Sleepy, quiet and calm, Winchmore Hill in north London has it all: a quick and easy commute by train to the City; a hilltop location with a pretty green surrounded by shops and restaurants; good schools; and a beautiful park landscaped by the legendary 18th century gardener Humphry Repton.
'There is something appealing about a hilly neighbourhood'
Winchmore Hill may be a suburb but in the conservation area around the green it still has the feel of a rural village.
Clustered around the green there are shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants.
The Quakers were early settlers. They started worshipping here at the end of the 17th century and the meeting house that they built later, in 1790, is still a local landmark - many famous Quakers, including those involved in the abolition of slavery, are buried in the graveyard.
In the surrounding streets there are pretty flat-fronted, early 19th century cottages, some with attractive weatherboarding. There is something appealing about a hilly neighbourhood, and here the walk down Church Hill, past the early Victorian parish church of St Paul’s, leads to Winchmore Hill’s other big attraction, Grovelands Park.
This well-maintained open space, with its ancient oak wood, was the parkland landscaped by Repton, who dammed the local brook to form a picturesque lake. This was the setting for Grovelands House, a Grade I listed classical house designed by John Nash, architect of the terraces around Regent’s Park. Now a private psychiatric hospital run by The Priory, it was where, for a brief period in 1988, Chilean ex-president Augusto Pinochet was held under house arrest while a patient.
Winchmore Hill is not on the Tube but the journey by train from the overground station takes half an hour to Moorgate in the City. The train stops at Finsbury Park, where commuters can hop on to the Victoria or Piccadilly lines. and also at Highbury and Islington, where there is an interchange with the Victoria and North London lines.
Winchmore Hill’s best road is the Broad Walk, a road of large houses where a succession of celebrities such as Myleene Klass, Jamie and Louise Redknapp, Melanie Sykes, James Caan of Dragons’ Den fame and Sid Owen from EastEnders have lived over the years.
This Winchmore Hill superstar of a road is one of the new breed of London super-suburbs that have been dubbed “supurbias”. The queen of the Broad Walk, estate agent André Chris of Havilands, says even the most modest houses in this road now sell for about £1.8 million.
“The Broad Walk has undergone huge changes over the past six or seven years. People have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on their houses, doing them up and extending them.”
A walk down the road reveals relatively modest houses that have been transformed into lavish mansions with porticos and off-street parking, elaborate railings and electronic gates. According to Chris, developers have now moved in on the road.
'You can still buy a modest three-bedroom terrace house for less than £400,000 and a two-bedroom flat for less than £250,000'
“Houses are being knocked down and rebuilt with swimming pools, cinemas, games rooms and tennis courts. One house soon to be completed will go on the market at £7 million. Bush Hill, a road near the golf course, and Eversley Crescent are two other Winchmore Hill roads where something similar is starting to happen,” she says.
But in this pleasant suburb, these roads are still the exception. This is an area where you can still buy a modest three-bedroom terrace house for less than £400,000 and a two-bedroom flat for less than £250,000.
Most of the houses were built in the Twenties and Thirties and a large semi-detached five-bedroom house close to the station costs between £650,000 and £850,000.
Sue Bradford of estate agent Peter Barry says that in terms of house prices there are two sides to Winchmore Hill, with the dividing line along Green Lanes. “The roads to the north-west between Grange Park and the Green are the most sought-after.
Those on a tighter budget look to the south-east of Green Lanes and Ridge Avenue, where there is a good selection of Thirties semi-detached and terrace houses at more affordable prices.”
Local council and education authority: Enfield (020 8379 1000). Band D council tax 2008/09, £1,383.52.
Schools: Woodberry Day Nursery takes children from six months to five years. There are lots of top-performing primary schools, such as St Paul’s C of E, Raglan, Firs Farm, Eversley and Grange Park. The top state secondary school is Latymer School in Edmonton, which gets 10 applications for every place, but the following comprehensive schools get above average results: Highlands, which is mixed, Enfield Grammar for boys and Enfield County for girls. Keble School is a popular prep school for boys aged four to 13 and Grange Park Prep School takes girls aged from four to 11. Palmers Green High School is for girls aged two to 18.
Shopping: Minsky’s has two shops; one selling women and children’s fashion (020 8360 4488), the other bags and shoes (020 8920 6771); Wades Hill Butchery (020 8882 4848) is the local butcher; Twenty One The Green (020 8882 4298) is a smart menswear shop; The House (020 8886 3800) is an interiors shop. There is a Sainsbury’s (020 8364 1211) in Green Lanes, and the Palace Gardens shopping centre (020 8367 1210) in Enfield is anchored by Pearsons department store, Waitrose, M&S and Boots.
Eating Out: Regatta on the Green (020 8886 5471) is a popular Italian restaurant; Treacles Tea Shop (020 8920 9565) is a tea room serving delicious cup cakes; and the King’s Head (020 8886 1988) is the local gastropub.
Commuting: Winchmore Hill is in Zone 4 and an annual season ticket to central London, including Tube and bus travel, costs £968.
Leisure centres: Southgate Leisure Centre (020 8882 7963); LA Fitness in Southgate (020 8886 8883).
Cinemas: UGC Enfield (0871 200 2000); Odeon Edmonton (0871 224 4007).
Golf: Bush Hill Park Golf Club (020 8360 5738).
Pictures by John Lawrence