It’s a provocative claim, no two ways about it. The Sunday Times drew up a list of the ‘Best Places to Live in London’, and guess what topped it? Historic Greenwich? Lofty Hampstead? Trendy Dalston? Upmarket Belgravia? The answer has taken many Londoners by surprise: Teddington. Apparently. Now, not everyone in the Time Out office has ever been to Teddington. Some of them don’t know where it is and one person has ‘never heard of it’. But for those even slightly familiar with this west London outlier, it has manifold charms, for sure. A green and pleasant land. But can it really be the BEST place to put down roots in the entire capital? We scrape the data.
1. It’s a bit like a village
For a certain kind of Londoner, Teddington’s TW11 postcode would automatically exclude it from even being considered part of the capital. But as someone who grew up in nearly-as-sweet Beckenham (BR3), I can appreciate the Janus-like quality of these places: one face shunning the grim metropolis, one open to – and gagging for – its louche charms. Teddington is a bit like a village because until relatively recently it was one. It retains a quaint high street and pretty houses. Even its name suggests a sleepy, nap-time place: Teddy-town. Like there might be a parish official who comes round and tucks people up for the night. Not in a sexual way.
Is this a good thing? Generally, yes. Villages are nice places to live, except for the suffocating feeling of changeless nothingness and the sense of being spied upon and talked about behind your back before you’re eventually murdered and Miss Marple has to wade in.
2. It’s well leafy
Like a speedball made with chlorophyll, Teddington’s greenness can almost prove too much for the unwary. Besides the predictably tree-lined streets, there is pretty Woodland Gardens (a bucolic double-whammy, that), and, most splendid of all, the monstrous Bushy Park: more than a thousand acres of pure, CO2-eating verdant bliss. If that ain’t enough for you, the park’s connected to Hampton Court Palace, which means more manicured lawns, hedge mazes, pollarded trees and Instagram smashes. Oh, and plus, Bushy Park has a brilliant statue in the middle of it, featuring a huge scantily clad gold lady and some saucy nymphs with water squirting out of their boobs. Lewd!
Is this a good thing? Leafiness? Yes. Big gold women? Definitely.
3. It’s on the river
Time Out’s head of production, ‘Desperate’ Dave Faulkner is always extolling the virtues of his hood of Kingston (upon Thames, not Trenchtown). ‘You’ve got the river,’ he bleats, ‘you’ve got the river.’ Poor sap. He’s right, though, of course. You can’t miss it. To truly appreciate the Thames, you need to see it either at the Isle of Dogs, where it’s massive and grey and has all manner of crap floating in it, or at Teddington, whose famous lock is the spot where the river ceases to be tidal, and becomes a ‘Three Men in a Boat’ rural idyll. Watch it, though: all that nautical action can make you think it’s okay to wear those blue shoes with bits of string along the sides with a jumper slung round your shoulders. It’s not okay.
Is this a good thing? Yes. To be by a river is a truly wonderful thing.
4. It’s got independent shops
Something the Sunday Times judges particularly highlighted was TW11’s impressive offering of independent businesses, especially on its high street. These include a wine merchant, a hardware store, a couple of gift shops and Wonderlust (ladies’ clothes), Nova Fortuny (ladies’ clothes), 100 High Street (ladies’ clothes) and Jude the Obscure (ladies’ clothes). With the best will in the world, Teddington isn’t going to win any prizes for diversity or multiculturalism, but if you’re a lady and wear clothes, it’s a frigging mecca.
Is this a good thing? In theory, yes. In practice, could do a bit better.
5. It’s got exotic fauna
It seems to be some kind of unspoken media by-law that when featuring Teddington, Richmond and other point west, you illustrate it with softly lit photos of deer. I mean, surely deer can’t loom that large in daily life? Who knows, though: maybe mornings see Teddington residents mowing their lawns with deer, riding deer to work, overtipping the rude deer who works in the tearooms and trying to take a skirt back to one of the many ladies’ clothing stores run by deer. Then it’s home for a haunch of venison, before bedtime and being ‘tucked up’ by a furious rutting stag.
Is this a good thing? Absolutely no idea. No, probably.
There’s no doubt that Teddington has much to recommend it. Bear in mind, though, that the Sunday Times has also decided that the Best Place to Live in the UK is Stroud, the armpit of the Cotswolds, so its judging criteria might not stand up to close scrutiny. Haters may say that TW11 could easily make a personalised numberplate that spells ‘twee’, but we’ve listed the things it has, and they’re mostly good things. What it lacks, only the non-residents of Teddington can adjudge. As a proud Depfordite, for me these would be railway-arch breweries, cutting-edge art galleries, Vietnamese supermarkets, natural wine bars, a flea market, a train that gets you to London Bridge in five minutes and some black and brown people. But, hey. Horses for courses. And deer, obviously.