After the 2002 ITV series Essex Wives — which propelled glamour model Jodie Marsh to fame — the area between Chigwell, Buckhurst Hill and Loughton was optimistically dubbed Essex’s “Golden Triangle”. Those with long memories will remember it as the suburban stomping ground of Birds Of A Feather’s Tracey and Sharon, while today the triangle stretches further east to encompass Brentwood — the spiritual home of ITV2’s reality show The Only Way Is Essex.
Glamour, or a certain sort of it, is what this part of Essex does best. Chigwell is home to Lord Sugar, of Amstrad and The Apprentice fame. He bought the local pub, the Ye Olde King’s Head, and turned it into Sheesh, an expensive Turkish restaurant, as remarkable for the bling as for the food.
Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient football clubs both have training grounds here, so there is no shortage of WAGs venturing from newly minted mansions secure behind electronic gates to visit the William IV pub, where the wicker chairs are swathed in sheepskin and the dining chairs are wrapped in gold gauze.
Meanwhile, the parade of shops around Chigwell Tube station consists, not of convenience stores, key grinders and estate agents but designer-label boutiques and beauty spas.
Half a mile away from the town centre are the charming remnants of old Chigwell village with the long-standing Chigwell School, lovely Georgian houses and weatherboard cottages.
It still has the feel of a small rural village with 300 acres of the Hainault Country Park on its doorstep.
What there is to buy in Chigwell
Chigwell has it all — Thirties houses, new-build mansions and developments of large, modern flats close to the station. The biggest homes are between 7,000 and 10,000sq ft with two or three acres of land. There is also a smattering of Georgian houses and weatherboard cottages.
The area attracts: Chigwell is popular with entrepreneurs, footballers and city workers who use the Central line to Liverpool Street or Bank.
Staying power: a Thirties house can be traded up for a larger home and then traded down for a spacious lock-up-and-leave flat, so people do tend to stay.
Renting: footballers tend to rent in secure locations such as Repton Park before they make the decision to buy.
Postcode: Chigwell has the desirable IG7 postcode.
Best roads: Forest Lane, Manor Road, Hainault Road and Chigwell High Road where houses range in price between a little under £1 million to £3.5 million. The Courtland Estate of half-timber, detached, mock-Tudor houses is also sought after.
What’s new: Repton Park is the successful redevelopment of the old Claybury Hospital on Manor Road. The developer Crest Nicholson converted the listed Victorian buildings and built new flats and houses in spacious landscaped grounds with a cricket pitch and health club, creating 850 new homes.
Chigwell Grange is a development of 32 detached houses which is being sold off-plan by developer Byrne Estates. So far only four have been sold, while those remaining start at £1.95 million. For information contact agents Phillip Leigh on 020 8501 2424. Weston Homes is developing the Bald Hind site. The pub is about to be demolished and 14 new flats go on sale off-plan in the spring. Buyers can register at weston-homes.com
Up and coming: according to estate agent Gavin Surtees of Savills there are three-, four- and five-bedroom semi-detached and detached family houses in central Chigwell, in the roads behind Brook Parade, which are cheaper than in the premier roads. It is also worth looking around nearby Grange Hill station, which has smaller, cheaper Thirties houses in leafy streets.
Schools: Chigwell Primary School in High Road is judged “good” by the government’s education watchdog Ofsted, as is the local comprehensive, West Hatch, also in the High Road. The two grammar schools — Ilford County (boys ages 11 to 18) in Barkingside and Woodford County High (girls ages 11 to 18) in Woodford Green — are both judged “outstanding”. Chigwell School (co-ed ages seven to 18) is the local private school with a long history. Bancroft’s (co-ed ages 11 to 18) is another popular private school in Woodford Green.
Shops and restaurants: there are local shops, boutiques and beauty salons in Brook Parade close to Chigwell station. There is a Waitrose in nearby Buckhurst Hill, as well as men’s designer shop, Zap. The best local restaurant is The Bluebell. In a 400-year-old building, it is almost opposite the King’s Head now housing Lord Sugar’s Sheesh restaurant. There is a Miller & Carter steak house in a former pub on Manor Road, and the Blue Boar in the pretty village of Abridge is also popular.
Open space: Epping Forest is a few miles away, west of Loughton. In Chigwell itself there are the 300 acres of the Hainault Forest Country Park with bridleways for horse riding, an adventure playground, farm and café. Roding Valley Meadows is a nature reserve which follows the River Roding.
Leisure and the arts: the nearest council-owned swimming pool is at the Loughton Leisure Centre in Traps Hill. There are also swimming pools at the David Lloyd Centre in Roding Lane, Buckhurst Hill, and Virgin Active has a pool in a converted chapel in Repton Park. Chigwell’s best residential roads all back on to the Chigwell Golf Club with an 18-hole parkland course.
Travel: Chigwell is close to the M11 and the M25. Chigwell and nearby Grange Hill are on the Hainault loop of the Central line. These stations were moved from Zone 5 to Zone 4 in 2007, cutting the cost of an annual travel card, which is now £1,576 to Zone 1.
Council: Epping Forest district council (Conservative-controlled); Band D council tax for 2011/2012 is £1,470.49.
Buying in Chigwell
One-bedroom flat £149,000
Two-bedroom flat £253,000
Two-bedroom house £260,000
Three-bedroom house £346,000
Four-bedroom house £532,000
Renting in Chigwell
One-bedroom flat: rarely available
Two-bedroom flat £750 to £2,950 a month
Two-bedroom house £950 to £1,500 a month
Three-bedroom house £1,000 to £2,760 a month
Four-bedroom house £1,450 to £4,800 a month
Five-bedroom plus house £4,500 to £7,500 pm
Photographs: Graham Hussey