Good schools, a much-loved park, a popular Sunday market and a quick commute into central London combine to make the south London suburb of Herne Hill a popular neighbourhood with families and young professionals alike.
On a sunny winter Sunday the area is full of couples and families walking their dogs, piling into the pubs for a roast and stocking up on food at the market for the week ahead.
Brockwell Park is popular with those dog walkers — and with sporty types who use the tennis courts and Brockwell Lido. Now open all year round, the lido also offers a fully equipped gym with a programme of exercise classes and a hydrotherapy centre.
But such cheery scenes haven’t quite eradicated the memory of the two floods that devastated the area in 2004, when houses along Dulwich Road were flooded, and in August 2013 when an 88 year-old water main burst in Half Moon Lane, in the main local shopping area, unleashing scenes of destruction. The resulting damage led to years of wrangles, both with Thames Water and insurers, and caused the permanent closure of three businesses.
It also closed the landmark Half Moon pub for almost four years — it’s only now due to reopen. Estate agent Douglas Bernard, from the local branch of Winkworth, recalls coming to work that day in August 2013 to find his premises flooded and a fire brigade boat ferrying people to safety.
Herne Hill is five miles from central London with Loughborough Junction and Camberwell to the north; East Dulwich and Dulwich to the east; Tulse Hill to the south and Brixton to the west. Bernard describes the neighbourhood as a hidden gem, combining the urban and the rural.
The property scene
Becoming built-up after the arrival of the railway in the 1860s, Herne Hill offers mainly Victorian, Edwardian and Twenties houses. Many are divided into flats, although currently there are slightly more houses than flats on the market.
Pedder New Homes is selling two new four-bedroom houses in a terrace of four in Hinton Road at £920,000 each. Call 020 7738 6839. In nearby West Dulwich, One Housing Group is selling 99 Thurlow Park Road, a scheme of eight three-bedroom duplexes and a four-bedroom penthouse. They will be move-in ready in early March. Prices from £895,000. Call 0344 800 1635.
Bernard says Herne Hill is popular with young couples and sharers, and many of his landlords either work abroad or are based locally. “I have a couple of local landlords who have built up portfolios of five or six properties in the area.”
Bernard says he sees a lot of people buying their first home in Herne Hill after renting in the area. The problem comes later when they want to trade up from a two-bedroom flat to a three-bedroom house where the gap can be as much as £400,000. “Even if they would like to stay, bridging this sort of gap forces families out to cheaper areas such as Forest Hill, Streatham and Sydenham,” he says.
SE24 is the Herne Hill postcode.
Stradella Road has large detached double-fronted Edwardian houses that are the most expensive in the area. Carver Road has Twenties double-fronted semi-detached houses which are also popular.
The houses in the Poets’ Roads conservation area — Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton Roads — are all Victorian but are built in different styles which gives these roads a certain charm. This area is home — appropriately — to the actor and former Shakespeare’s Globe artistic director Sir Mark Rylance, food critic Jay Rayner and pop singer Elly Jackson, aka La Roux.
Up and coming
The Sunray Estate off Red Post Hill was built between 1920 and 1922 on garden suburb principles under the Homes for Heroes initiative. The simple cottages are now mainly owner-occupied and are cheaper than surrounding homes. House prices also drop towards Loughborough Junction and Tulse Hill.
Herne Hill has trains to Victoria which take less than 10 minutes and Thameslink trains to Blackfriars in 14 minutes, to Farringdon in 20 minutes and St Pancras in 25 minutes. Nearby North Dulwich station has trains to London Bridge which take 17 minutes.
There are useful buses — the No 68 goes to Euston via Covent Garden and Holborn and the No 3 goes to Oxford Circus via Westminster and Piccadilly Circus. The numbers 3, 37, 196 and 322 all go to Brixton, where some commuters pick up the Victoria line Tube.
Herne Hill station is in Zone 2 and an annual travelcard costs £1,296. North Dulwich station is in Zone 3 and the annual travelcard is £1,520.
Southwark is Labour controlled and Band D council tax for 2016/2017 in the borough is £1,206.38. Lambeth is also Labour controlled and Band D council tax for 2016/2017 £1,257.35.
