Stand in one of the meadows surrounding Totteridge, turn 365 degrees and it is possible to see nothing but rolling countryside and farmland. It is difficult to believe at this point that you are still in the London Borough of Barnet.
© Barry Philips
The feeling of being in the heart of the country lingers on to Totteridge Common. This takes you past the aptly named Long Pond (fringed by fishermen in the season), Ellern Mede Farm, the "fairytale wedding" church, the picturesque Orange Tree gastropub, the green-shuttered school house and the village green.
Then there are two small parades of shops either side of the Tube station that are top-heavy with estate agents. Check the prices of the houses advertised in the windows and it’s back to the present with a bump. If you’re looking for a house designed for 21st century living, with at least three bedrooms, a study, playroom, utility room and downstairs cloakroom, you’ll need at least £550,000.
‘It has the benefits of London and all the delights of the country and a huge variety of properties’
You will always pay a premium for this location. This leafy London village is sandwiched between green belt land to its north and south, and the more developed suburbs of Whetstone and Mill Hill to its east and west.
Totteridge & Whetstone Tube station is the penultimate stop atop the Northern line, yet only 35 minutes from Leicester Square (on a really good day) and 38 minutes from Bank. The overground station, Oakleigh Park, is also only a five-minute drive away and that will get you to Moorgate in 25 minutes. The Tube station has a car park and there are no parking restrictions around either station.
For commuters who want to enjoy the benefits of London and the delights of the country, it’s the place to pitch up - but don’t expect to find any recession bargains there.
"Totteridge has always been a difficult area to buy into," says Lawrence Henry of estate agent Statons.
© David Poole
Jim Falconer of Winkworth’s Totteridge branch says: "There is never a lot of property on the market. That is not to say that prices haven’t eased off. I’ve seen a 15 to 20 per cent fall over the past 18 months or so but there have also been a few exceptions. I’ve sold a couple of houses recently with a 25 per cent uplift. If something is special enough, people will pay a high price for it."
And there are a lot of exceptional properties. Totteridge has an eclectic mix of housing, a huge variety in size and scope. There are sprawling period and period-style country estates in acres of land, large detached family homes with carriage drives encircling manicured lawns, as well as picture-postcard cottages.
On the outskirts of Totteridge, towards Woodside Park and Whetstone, there are a few roads of more uniform semis and smaller detached properties, and homes needing some TLC.
Cute does not always mean sensible but if you want sweet historical cottages you will also get dated layouts and awkward vehicular access, and renovation won’t be easy. Much of Totteridge is within a conservation area. It has a powerful, well-connected residents’ association, and an influential charity, the Totteridge Manor Association, controls all the common and manorial land. A strong community preserves Totteridge’s character, along with its popular tennis, golf and cricket clubs.
You have to be quick to pick up a property. But, explains Lawrence Henry: "Older people do downsize to something they can securely leave for trips abroad. This frees up space for younger families."
© Charlie Birchmore
‘We’ve always felt safe and comfortable’
Garry Simpson lives in Totteridge with his wife Michele and their four children, Natasha (12), Ben (11), Isabella (six) and one-year-old Chloë. He first bought there in 1995 and has moved within the area three times since then.
"We love the green-belt land for jogging and cycling and the empty countryside nearby. We’ve always felt safe and comfortable and made lots of family friends," says Garry.
"We also like the village feel, the Orange Tree pub, the village hall and the useful shops on the parade. Also, in Whetstone High Road, there are a couple of good restaurants, a Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. It is also near the A1, M1 and M25.
"Previously, I was working in the West End but I have now relocated my property company to Whetstone. It’s working out well as I can take the kids to school and see them take part in sporting events. I’ve got a good work/life balance."
Local council and education authority: Barnet (020 8359 2000). Band B council tax 2008/09, £1,083; Band H £2,785.
Schools: There are two above-average state primary schools in Totteridge: St Andrew’s Church of England voluntary-aided school and Woodridge School. Lyonsdown in New Barnet is a popular local prep school, while Queen Elizabeth Girls and Queen Elizabeth Boys are heavily oversubscribed local state secondary schools.
Shopping: Celebrity florist Sam Moore has a stand by the station and the two small parades either side have useful local shops. In Whetstone there is a Waitrose, M&S and a large Boots. Patric James has two shops, one for men and one for women, selling contemporary designer clothes and shoes (020 8445 9742/020 8445 2400), while Ruth specialises in children’s special-occasion wear (020 8445 7658).
Eating out: The Orange Tree (020 8343 7031) is a smart gastropub with a lovely outdoor eating area. In Whetstone High Road, The Rotisserie (020 8343 8585) serves good steaks, and for more sophisticated dining there’s The Haven (020 8445 7419).
Commuting: Totteridge & Whetstone Northern line Tube station is in Zone 4 and an annual season ticket covering zones one to four costs £1,472.
Recreation: South Herts Golf Club (020 8445 2035); Totteridge Tennis Club (020 8445 4111); Totteridge Cricket Club (020 8445 5331).