Photo: Thomas Cats
When it comes to Walthamstow, everyone has their own opinion on how the area should be and hackles will raise as soon as anyone decides to challenge this. Recently, The Sunday Times ranked Walthamstow as the 36th best place to live in the UK and whenever our little corner of the world gets a mention in the national press, it is guaranteed to stir up a sea of emotions across social media channels. Of course, the paper offered nothing we didn’t already know about the leafy suburb. Walthamstow’s excellent transport links and affordable (in London terms) house prices were given a mention alongside a comparison with neighboring borough of Hackney. However the question on every resident’s lips was, why wasn’t Walthamstow number one? So, here we make a case for Walthamstow with our top ten reasons for living in the area.
Photo: Paul Hudson
According to data released by Waltham Forest Council, we have one of the most diverse boroughs in the country with 62% of the population from minority ethnic backgrounds. That is almost two thirds of Waltham Forest’s population. Pakistan and Poland share top place, each with 8200 residents living in the borough, followed by Romania with 4300 and Jamaica and India both with 4200. Not only does diversity make our lives richer and more interesting, it brings with it a new set of beliefs that help us gain a greater understanding about our own culture. Take Walthamstow High Street for example, the family run halal butchers that have been operating since the 50s, the fabric shops that resemble Aladdin’s den and the amazing array of fruit and veg on offer are just some of the jewels in Walthamstow’s crown. Without them, Walthamstow just wouldn’t be Walthamstow.
2) Suburbia In The City
So you want to visit the forest, take a boat out on the lake and then be in Oxford Circus for evening drinks? No problem. With Walthamstow Marshes and Epping Forest both a short walk from Walthamstow Central tube station, you can have country boots and city roots without leaving London. Why not treat your kids to a real teddy bear picnic in the forest or have a ‘Swallows and Amazons‘ moment at Hollow Ponds? After all, if it gets too much, you are only a 20 minute tube ride from central London.
3) Walk In The Footsteps of Famous People
Walthamstow has been home to a handful of famous people over the years and boy, residents don’t let you forget this. Discover the world of William Morris in his own house (now the William Morris Gallery), score goals on the same football pitch as Fabrice Muamba and dance down the streets where dancer and choreographer, Matthew Bourne lived. Other residents of note within the wider borough of Waltham Forest include Def Leppard guitarist, Phil Collen, artist Grayson Perry, boy band East 17, Iron Maiden lead singer Paul D’Anno and Damon Albarn, Blur frontman amongst many others.
4) Library Lined Streets
Photo: Trevor Powell
Little Free Libraries is a concept that began across the pond in Wisconsin back in 2009 and has since spread across the UK, including Walthamstow. The idea is to donate your unwanted books to the specially designed mini libraries in a bid to increase the availability of books in the UK whilst also raising literacy rates. At the moment there are 15 individual libraries across Walthamstow and the numbers are slowly increasing as more people discover the scheme. Which book do you hope to see there?
5) Visit God
Photo: G Travels
For those of you that feel that the bright lights of Soho are nothing more than a distant memory of life outside zone 3, Gods Own Junk Yard is the answer to your prayers. Located on the Ravenswood Industrial Estate, the work of neon artist Chris Bracey forms a floor to ceiling display of kitsch, playful signs that have been used in photo shoots with Kate Moss and on the sets for Hollywood films. Entry to the studio is free and they even have a cafe so you can sip coffee in this technicolor wonderland.
6) Hoppy To Meet You
Photo: Left Bank Brewery
Craft beer lovers rejoice! Walthamstow is home to not one but two microbreweries. On the Blackhorse Road side of Walthamstow residents can enjoy a cold brew courtesy of the Left Bank Brewery located at Blackhorse Workshop. At present, Left Bank Brewery currently produce a pale ale, a stout, a porter and two saisons and if you can’t make it to the brewery itself, it is also available at the Hornbeam cafe. On the other side of Walthamstow, the Wild Card Brewery is nestled away in the Ravenswood Industrial Estate and opens its doors to customers on the weekend when they serve beer from their bar. Customers can choose between their IPA, pale ale, ruby ale or their porter and then sit and drink just meters away from where it was originally brewed. When in Rome and all that!
7) Pub Life
Photo: Ewan Munro
Never will you have to trek into central for an afterwork drink again. Residents of Walthamstow are graced with over 22 pubs and that isn’t counting all the licensed bars and restaurants in the neighborhood. Whether it is a cosy gastro pub like the Queens Arms that you are after or a traditional, ungentrified establishment like the Flower Pot pub, there are plenty of places to wet your whistle in Walthamstow.
8) Festival Central
Photo: Duncan Holmes
Can’t make it to Glasto this year? Like the idea of festivals but hate the mud? No problem! Walthamstow offers a whole host of festivals to fit everyone’s interests. The Wild Card Brewery hosts regular beer festivals which generally fall on bank holidays and can be booked through their Facebook page. To celebrate the opening of their Hoe Street restaurant, Grillstock are hosting a weekend BBQ festival (5th-6th September) for meat and music lovers alike. If by this time you still haven’t had enough sunshine, food and music, Stow Festival takes place between the 17th and 20th September and if last years numbers are anything to go by, we can expect over one hundred musicians to take to the stage across Walthamstow. The list of festivals within the borough is endless but others worth exploring are the E17 International Film Festival and the Art Trail.
9) Yoga In the Park
Photo: Matt Madd
If you spend most of your day trapped inside an office, then spending an hour a week unwinding in the park may seem like a unattainable fantasy. Not any more! Thanks to the council funded initiative, Our Parks, residents can register for not just one but two yoga classes a week, for all abilities, that are held in Lloyd Park during the spring and summer months. Be sure to bring a bottle of water to practice though, it is hotter work than it looks.
10) Small Business City
Photo: E17 Wood Street
If shopping in independent stores is your thing – then Walthamstow is the place to be. With over 7900 local businesses within the borough, there is sure to be one that will take your fancy. Our favourites include Debbie Bliss‘ beautiful home wear store on Orford Road, Bygga Bo cafe on Chingford Road which stocks an amazing array of Scandi goodies and the interesting maze of shops located in Wood Street Market.
Words: Grace Molan
Featured Image: Trash World