Focus On Forest Hill: Meet the up-and-coming part of south east London that's been dubbed the "new nappy valley"

Melissa York
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The Horniman Museum

Like a lot of south east London, Forest Hill likes to keep a low profile – lest anyone find out just how good it is. But as the affordability crisis forces more and more Londoners to search the nooks and crannies of the capital for decent housing, many of them have alighted upon this useful pocket.

Neighbouring East Dulwich, a well established part of town, and Catford, an up and coming part of town, it’s perfectly positioned to hoover up young professionals and upsizers.

And that’s exactly what it’s been doing, especially since the London Overground came to Forest Hill Station in 2010. It provided a link to Shoreditch just when Tech City was really coming into its own, and made the destination only five stops from Canada Water, where commuters could change for Canary Wharf and be at work in 20 minutes. Regular trains also run into Victoria and London Bridge.

“[The Overground] has really changed the game for the area,” says Dominic Butler from Foxtons’ Dulwich office, “prompting increased interest from a wider demographic and a subsequent increase in property prices.”

According to data from Hamptons International using Land Registry figures, the average property costs around £540,000, seeing a year-on-year increase of 9.3 per cent.

Sylvan Post

To break that down, first time buyers looking for a one bedroom flat are looking at anything between £275,000 and £350,000, two bedrooms are around £450,000 and family homes can be anywhere upwards of £700,000. The most expensive property ever sold in the area was a detached house on Hengrave Road that went for £1.825m in 2015.

Families are also increasingly buying in the area, mainly attracted from East Dulwich looking for better value for money. The streets around the Horniman Museum and Gardens are in high demand, and in and around Canonbie Road. The streets here boast panoramic views over London and fall within the catchment area of Fairlawn and Horniman Primary Schools, rated Outstanding and Good by Ofsted respectively.

Read more: Over £600m of housing wealth flowed into this borough from other parts of London last year

“Forest Hill is certainly an area which has not realised its full potential,” says Javaid Ahmed from KFH’s Forest Hill office. “With a great sense of community and the influx of so many young families, it has become south east London’s new nappy valley.”

For buy-to-let investors, there are plenty of detached Victorian homes to convert into flats, but not a lot of new development on the scene. Fewer than 2 per cent of homes sold last year were new builds.

According to CBRE’s Borough by Borough report 2017, 24 per cent of Lewisham locals, in which Forest Hill resides, are in the private rental sector, which is forecast to grow by 19 per cent in the next five years and the average rent is £1,410pcm.

Still, there is a curious private road that has attracted those with designer ambitions for decades.

With a great sense of community and the influx of so many young families, it has become south east London’s new nappy valley.

“Walters Way lies to the north of SE23 and is London’s first modern self-build development,” says David Fell, research anaylst from Hamptons International. “The private road is lined by 13 detached homes built in the late 1970s by locals who were struggling to get onto the housing ladder.

“Their timber framed design makes them adaptable and today these homes are sought out by architects and creatives looking to put their own stamp on a place. But they rarely come onto the open market with the last one changing hands back in 2012.” Another prediction made in CBRE’s 2017 report is that house prices will increase by 20 per cent in the next five years. For an affordable family home with real potential, fortune favours Forest Hill.

Bona Sourdough

Area highlights

The Horniman Museum and Gardens are a real local gem – no wonder the roads around it are so sought after. Commissioned in 1898, it opened in 1901 and was designed by Charles Harrison Townsend in the Arts and Crafts style. Today, there’s a butterfly house and an impressive collection of taxidermy. For refreshment, head to St David Coffee House on David’s Road, a homely cafe that hosts the occasional pop-up. For something more substantial, Bona Sourdough on Dartmouth Road will see you right. Its wood-fired Neapolitan style pizzas have been a hit with the locals ever since it opened in 2015. For local boozers, Sylvan Post is on the same road and has a great selection of real ales. Situated in an old post office, vintage furniture and original fittings are scattered throughout and there’s even an open vault. The Dartmouth Arms isn’t far away either, with garish 70s floral wallpaper, lots of armchairs and fresh food cooked in-house.

Area guide

House prices Source: Zoopla





Transport Source: TfL

Time to King’s Cross: 37 mins

Time to Liverpool Street: 34 mins

Nearest train station: Forest Hill

Best roads Source: Hamptons International

Most Expensive: Allenby Road: £1,095,125

Best Value: Paxton Road: £300,450

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