Shops and restaurants
Herne Hill’s shopping centre is along Half Moon Lane, in Railton Road by the station, and along Dulwich, Norwood and Milkwood Roads. With the exception of branches of PizzaExpress, Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local, all of the outlets are independent.
There are plenty of coffee shops, many doubling up as delicatessens, such as The Parlour, Mimosa, The Roome and Sesami. Dugard & Daughters is a butcher and deli. Children are well-catered for at Kinder LaLa toy shop, Jelly Tots Café, which has a soft play area, Duo Dance for dancing kit, and children’s bookshop Tales On Moon Lane.
Café Provencal is a popular café that was particularly badly hit by the 2013 burst water main flooding but came through with the help of crowdfunding. Olley’s is one of south London’s best-known fish and chip restaurants. Milkwood, a newish restaurant with a 20-seat cinema opposite the station, appears to be making a go of it on a site where others have struggled.
The Commercial, The Florence and The Prince Regent are local gastropubs. First Aid Box is a cocktail bar serving small plates. The recently revamped Tulse Hill Hotel in Tulse Hill offers nine en suite bedrooms, fine dining and a bar. The Lido Café, serving craft beers and modern British food from breakfast until late, enjoys views of Brockwell Lido in Brockwell Park. Naughty Piglets in Brixton Water Lane specialises in fashionable organic and natural wines and small plates.
Brockwell Park is at the heart of Herne Hill. It has Art Deco Brockwell Lido and Fusion Gym, an old walled garden, a community greenhouse with a full programme of events, The Lido Café, a BMX track, tennis courts, a well-designed children’s playground and a wet play area.
Ruskin Park between Herne Hill and Camberwell has a Victorian bandstand, a children’s playground, tennis courts and a paddling pool which local residents funded last year after the local council threatened to close it.
Sunray Gardens in Red Post Hill is a small park, the last remnants of a garden by renowned 18th-century landscape designer Humphry Repton.
Herne Hill Velodrome in Burbage Road is a historic cycle racing track.
Leisure and the arts
The Illusioneer is a tiny 20-seat theatre in Half Moon Lane that puts on magic shows. Whirled Cinema is an art cinema in a railway arch in Hardess Street at nearby Loughborough Junction. Herne Hill Free Film Festival takes place every year in May and the Herne Hill Music Festival in October. There is a popular community piano in the underpass beneath Herne Hill station.
Carnegie Library, in a fine building in Herne Hill Road, was closed and then occupied for nine days last year in a protest over Lambeth council plans to reopen it this year as a smaller self-service neighbourhood library and gym.
Herne Hill has a good choice of schools, both state and private. The following state primary schools get an Ofsted “outstanding” rating: St Jude’s CofE in Regent Road; Rosendale in Rosendale Road; Jessop in Lowden Road; Dulwich Hamlet Infants and Juniors in Dulwich Village; Corpus Christi RC in Trent Road, and Sudbourne in Sudbourne Road, the last two in Brixton.
Parents at popular St Saviour’s CofE in Herne Hill Road are happy the school is out of special measures and is now rated “good”. Judith Kerr in Half Moon Lane is a German/English bilingual school, also rated “good”.
The Charter School (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) is judged “outstanding”. Local secondary schools with a “good” rating are: Evelyn Grace (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Shakespeare Road; St Martin-in-the-Fields CofE High School (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Tulse Hill; and Elmgreen (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Elmcourt Road.
Brixton has two recently opened state secondary schools: Trinity Academy RC (co-ed, ages 11 to 18), a free school, and South Bank Engineering UTC (co-ed, ages 14 to 18), both in Brixton Hill.
The private infants, primary and preparatory schools are: Herne Hill School (co-ed, ages two to seven) in Herne Hill; Oakfield (co-ed, ages two to 11) in Thurlow Park Road; Rosemead (co-ed, ages three to 11) also in Thurlow Park Road; Oleander (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Brixton Hill, and Dulwich Prep (boys, ages two to 14) in Alleyn Park.
The three famous Dulwich schools — Dulwich College (boys, ages two to 18) in Dulwich Common; Alleyn’s (co-ed, ages four to 18) in Townley Road, and James Allen’s (girls, ages four to 18) in East Dulwich Grove — are all within walking distance.