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Neighborhood Shopping

We've been neighborhood shopping for the past few weekends. We've put together charts of housing prices and lists of roads and statistics about neighborhoods and lists of commuting times and methods. We don't know where we're moving to in six months, but ideally C.'s commute won't be more than an hour as a result. We've driven or walked around Catford, Bexley, Bexleyheath, South Woodford, Buckhurst Hill, Loughton, Seven Sisters, and Wood Green. fjm and chilperic spend Sunday afternoon showing us around their neighborhood. We've made charts for Barking and Ilford, but not yet visited.

Catford convinced us that we wanted off-street parking. Loughton made us realized that really, we just wanted to be able to remember where we'd parked our car and neighborhoods of more sedate on-street parking situations would be just fine. I'm not that much of a cook, in the scheme of things, but find myself drawn to housing ads featuring capacious and nicely done-up kitchens.

I have learned more about where the parts and pieces of London are in the past few weeks than I have all the rest of the time I've spent here. I know where Watford, Billericay, Harrow Weald, and West Byfleet are. I love my Ordinance Survey map of East London. It reduces that half of the city to basics: parks, rivers, forests, A-roads, motorways, train lines, Underground lines, sprawl, and area labels. It shows me how London is connected, its geometry, its rivers, its arteries.

In a moment of hasty recording, I didn't zoom in closely enough to a house map to correctly write down a street name. As a result, on Saturday, we found ourselves on a single-lane road which degenerated into dirt, Woodbury Hill. It backed onto Epping Forest, and each house on it was lovely, spacious, well-maintained, tranquil. Birds sang and the air was fresh. We walked down the dirt road, passing more exquisite-looking houses. It was very, very quiet by London standards, although, over the forest's quiet, we could still hear the low, distant roar of traffic. Nothing we could ever afford, but oh, was it lovely!


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC)
St Albans is looking good to me...
Jan. 28th, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
St. Albans would be fabulous. We day-tripped it the other year. It's a nice size, self-sufficient community which is near London, but not a suburb of it. It has really fast trains to central London, 24 hours a day, which is more than you can say for almost any other place in or out of it.

The reason we're not seriously considering it at the moment is the cost of the commute. It's outside the zones, so monthly tickets are more expensive. Plus, we have no idea what my employment situation will be like then. If two of us end up with monthly passes from St. Albans, that would be a very pricy fixed cost of commute. The money saved on housing is made up for by the cost of commuting.

Still, it did look like a really nice place to live.

Edited at 2008-01-28 03:10 pm (UTC)
Jan. 28th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
What fun! I love poring over maps and exploring new places, and this is such a great reason to do it.

I'm also a fan of St Albans, but totally understand the cost issue.
Jan. 28th, 2008 03:44 pm (UTC)
I'd rather pay more for housing and less on fixed commuting costs. (Although I know people who do it the other way around - if any of them are reading this, is there a good argument for it?) Mortgage repayment costs (or rent, if we don't end up buying this time around) seem more dependable to me than the costs of commuting.

I love maps too. Map history is one of those things I dabble in. I love historical maps, although I can't say I've had any formal training in them. (Although I have taught them at fairly superficial levels a number of times.) The other thing I love about neighborhood shopping here in particular is getting sidetracked on the histories of places which have pre-modern remnants! Not that the presence or lack of tumuli will determine where we end up living.
Jan. 28th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
I feel like London is big enough and old enough that someone should have done most of this work for you already.
Jan. 28th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
The problem is that it's a city that keeps changing in lots of ways. And everyone has different priorities for choosing their housing (and we're still figuring out what ours are).

We do, in fact, have three books about choosing neighborhoods to live in. The best one deals with the centralmost bits of London. Most of what we're looking at is too far out to be covered (and anyways, we loaned the book to a friend, although we'll be seeing her next weekend, so may get it back). The other two start too far out, outside the M25 and outside the zones, i.e. the commute would be more expensive, if often fairly quick. In other words, most of what we're looking at falls inconveniently in between the areas covered by the references book we bought to help us with exactly this problem.
Jan. 28th, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
I hate commuting so I would choose as close in as I could afford. I had several spells in my late teens commuting from Bishop's Stortford into the City which is about as easy as a 30 mile commute can be. I still hated it!
Jan. 28th, 2008 06:05 pm (UTC)
It's an awkward balance between space and commute time. We can be very central, but we'd be in a very small place. We can be far out and have lots of space. This is part of the problem of figuring out what we actually want.
Jan. 28th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
I do understand. That's why I live in a 1200 sq ft condo in downtown TO rather than a 4000 sq ft house in Port Perry.
Jan. 28th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
*shudders*..avoid barking and ilford..
I lived in Barking for....2-3 years in an oasis of niceness (one of main reason why I stayed as long as I did) because everywhere around it was ....well not very nice!

I would not even bother with there if I was you.

My opinion only of course.
Jan. 29th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
Leytonstone is also near bits of Epping Forest and may be more affordable.

Also, Nice People live there (in my opinion...)

Given likely problems with the Thames Barrier I would also consider elevation above sea level when looking for a place to buy. http://flood.firetree.net has an interactive googlemap thing that will go up to 14m sea-level rise.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )