Filed under london-calling

Denmark Hill

Denmark Hill

Denmark Hill is basically a sleeping suburb near the King's College Hospital, centered around the Ruskin Park.

Above everything else, Denmark Hill felt safe. The area is well kept, the houses are not ostentatious and the cards parked next to streets are not particularly expensive. Many of the people living there keep their motorcycles stored outside the front door, merely covered against the weather. The properties rarely have any fences, implying that thieves are not particularly interested in the region.

With the number of students in there, no wonder. And there are lot of young families.

One odd observation of the area: there are a plenty of small street corner churches, none of them larger than a small daycare. I have no idea what to make of it - it's just a detail that caught my eye.

The streets remind me of Picket Fences. Each street consists of a long row of identical houses, but at least the templates have been cycled so that nearby streets each have their own look.

So far this is the only place where I have felt the inclination of walking up to a door and give the bell a ring so I could ask the tenants what they think about living there.

The presence of a relatively small campus, along with the lack of direct transit link to city probably contribute to the region's character.

Fox on the Hill deserves a special mention. The incredibly relaxed atmosphere makes the place feel immediately cozy. Worth a visit, and while there, do take your time. Rush not.

Greenwich

Greenwich

The place of the zero Meridian. University, observatory and a campus.

Greenwich may have started up as a suitably remote place to relocate the inconveniently curious bearded people and their disciples (sometimes also called "students") but today it's a conveniently close place to live in.

Let's keep out of the northern tip of the Greenwich peninsula. There is nothing of interest there, for families, that is. The stem of the peninsula, near the observatory on the other hand gives off a satisfying air of family-friendlyness. While we know there is a university, there may be less property devoted to those still learning their first steps. Local pubs are genuinely cozy. Perhaps the most welcoming so far I've come across.

The nearest match in Finland might be Viaborg fort ("Suomenlinna").

Btw: the strip towards the nort of the peninsula may not be a safe place to be. But then again, it's not technically Greenwich anymore - it's Morden. Astute.

Kennington

Kennington

The area around Kennington and Burgess, starting from Vauxhall, looks better than it is.

Both places are invariably cramped, and starting from Addington Square, the streets have a very distinct upstairs/downstairs tone - or, if you want to put it another way, the split could be said to be between tidy and untidy. One side of the street may look lovely and inviting, but judging by the properties on the other side of the street one might think being in an entirely different place. If you're looking for a word to describe this region, I suggest schizophrenic.

If class conflict ever starts in London, this place may well be at the heart. And it's even possible that the ever-present airplane blare may well cover the first hints of it happening. Even within the otherwise noisy city, this region stands out in quite an unfavourable way.

If we continue towards east and go past Telegraph Hill, we will eventually come to an altogether different neighbourhood.

Brockley

After the mental anguish of walking all the way from Vauxhall, Brockley was a refreshing breath of air. It's still somewhat noisy but unlike the previous two areas, this one felt more accommodating.

Above all else, the place was culturally indefferent. I couldn't spot a single dominant culture, and perhaps for that very reason they all mingled happily together. In some parts of the city that may not always be the case.

A nice neighbourhood, and not too upmarket either.

Mile End

Mile End

The night before visiting Mile End I was informed by that of the most reliable sources, namely a man in a pub, that it would be "a rough place."

The naturally muted tones of the British do not make the place (in)justice it deserves. If there ever was a need to condense the place into a single-word description, unwelcoming should fit the bill. The closest thing I can think of is a mix of Pitäjänmäki in the very early 90's with a fair sprinkle of West Baltimore as shown in The Wire.

The above may sound like a cruel joke, but unfortunaly it is anything but. Apartments look just like "the projects", and judging by the local council decrees, there will be more of them. An old girls' school is in fact set to be demolished to make way for another housing project.

Everywhere the lots are not just protected, but outright fortified. Cast-iron fences abound. The only thing missing were moats and auto-cannons.

Much to my surprise, the houses most heavily fortified (even more than usual) were those next to the churches and other places of worship. The local parks felt just sad. Almost as if they had been cruelly tossed out in the middle of urban jungle and then left to wither.

I didn't see any cafés there. To be honest, after the first 45 minutes in the area I wasn't looking.

The odd houses in the area are actually pretty nice. Looking from the street, I got the feeling that the rooms above ground floor were even higher and larger than usual. The windows giving to streets are wide.

Given some thought and 15 years of planning, the region could easily turn into the next artist collective. The rents are not too high and the lofty rooms would make for great working studios.

But for the moment, I can only recommend to stay away.

Richmond

Richmond (and surroundings)

Posh old London.

That's the way Richmond has been described at times, and there may well be a kernel of truth. For starters, there is nothing like Richmond in anywhere Finland that I know. The place is downright idyllic. In fact, the whole place looks like it was lifted from a BBC village drama.

And according to external resources, quite a few productions have been in fact filmed there...

Images will not do the place justice. The best description of the place I can come up with is that it looked incredibly nice even in slight gloom with the sky pouring down on me.

Across the river, to the west is:

Twickenham

Twickenham was slightly more crowded. One big reason may be that it's not Richmond, and so the riverfront is incredibly packed. Everything that did not fit into Richmond wanted to make sure it got as close to it as possible.

Both of the places are extremely good fits for families. And both have a couple of major roads that actually cause a fair amount of noise. So any flat or house in either Richmond or Twickenham should be sought at least a street off of the major arteries.

