Towards the end of last year I posted about Walthamstow and house prices, and my worry that all the things I love about this amazing part of London are going to be eroded by ever increasing house prices meaning that the people who make it amazing will no longer be able to afford to live here. It certainly struck a chord. The link was tweeted and re-tweeted, and I’ve had neighbours or parents at the school gate I know only to say hello to stopping me to talk about the issue.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been filmed by the Buena Vista Book Club out and about in Walthamstow and Central London talking about Two For Joy and my inspiration for writing. Seeing my local area through the eyes of a film crew who don’t know it at all has filled me with renewed appreciation, and encouraged me to do a bit of codification of some of the things that are particularly special to me about where I live, and so I’ve come up with the top ten things that make my Walthamstow world.
Deli Cafe on Orford Road is my home from home, the closest thing I have to an office. When asked, I say that I work from home – in theory I do – but it is an odd week which doesn’t see me spending at least two days here writing. The hot chocolates and brownies are far too tasty for my own good, the people who work there are friendly and it’s always busy and lively with a huge mixture of different people.
Two: Walthamstow Parents Facebook Group
I’m sure Walthamstow isn’t the only community with a Facebook group like this, but I can’t believe there are many which are so friendly and informative. Do you need to find out how to care for a child with croup, or discover where to get pictures framed or find ideas for a child’s party? Do you have a detailed question about the school admissions process? Perhaps you need a reliable plumber, or joiner or decorator or roofer, or loft conversion company or lawyer? Or maybe you just want to launch an impassioned polemic against Michael Gove’s education policies and the effect they have on your children. Whatever it is, this is the place to go for support, advice and ideas galore.
This is a beautiful building in the middle of Walthamstow Village which has been, in its time, the local police station and workhouse. Now it is a local history museum with a gorgeous community garden, and will always be very special to me as this is where we had our wedding reception.
Not exactly a hidden gem, as the William Morris Gallery won Museum of the Year award in 2013, but still a lovely place to be. A fascinating museum, a pretty conservatory cafe with nice cakes, a huge park and brand new playground – what’s not to love? Whenever I go I always wonder why I ever spend time anywhere else.
Five: Wood Street Market
When I first moved to Walthamstow, just a few years ago, the covered market on Wood Street wasn’t somewhere I would ever consider going. In the last couple of years, however, it’s been extensively revamped without losing any of its original charm, and it is home to several vintage fashion shops, the Mother’s Ruin homemade fruit gin company – a slug of which turns any cheap sparkling wine into a delicious cocktail – a cake decorating shop, a beauty parlour and an artisan cake shop amongst many others.
Six: Eat 17
Again, hardly a hidden gem, but still one of my favourite places. The brothers who own the Eat 17 restaurant and the Spar next door have put Walthamstow on the map with their E17 Bacon Jam, and have also provided many hours of pleasure for me and my family in the form of delicious takeaway pizzas, relaxed family brunches and romantic dinners a deux.
Is it a junk yard? Or an antique shop? Or a garden centre? The answer is yes to all of those questions. One of the quirkiest shops in Walthamstow, this old stables mews off busy Hoe Street is a treasure trove you can easily lose a morning, and yourself, in.
Not something which is entirely unique to Walthamstow, but the Sunday morning farmers market is delightful. Along with the Tuesday-Saturday street market, the East London Sausage Company, Davies Fishmongers and the Organiclea food co-op, this is another place we have to access delicious food from independent growers and suppliers. We enjoy playing farmers market ready steady cook – my husband and daughter head off to the market with £5-10 to spend, and come back with a selection of random seasonal ingredients which I do my best to turn into delicious meals.
Definitely not unique, but I LOVE that Walthamstow has a proper bookshop. One of my very favourite places to while away a morning, there’s a gorgeous children’s section, well-chosen stock and incredibly friendly, helpful knowledgable staff.
Eat or Heat is Walthamstow’s food bank – taking its name from the dilemma that sadly many families face daily: whether they go cold or hungry. With various cafes and shops across Walthamstow acting as food drop off points and innovative community fundraisers, this project symbolises Walthamstow’s enthusiasm for a bit of positive action and political activism. William Morris would be proud.
So there you have it. Not an exhaustive list by any means – but a list of some of the places which make up ‘my’ Walthamstow. I’d love to hear your lists – of either your Walthamstow places, or the places which are special to you where you live.