Focus on SE4
The pull of the area for breeders is that it has always been a suburb – the bigger houses in the upper reaches of Brockley were for the exploiters running factories in Deptford and New Cross, Sevenoaks Road in Crofton Park supposedly for Fleet Street printers when the Blackfriars train came through to the area named after the station. It is not a post-industrial area forced to adapt. Indeed, Brockley and co were in Kent until border changes in 1889 and for many a metropolitan type this merely confirms that we’re in the relative sticks, a hellishly long 10 minutes from London Bridge. But that means a wealth of green space, at weekends we take our pick from Ladywell Fields, Blythe Hill, Hilly Fields and Honor Oak Park (and of course the Horniman museum kindergarten), and there’s Peckham Rye, Telegraph Hill and Nunhead cemetery nearby. The open spaces win out every time as there is not much to recommend in the built environment, especially the drab main commercial strips from Brockley Rise to Brockley Cross.
Cutbacks being what they are at GMG, the dozy gits forgot to mention the area’s biggest draw ‘going forward’ – the opening of the East London overground extension (New Cross in April, Brockley and H Oak in May), putting the area 20 mins or so from the Makkah and Madinah of Shoreditch and Dalston and the like. To confirm endal prejudices many a southeasterner will be grateful for this broadening of our horizons.
Suitability for families doesn’t sit well with happening areas and the place can be a bit dull for those who haven’t quite reached the exit gates of Hedonia. Of the nicer bars, Jam Circus meticulously avoids club-type nights. But New Cross and Deptford have a wide range of gigs and club nights, seasonal events such as Brockley Max do a good job of filling in the gaps and Nunhead has an array of pubs if you insist on a crawl. East Dulwichfication is an actually existing threat though, if small French baguettes for £2 at the chic gaffs opened up around Brockley station are a guide. Like many other districts it’s not all soft focus paradise; cycling home last week I had to turn round at the cemetery as the road had been shut off after a stabbing, while the Chelsea and Millwall hoolies in my local (known as ‘the gay pub’ for its lack of female patrons) refuse to be gastro’ed.
It may sound glib to say as it would have probably happened anywhere as we became parents, and I won’t be hosting any summer fairs just yet, but after years of willing exclusion I have discovered in SE4 a little bit more of what community means and should be about.
(spraying leaves in Honor Oak Park, above, and the Ballroom at night, below)