The narrow streets of Twickenham and the tightly packed houses give off a vague resemblance to Prague. In a good way.

Somewhat further down south is a rather big town.

Kingston upon Thames

This town felt busier than either of the previous two. It also had quite a fancy combination of upscale feel with somewhat lower rents than in Richmond. If commute times weren't an issue, Kingston would be an incredible place to live in.

The main road is scarily busy, but a couple of streets off it's difficult to imagine that so much traffic is passing through the place. The noise of the road simply vanishes.

Slightly east and a good deal towards north, there is one more interesting area.

Wandsworth

Wandsworth gives off a mixed feel. It's still next to the huge Richmond park, but on this side the park is fenced off almost entirely. Not to keep people out, but to keep the deer in...

The area also sports an alarming number of flat-roofed houses. For someone considering to move to London, that's an unwelcome surprise. Finns learned their lesson with flat roofs during the late 80's and early 90's when practically all of the 70's buildings had sprouted systematic moisture and mold problems. In the climate next to river Thames, one can only imagine how badly the houses fare.

A nice place to be in, nonetheless.

Shoreditch

Shoreditch

Shoreditch is a happy mix of cozy quarters and urban environment. It's just not for families. The streets are narrow and very busy. During weekends a good deal of the area turns into a large street market. (Actually three.)

The vicinity of City makes Shoreditch a very attractive choice for single young professionals. Street food is everywhere and the local restaurants appear to be pretty top-notch. There is also some minor air of bohemia, meaning that well-to-do artists would probably find the region to their taste.

The closest thing I can think of what Shoreditch resembles is, even to my own suprise, the romanticised Brooklyn as shown in TV series from turn of the millennium.

Brick Lane alone is worth a weekend visit.

Earl's Court

Earl's Court

People say that nobody lives in London anymore, because it's too crowded. Apparently Earl's Court can still support some amount of human life, so maybe we can entertain the idea that it might not be in London after all.

The streets are busy. And while there are green spaces, they seem to be strictly private and thus limited for denizens of the nearby houses. Not a place for the family.

On the other hand, once off the largest roads the place did have an oddly familiar vibe. The region feels like an upscale version of the centrum side Eira in Helsinki.

(And that's saying something.)

Soho

Soho

No, Soho is most definitely not a a place for families to live in. It is ... different. Walking around it, the closest match is probably downtown Helsinki on a slightly cool early summer day, before the holiday season has had the opportunity to kick in.

If you look at a map of London, you'll see that Soho is a relatively small region just north of Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, both notorious tourist sites. The kinds of tourists who would visit Soho, on the other hand, would likely find the Square and the Circus somewhat oppressive.

There are numerous theatres around Piccadilly, and some of the smaller ones have valiantly edged themselves towards the fringes of Soho. Whatever you may have heard about the district, you've probably been mislead to some extent. Yes, there are sex shops. Yes, there are private sex clubs. And yes, you may overhear a prostitute and a john discussing practical arrangements. In Soho, that's just another unremarkable event in a day.

But those same sex shops and clubs are probably the reason for Soho's continuing gravity. Rents in London are insane, and the price tags next to (or immediately nearby) major tourist attractions reflect this state of affairs. One reason is the simple fact that prime real estate encourages bidding wars, which in turn prices out all but the biggest brands.

Soho is just a couple of blocks north of Trafalgar Square, but it still sports a very healthy selection of small, individual restaurants. Just the kind of places you wouldn't expect to afford the rents so close to Piccadilly. This is where the character of Soho comes into play. The presence of sex shops, along with the prominence of the other PR-wise dubious characteristics ensure that the major brands will keep their distance.

The biggest, most expensive brands in the world simply will not want themselves associated, even by accident, with the seedy side of Soho.

Cue the small restaurants. And the foodies.

(The sex shops are pretty classy establishments, too, by the way.)

Putney

Putney

Putney is a large area, and to that end its various regions have their individual characteristics. East Putney certainly does.

(North-)East Putney

While there are a couple of fairly nice looking schools and daycares, the overall feeling was maybe bit too "squeezed-in". It was as if the area was originally planned for a good deal less people, and nowadays there wasn't much room for anything else.

The place had a slight feel of Kouvola or Pajamäki to it.

Just a bit further down south the situation was quite different.

Putney Heath and Putney Village

Coming down from East Putney, and once over the busy Kingston Road, the landscacpe changes. Putney Heath feels like it is a slightly older suburb, gently fitted in between the green spaces nobody at the time had the heart to tear up.

People are a nice mix of families and gentry. And with so many parks to choose from, many of the residents appear to have dogs. Friendly ones. Going for a whiff of a stranger is seen as a perfectly normal thing to do.

Closest match to a Finnish place would be, perhaps, Ruoholahti. Not the high-tech hub - the living grounds.

Another sprint down south brings us to ...

Putney Commons and Wimbledon

A place known of, and used for, sports. Of course there's lots of green. A good deal of it open.

Very much like Tali in Helsinki, to be honest.

As for living in, the place certainly had a nice and somehow "wider" feel to it. Personally I wouldn't mind living there, but for a family it might be a bit edgy. Brief walk through the area didn't let me see a single school, and overall the place would probably be a better fit for grownups. During sports season one would expect there to be quite a lot of extra traffic and noise late into evenings.

Other than that, the living areas remind me of Paloheinä.