kusumoto, it’s attracting a new generation of first-time buyers.
Balham is a great place to base your social life, too. On weeknights, try out the dangerously good cocktails during happy hour in trendy bars such as b@1 (3 Ramsden Road, 020 8675 7542) or +Venture (5 Fernlea Road, 020 8673 4447). There are older boozers such as the legendary comedy spot, the Bedford (77-79 Bedford Hill, 020 8672 8940), while the Duke Of Devonshire (39 Balham High Road, 020 8673 1363), is undoubtedly Balham’s grandest. The Balham Tup (21 Chestnut Grove, 020 8772 0546) is where you’ll find a younger local crowd.
Community spirit can still be found in the market, leisure centre, and local newsagents like Grove Food and Wine on Chestnut Grove, where the staff are friendly and welcoming and know all the local news. Other shops worth seeking out are Rumpelstiltskin (14 Hildreth Street, 020 8675 1007) with its bootylicious garments, or Guru hair and beauty salon (13 Hildreth Street, 020 8675 8230) as well as the various halal butchers dotted around.
Healthy food shops are cropping up on the High Street, Station Road and Chestnut Grove. As Nature Intended (186-88 Balham High Road, 020 8675 2923) is a popular organic supermarket while The Fat Delicatessen (7 Chestnut Grove, 0208 675 6174) sells produce from Spain and Italy and has a scrumptious tapas menu. Charming independent book shop My Back Pages (8-10 Balham Station Road, 020 8675 9346), with its higgledy-piggledy stacks has been keeping locals stocked up for years. There’s also a farmers’ market every Sunday on Hildreth Street (www.balham.com), but the traditional market traders are there in the week and you can find anything from yams to reggae CDs.
TransportBalham tube is on the Northern Line and 30 minutes to the centre of town. Balham BR has excellent links to centre and south, with trains going to Victoria every few minutes and Croydon in the other direction; it’s also five minutes from Clapham Junction. Numerous buses run along Balham High Road.
Estate agentsAndrews (020 8675 2244/www.andrewsonline.co.uk).Bushells (0208 772 1001/ www.bushells.com).Davis & Gibbs (020 8772 3450 /www.davisandgibbs.com).
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