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How Walthamstow went from blip to hip

I spent some of the weekend in a local Scandinavian pop-up café and bookshop All You Read Is Love that has views of the half-built cinema complex. As I nibbled on the local Scandi delicacy salted liquorice (in two minds there) I leafed through the Sunday Times, which, for the second week in a row, referred to Walthamstow in their Money pages as an example of a fast-moving property market.

I’ve lived in Walthamstow, East London for 13 years. When I first moved here, friends offered me sympathy. “Poor you”, they’d say pityingly. “It’s such a dump and so far out of London”.

Over the years I’ve had level-headed people compare it to the Bronx; refuse point blank to visit after dark; ask why on Earth I lived here, and one (associate not friend: lives in Highbury) retched when I gave him my postcode. My dad once referred to my old flat as being “in the middle of Beirut.” Granted it was next to a disused industrial estate at the time.

But that was then. Now Walthamstow is cool and that industrial estate has had luxury flats built on it. Last week’s Sunday Times featured E17 under the headline: "Move in Before the Hipsters Do.” But it’s too late. They’re here.

To anyone who lives here, this is nothing new. We’ve been talking about the changing face of E17 (on Twitter, naturally) for a couple of years now. But this weekend it hit me like never before.

Friends from nearby Stoke Newington who had never considered E17 in their lives, are moving in. Most Saturdays I’ll stumble over a group of people – many bearded and wearing capes ­­– viewing a house at one of the open days that are all the rage now. Of course house prices have gone (even more) bonkers and rents are criminal. They’re rising all the time. It’s not so much about value. It’s more about what people are prepared to pay.

It got me thinking about what has changed the most: the area or people’s perception of the area?

Yes, we’ve had a handful of pubs refurbished and some lovely little cafes have opened (see above) over the past couple of years. But suddenly there is this perception that Walthamstow is cool. It’s everywhere. In the papers, in Time Out, on the telly (Location Location Location, Homes Under the Hammer and Panorama in the past few weeks).

It’s like when you’re young and you fancy someone but they’re a bit weird and you’re worried what your mates will think. Then someone else goes out with them and suddenly they become attractive. That weird-looking person? That’s Walthamstow that is.

After I left the pop-up café, we wandered round some charity shops and into the shopping mall. Their loos still stink like unnatural death but it’s the little local touches like that that help keep my feet on the ground. They certainly never mentioned them in the Sunday Times.


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Comments (5)

  1. Wendy:
    Feb 21, 2014 at 04:23 PM

    Bearded people in capes in London now, you say? Is that the women as well? I shall stop shaving, don my cape and spread this fashion in the Emerald Isle at once.

  2. Wendy:
    Feb 21, 2014 at 04:24 PM

    Extra-salty liquorice is awesome - do they have those fish shaped ones

  3. Kate Bohdanowicz:
    Feb 21, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    Wendy, your comments do brighten up my day.

  4. Tony Smith:
    Dec 22, 2014 at 05:26 AM

    Walthamstow is an over populated traffic conjested mess, however when I grew up there 1945 until 1974 when I moved out I would have agreed with your view of Walthamstow. When the time eventually comes that there are no family reasons to return to the awful place I will never go back there. The only reason that prices have risen there is because it is still cheaper tha Hackney which was the last up and coming area and that was because it was cheaper than Islington.

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