The arrival of the Overground, good schools and a hilly landscape with magnificent views over the City have made the south-east London neighbourhood of Honor Oak popular with young families priced out of more expensive areas such as Clapham or Balham.
Its station, Honor Oak Park, has trains that reach London Bridge in 15 minutes and the Overground has trains to Canary Wharf via Canada Water on the former East London line.
Honor Oak Park is the name of both the station and the neighbourhood’s main street of shops and eateries, including well-known Donde tapas bar. The street is promoted with signs bearing a leafy logo.
Honor Oak is named after an historic oak tree, scene picnic in 1602 when Queen Elizabeth I was entertained on her way to Lewisham by one of her courtiers, Welsh politician Richard Bulkeley, who hailed from the Welsh seaside town of Beaumaris on Anglesey.
They picnicked, so the tale goes, in the shade of an oak tree on One Tree Hill which became known as the Oak of Honor. Sadly Queen Elizabeth’s oak tree did not survive but a replacement, planted in 1905, is still there today.
Honor Oak is six miles south-east of central London and is where Spike Milligan spent his formative years from the age of 12 until he joined the Army in 1940.
It’s where he taught himself to play the ukulele, trumpet and guitar, and played in south London’s dance bands and rhythm clubs.
Honor Oak sits with Peckham to the north, Brockley to the east, Forest Hill to the south and East Dulwich to the west.
Large semi-detached houses, along with many double-fronted five- and six-bedroom Edwardian houses are found in Wood Vale and in the “Crimean Corner” — roads named after locations significant in the Crimean war, including Marmora, Mundania and Therapia Roads, off Forest Hill Road.
Estate agent Paolo Ulivi, of the local branch of Pickwick Estates, recommends the houses in Duncombe Hill and Lowther Hill, backing on to a private four-acre garden with a tennis court.
Elsewhere in the area are Victorian, Edwardian and later terrace houses and a few purpose-built flats.
Many of the houses have been converted into flats, with those in the Crimean Corner roads particularly spacious.Lessing Street and Wyleu Street off Honor Oak Park have interesting Arts & Crafts houses and flats.
In Walters Way is a group of 13 self-build houses, a project of architect Walter Segal (1907-1985).
There are no new homes being built currently in this small district but the nearest sizeable new development is Barratt Homes’ Catford Green, with 635 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments overlooking 54-acre Ladywell Fields with views over the River Ravensbourne.
Two- and three-bedroom homes are currently available at Catford Green, with prices ranging from £471,000 to £591,000. Call 0844 225 0032.
Help to Buy is available at Catford Green, where flats can be bought with five per cent deposit (as before).
Estate agent Paolo Ulivi, of the local branch of Pickwick Estates, says now that Honor Oak’s local state secondary schools are better, families no longer move further out into the suburbs when their children leave primary school.
Honor Oak falls into the SE23 Forest Hill postcode.
The “Crimea Corner” roads — Marmora, Mundania and Therapia — and Wood Vale.
Up and coming
Paolo Ulivi tips the “half houses” in Codrington Hill, Ebsworth Street, Bovill Road and Whatman Road.
These look like single double-fronted houses but were built as two houses, each with two bedrooms.
“A good supply of two-bedroom houses is rare and people will stretch themselves to buy one,” he says.
There are 15-minute trains to London Bridge from Honor Oak Park, with Victoria trains taking 45 minutes.
The Overground runs services on the former East London line to Dalston Junction — commuters for Canary Wharf change at Canada Water and those for the City leave the train at Shoreditch High Street.
The most useful local buses are the No 171 to Holborn, the No 172 to St Paul’s — both going via Waterloo and Aldwych — and the P4 to Brixton.
Honor Oak Park is in Zone 3 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,520.
Lewisham council is Labour controlled. Band D council tax for 2017/2018 is £1,437.70.
Shops and restaurants
Honor Oak’s shopping street is along Honor Oak Park where there are coffee shops, restaurants, gift shops and delicatessens. Hop Scotch has morphed into Two Spoons — a coffee shop by day, a cocktail bar by night. Donde is a tapas bar; Mamma Dough is a wood-fired pizza restaurant with branches in Brixton and Peckham, and Hattush is a Turkish restaurant where the breakfasts are a brunch favourite.
Jumping Bean has gifts and women’s fashion, with another branch in Beckenham. Honor Oak Provender is the local delicatessen.
In nearby Brockley Rise, Babur is a top Indian restaurant marked by a model of a tiger above the entrance; Le Querce — meaning oak tree — is an Italian restaurant, and The Chandos is a recently renovated pub, specialising in craft beer and pizza.
One Tree Hill public park and woodland nature reserve, and smaller Brenchley Gardens, are popular with dog walkers. There are views over central London from both, and lovely flower beds and a sunken garden at Brenchley Gardens.
The One Tree Hill Allotment Society has 80 plots and holds an annual wassail, an ancient tradition of blessing the fruit trees.
Blythe Hill Fields hilltop park offers panoramic views of Canary Wharf, the City, Kent and Surrey, and the local friends’ group runs the annual Blythe Hill Fields Festival each July.
Devonshire Road nature reserve follows the Forest Hill to New Cross Gate railway cutting for four kilometres, and is open on the last Sunday of the month during summer.
Leisure and the arts
The family highlight is the Horniman Museum and Gardens in nearby Forest Hill. A Saturday farmers’ market is held in the gardens, while Robot Zoo is a recently opened exhibition of giant robot animals at the museum, which recently announced the opening of a new butterfly house this summer.
Aquarius Golf Club is a nine-hole course sitting on top of a giant Thames Water reservoir which, when it was built at the end of the 19th century, was the largest brick-lined reservoir in the world.
The Brockley Jack Theatre in Brockley Road is the local fringe theatre, and the nearest council swimming pool is the recently upgraded Forest Hill Pools in Dartmouth Road.
State primary schools judged “outstanding” by Ofsted are Fairlawn in Honor Oak Road; Beecroft Garden in Beecroft Road and Stillness Infants in Brockley Rise, where the junior school is rated “good”. Other primary schools rated “good” are St William of York RC in Brockley Park; Dalmain in Grove Close, off Brockley Rise; St Francesca Cabrini RC in Forest Hill Road, and Turnham in Turnham Road.
State comprehensives rated “outstanding” are Harris Girls’ Academy East Dulwich (ages 11 to 18) in Homestall Road; Prendergast (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Hilly Fields; Harris Boys’ Academy East Dulwich (ages 11 to 18) in Peckham Rye, and St Thomas the Apostle RC College (boys, ages 11 to 16) in Hollydale Road. All-through state school Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Pepys Road in nearby New Cross is also judged “outstanding”.
State secondary schools with a “good” rating from the education watchdog are: Forest Hill (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Dacres Road; Sydenham School (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Dartmouth Road, and Addey and Stanhope (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in New Cross Road, Deptford.
Private schools include Sydenham High (girls, ages four to 18), a Girls’ Day School Trust school in Westwood Hill, and St Dunstan’s (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Stanstead Road in Catford. The three Dulwich private schools are nearby — Alleyn’s (co-ed, ages four to 18) in Townley Road; James Allen’s Girls’ School (ages, four to 18), known locally as JAGS, in East Dulwich Grove, and Dulwich College (boys, with girls in the sixth form, ages two to 18) in Dulwich Common.