Streets of London: Leytonstone High Road, E11

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Shabby chic and the Olympic effect are just two reasons to invest in Leytonstone, a lively and affordable pocket of east London

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    Leytonstone High Road: straight outta Cape Town, these days

    Jump off the tube at Leytonstone and in the two minutes it takes to walk to the High Road, the voices you’ll hear are as likely to be South African as East End or Asian. Over the past five years, an estimated 30,000 Saffies have descended on this multicultural, lower-middle-class area and neighbouring Leyton, one stop back down the Central Line.

    They’re not backpackers – most are here for at least three years to work in construction, some as teachers and a few in the City. As a result, they’ve got their own shop, Hunter’s Deli (No 690b, 020 8988 0530); their own touch-rugby league; and, most prominent of all, their own bar and social centre, Zulus (No 640, 020 8558 9116/www.zulus.co.uk). Not all residents are delighted at the green-shirted
    invasion that takes place most weekends for club nights and live music, but there’s no doubting the splash of colour and vibrancy they’ve added to an otherwise drab thoroughfare.

    Leytonstone High Road was once a permanently clogged conduit for Essex commuters into central London. However, the A12 extension has taken most through traffic away from the town centre and regeneration is well under way – spearheaded, after years of inertia, by Waltham Forest council leader Clyde Loakes, who lives nearby and takes a refreshingly personal interest in what’s going on. This is particularly noticeable in the low-rise blocks of purpose-built flats springing up along the High Road and Kirkdale Road. One-bedroom properties cost around £150,000-£195,000, two-bedroom ones from £175,000-£235,000. A two-bedroom rental in the attractive new Zodiac development close to the tube and bus station is £230-£250 per week.

    Guarded by the intriguing sculpture on Grove Road, depicting the green man of ancient folklore, and a deliberately impenetrable one-way system, and flanked by forest and the playing fields of Wanstead Flats, the Bushwood estate of three- and four-bedroom Victorian terraced houses (£295,000-£425,000) with a few conversions (two bedrooms around £220,000-£270,000) is the most desirable neighbourhood off the High Road. It has its own pub, the cosy North Star (24 Browning Rd, 020 8989 5777), which is a short stagger from the excellent Sheepwalk (No 692, 020 8556 1131). Here, the What’s Cookin’ bluegrass, country, rock ’n’ roll and jazz club is a popular upstairs attraction drawing plenty of well-known acts.

    Thirty years ago, Leytonstone was one of east London’s premier shopping centres. However, the traffic jams gradually sent people to the malls at Ilford and Romford, while many of the remaining independent stores were killed off when a huge Tesco opened near the Green Man Roundabout at the top end of the High Road. As a result, the centre is now dominated by bottom-end (but busy) chains such as Primark and Matalan, and dreary stalwarts like Woolworths and Boots.

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