Greenwich and Blackheath are two of south London’s big surprises - airy green expanses, dissected by roads that give motorists a “wow” moment as they emerge from traffic-clogged Deptford. Take one route for the slopes of Greenwich Park, or another for the plateau of Blackheath.
Both areas have had a loyal following while remaining off most Londoners’ radar, mainly thanks to the lack of a Tube station. Then came the Docklands Light Railway.
Now City workers who prefer the period charms of Blackheath or Greenwich to an apartment in Canary Wharf are moving south and commuters are discovering quick links to the West End via DLR connections to the Jubilee line.
'Greenwich is more studenty while Blackheath has more of a village atmosphere'
Mark Epps of Winkworth (020 8852 0999) says: “We get a lot of people moving from flats in Canary Wharf to houses in Blackheath. There’s a strong local market but people are coming from all over London.”
On the A-Z, Blackheath and Greenwich appear as an almost continuous stretch of green space between Lewisham and the River Thames and in some ways they are quite similar to each other, says Epps. But each has its own distinct vibe.
“Buyers will look in both areas but Greenwich is more studenty, because of the universities, and Blackheath has more of a village atmosphere.”
Greenwich’s industrial riverfront has also undergone massive regeneration since the 1990s but redevelopment is still very much a work in progress, with luxury apartments overlooking derelict warehouses and crumbling wharves.
'It is obvious why it's a World Heritage Site when you stand at the top of the park'
Properties: The smartest parts, in West Greenwich and Blackheath Village, have some Georgian and Victorian houses which could compete with anything in higher profile areas like Hampstead or Highgate.
For those with big budgets (think £1 million or more), Greenwich has tall Georgian townhouses close to the park and small but beautiful whitewashed Victorian terraces.
Blackheath has the elegant Georgian terrace of the Paragon overlooking the Heath and huge Victorian houses set in large gardens on the grand Cator Estate, as well as smaller cottages and terraces in the village.
Less smart is East Greenwich, where Victorian terraces predominate with some cottages next to council estates. Blackheath in particular is a good place to look for generously proportioned conversion flats.
The area attracts: Professionals and growing numbers of workers from the City and Canary Wharf; families wanting green space and more for their money than they can get in north or west London; writers, artists and media people.
Staying power: Mixed. Many people rent when they first arrive, then trade up locally.
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Postcodes: The whole of Blackheath (including the less salubrious parts around Kidbrooke and the Ferrier Estate) is in SE3, with all of West and East Greenwich in SE10. Properties on the border of SE3 just in Lewisham (SE13) can be cheaper because of their less smart postcode.
Best streets: Generally, the closer you are to Greenwich Park or the Heath, the better. In Greenwich, this means West Greenwich, where particular gems include Hyde Vale, Gloucester Circus, Circus Street and King George Street, where two bedroom houses sell for about £600,000, according to Barbara Jones of John Payne’s Greenwich office (020 858 9911).
In Blackheath, top roads include Parkgate, Morden Road and Pond Road on the Cator Estate, as well as St German’s Place and Eliot Vale on the other side of the village.
Up and coming areas: Head along the Trafalgar Road to East Greenwich and the streets close to the former Greenwich power station including Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich Park Street and Hadrian Street. You’ll pay about the same for a four bedroom house in East Greenwich as for a two to three bedroom house in West Greenwich, says Jones.
What’s new? Developments are spreading westwards along the Greenwich riverfront, though sales of properties have been slow because of the downturn. “They’re hard to sell because people aren’t willing to buy off-plan,” says Jones.
On the site of the former district hospital in East Greenwich, there are plans for two swimming pools, a library and spa, plus 645 homes. More controversially, residents are anxiously monitoring plans to rebuild the covered Greenwich market in the town centre and incorporate a hotel into the historic building.
Schools: Schools in the boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham are patchy at primary level and generally poor at secondary level. Many parents go private locally or further afield - there are buses to Dulwich College, James Allen’s Girls and Eltham College among others. The best performing state options are Haberdashers Askes’s Hatcham (mixed) and St Ursula’s Convent (girls).
Green space/culture: Greenwich is a World Heritage Site and it is obvious why when you stand at the top of Greenwich Park with London opening out before you and the buildings of the Royal Naval College, the Queen’s House and the National Maritime Museum by the river below. But local anxiety is running high that the park will be harmed by plans to use it as the site of the equestrian events at the 2012 Olympics.
The high, flat ground of Blackheath is ideal for kite-flying and running and Blackheath has its own cultural hub of a conservatoire and concert halls for jazz and classical music. The O2 is a short journey away, or a fascinating walk along the Thames Path from Greenwich.
Transport: Much better than it used to be, with DLR stations at Greenwich, Cutty Sark and Lewisham and the Jubilee line Tube at North Greenwich, as well as trains.
Council: Lewisham (Labour), band D council tax: £1,352. Greenwich (Labour), band D council tax: £1,291.
Average sale prices
One-bedroom flat: £221,328
Two-bedroom flat: £252,271
Two-bedroom house: £254,743
Three-bed house: £317,900
Four-bed house: £562,601
One-bedroom flat: £200,152
Two-bed flat: £278,396
Two-bed house: £389,784
Three-bed house: £420,432
Four-bed house: £759,595
Average rental rates
SE3 and SE10
Rents are rising, says Sharon Jones, lettings manager at Winkworth. “There are lots of people looking but not many properties. Company lets are back and there are also a lot of workers from the Olympic site.”
One-bedroom flat: £850+pcm
Two-bedroom flat: £1,100+pcm
Three-bed flat: £1,100+pcm
Three-bed house: £1,400+pcm
Four-bedroom house: £1,250+pcm
Pictures by Barry Phillips
All details correct at time of publication