Winchmore Hill and Palmers Green in north London are neighbouring suburbs which offer a strong sense of community, streets of well-maintained Edwardian family houses, fine parks and an easy train commute into the City.
Pretty Winchmore Hill sits in a conservation area on top of a hill. There are cafés, pubs and boutiques clustered around an ancient village green. The most expensive road is the Broad Walk, a long road leading off the green, where large Twenties mansions have been extended or knocked down and rebuilt in "footballers’ wives" style with security gates and off-street parking for a dozen cars.
Palmers Green is the more workaday neighbourhood a mile or so closer to London. It is home to the largest Cypriot community outside Cyprus. Food lovers all over north London make for the crossroads of the North Circular and Green Lanes in southern Palmers Green, where the Turkish supermarket and stores create displays of fresh fruit and vegetables which put some British outlets to shame.
Palmers Green is full of community spirit: locals have planted a community orchard in Broomfield Park and there is a strong campaign - so far unsuccessful - to get the burnt-out shell of listed Broomfield House restored as a community centre. On Sunday, there is a well-supported community market - part farmers’ market, part craft fair, part car boot sale - in the station car park.
Properties: Winchmore Hill and Palmers Green are good places to look for family homes. Most of the houses are Edwardian - development didn’t start in earnest until 1909 - or later Twenties and Thirties houses. In Winchmore Hill there are some earlier weatherboard and flat-fronted cottages, and in the Grange Park conservation area, almost on the edge of London, there are fine Arts & Crafts houses.
The area attracts: Palmers Green draws growing families who can’t afford a house in Crouch End or Muswell Hill. Winchmore Hill, meanwhile, tends to attract both celebrities and wealthy businessmen who like the bling of the Broad Walk.
Staying power: people have strong family ties, so they tend to stay.
Postcodes: Palmers Green is N13 but the N21 Winchmore Hill postcode is the more desirable, with houses (but not flats) between 15 and 25 per cent more expensive.
Best streets: as stated before, Winchmore Hill’s premier street is the Broad Walk. Estate agents Statons has recently sold a 12,500sq ft new-build mansion on this street which had an advertised asking price of £6.95million. In Palmers Green the best streets are in the Lakes conservation area between Aldermans Hill and Fox Lane. The price of a four-bedroom Edwardian semi is between £550,000 and £650,000.
Up and coming: Nick Charalambous, of estate agents Winkworth, says the whole of Palmers Green is undervalued. "Compared with other areas of North London, you get a lot of house for your money here."
What’s new: New Riverside is a development of 33 flats and three houses in New River Crescent overlooking the New River. Building has only just begun. For details call 020 8370 3999.
Schools: most of the local primary schools get good results at Key Stage 2 at age 11. Government schools watchdog, Ofsted, judges as "outstanding": Eversley, Firs Farm and Oakthorpe, with St Paul’s CofE in the heart of Winchmore Hill village judged "good with outstanding features".
Palmers Green High is a high-achieving girls’ private school taking pupils from age two to 18. Latymer in nearby Edmonton is a popular mixed grammar school which gets excellent results at GCSE. Winchmore School and Highlands School, the two local Winchmore Hill comprehensives, both get above-average results at GCSE, as does St Anne’s Catholic High School for girls in Palmers Green.
Shops and restaurants: Winchmore Hill has a charming village feel. There is a butcher’s shop in Wade Hill and two Minsky boutiques. Treacle’s is the local tea shop and there are three pubs. Palmers Green has a Morrisons, a Sainsbury’s and a newly opened Waitrose which replaced an M&S Foods.
There is a smattering of high street stores but charity shops tend to predominate. Aksular is a popular Turkish restaurant, but for an authentic Cypriot experience, the action is lower down Green Lanes at the junction with the North Circular. TFC, one of a small chain of Turkish supermarkets, is a refreshing change from our usual supermarkets; while the Sirwan Food Centre is equally interesting. Lefteris is a long-standing Greek bakery and George’s Café feels as if it’s straight from a Greek island.
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Open spaces: the area is blessed with beautiful parks - Grovelands Park in Winchmore Hill and Broomfield Park in Palmers Green. There are also walks along the New River and the Pymme’s Brook.
Leisure and the arts: Southgate Leisure Centre in Winchmore Hill Road is the nearest council-owned swimming pool. The Intimate Theatre in Palmers Green attracted world-class stars in the Forties but now it is mainly home to amateur shows. Also in Palmers Green there is the Electric Mouse, a comedy club at the Fox pub, and the Waiting Room, a café bar which holds blues music nights. The Enfield Golf Club is an 18-hole course in Grange Park.
Travel: four overground train stations serve the area: Grange Park (31 minutes to Moorgate, Zone 5, annual travel card £1,880); Winchmore Hill and Palmers Green (29 minutes and 26 minutes respectively, both in Zone 4, annual travel card £1,576), and Bowes Park (24 minutes, Zone 3, annual travel card £1,288).
Council: Enfield (Labour controlled); band D council tax for 2010/11 £1,410.16.
Pictures by John Lawrence