Thursday, 16 May 2013

5 - White Hart Lane

White Hart Lane

White Hart Lane is an area within Tottenham, and is also more famous as the home to the football stadium of Tottenham Hotspur. In fact, the stadium pretty much dominates the whole area, as you would expect. But more so, there is also a possibly slightly sinister reason as to why the stadium dominates the whole area. 99% of people who will visit the White Hart Lane area, who do not live there, will do so to visit the stadium. They do so, sadly, because there is not actually that much more to the area than the stadium. And this is for a good reason.

Sometimes on this blog I have touched upon subjects which might not show the area in that positive a manner, and unfortunately this is a case where I have to do it again. Nearly every single shop around Tottenham Hotspurs seems to be derelict. Now, I am not sure why this is. Far be it from me to be speculative, and I certainly do not want to say anything that could be construed as libelous, (especially against a team that can afford to pay people £120,000 a week) but I can't help but feel that this may have been arranged so that it is easier for Tottenham Hotspurs to build their brand-new spanking stadium, which is due to start any year soon. However, this does take quite a lot of the soul out of the White Hart Lane area. Empty shop upon empty shop, especially when you get near the stadium. In fact, apart from Valentino's wine bar which is right next to the stadium, there seem to be barely any shops that are actually operating, let alone shops that are doing well.

White Hart Lane suffers from the exact opposite of the logistical luck South Tottenham has, in that it is the part of Tottenham which is furthest away from central London, and thus people who want easy access into central London want to live there less. It also has no tube station (here we go again....) But it does have a train station, entitled White Hart Lane. However, the location of this train station is pretty weird. It is not on the main high road - instead it is on a tributary road, the road itself being called White Hart Lane. Now, I'm not sure if there is reason for this but it does strike me as bad planning. The few times I had to get off at White Hart Lane, there were 40 or 50 people getting off the train and every single one of them, bar none, (and I do genuinely mean every single one of them) then proceeded to walk the 150 metres/200 metres walk all the way to the Tottenham High Road, specifically to catch a connecting bus. Now, I realise that this isn't exactly akin to birds migrating from Canada to Africa, as it only takes a few mins, but it does seem to be in a pretty inconvenient position with regards to making journeys easier.

And having spoken to quite a few people who live in the area, they have said that they can't help but agree. This does cut down the numbers of people that use the train service, and personally I think it is something that must be looked at, if that is possible. The numbers of bus passengers within the area is hugely popular, and to Transport For London's (TFL) credit, I have noticed a marked improvement on the amount of buses that have been visiting the areas. Whereas many years ago, sometimes buses would pass by as they were too full, it is a very rare occurrence now. This is no doubt aided by the fact that buses that go down the White Hart Lane part of Tottenham high Road also visit areas of London that have no tube stations, such as Edmonton and Enfield.

So, so far, I've talked about the stadium and transport links. So this is the bit where I start revealing all of the fantastic pubs, art galleries and cultural magnets within the area, right? Well, no. White Hart Lane does not have any of this. Lots of residential properties, quite a few budget shops, and lots of empty shops, and the stadium. That is it, there is no more. It is also Tottenham's cheapest part, which considering Tottenham is the cheapest part of London, says a lot. In fact, even in 2013, you can buy a studio flat within the area for under £110,000.

Now, this is London, and 2013. And you can get a flat for £110,000!! For the uninitiated, this is obscenely cheap. In fact, so cheap as to even raise a suspicious eyebrow, in a "too good to be true" manner. But no, those are the prices, because the area is unfortunately one of the less appealing areas of Tottenham. At the moment. I say "At the moment" because Tottenham Hotspurs are keen to catch up with the north London rivals Arsenal and build their own 58,000 seater capacity stadium. Of course, we will not know until it is built, but there is a real chance that the area will improve in popularity significantly when this is finished, meaning that the fortune of the area is inextricably linked to the success of the football team. For example, if Tottenham were to become the new Barcelona of football (would that mean that Tottenham High Road would become the new La Ramblas?) then the area would no doubt improve massively, both in prestige and also in the quality of life for the residents. On the flip side of this, if Tottenham were to suffer a relegation, and were to become the next Watford, (ie, a team, that is stuck outside the Premierships elite) then it is likely that the area would take a massive downturn as well, especially if it meant that the proposed new stadium was delayed. If you are a local resident, even if you are an Arsenal fan, you should be cheering on the Spurs! (OK, probably not if you are an Arsenal fan.....)

Obviously, the football team is central to the community, but I can't help but feel that many of the other shops within the area have been driven out in order to make way for the shops to be empty so that when Tottenham want to build their new football stadium, there will be no issues with driving local businesses out at the time, and therefore there will be no compulsory purchase orders that will need to be paid. For this reason I would go so far as to say that I think Tottenham Hotspurs are not actually adding to the local area in the same way that Arsenal are. For example, when Arsenal moved out of their old Highbury Stadium, they made sure that the stadium was renovated into nice apartments, the pitch was preserved, the art Deco facade of the building was preserved, and the pitch was turned into a very scenic garden. Substantial amount of student and affordable commendation flats were built within the area that actually provide something for the community, i.e. affordable housing, and community projects were prioritised. However, at present, with Tottenham Hotspurs, I cannot see anything that they have added to the area whatsoever, at least in terms of infrastructure and investment. There is a strip of land just of the north of the stadium where, conveniently, Tottenham plan to build a new stadium. This land has been sitting empty for many years . Are Tottenham Hotspurs keeping this land empty so that they can one day eventually use it? Just like the person who leaves his jacket on the seat in the pub, depriving anyone else a seat for a Saturday night in a packed pub, and then proceeds to come back three hours and complain that somebody has moved it and sat down, I can't help but feel that this sort of behaviour is quite selfish.

Could they not have leased the land out to the local community project in the meantime for very cheap or even for free? That way at least the community will have been able to benefit from the land in the intervening years, before the club decided to get its act together and build their new stadium. And on another note, it is quite surprising how it has taken so long to get this stadium off the ground. I would have thought that any football club within the London area would have quite a demand for sports, simply because London has so many residents who need to be entertained of a weekend. Let alone for a team that, for the first time in 25 years, is actually seen as a realistic threat to their north London rivals, as well as also being a team which, barring a catastrophic end of year collapse (which to be fair has happened a few times over the years) are pretty much guaranteed to have Champions League Football next season. Of course there will no doubt be reasons behind the scenes, but I suspect that if Tottenham Hotspur had built this stadium a few years ago, they could already have been reaping the benefits of doing so. And more importantly, the local residents could have been benefiting from brand-new infrastructure that would no doubt be put in place to help service the new stadium. The stadium is meant to be a big part of the area. As far as I can see, it IS the area. 


One of the other reasons why there are so few notes of interests in this part of Tottenham if any note was because of the massive abundance of industrial areas centered around Brentwood Road. And this is not to say this in a negative manner. I mean, my business is based on industrial estates, and industrial estates have moved on massively from the ones that characterised the Victorian era, with smoke billowing out, and men with sooty faces heading out to the pub at 5:15 PM, only to return to their wives, to impregnate them at gone midnight with a few shillings left over from there days wage. Now they are massive contributors to society, not only in Tottenham, but to London as a whole. Many companies have moved into Tottenham, no doubt to benefit from the vastly reduced land prices within the area, meaning that they can keep their profit margin suitably protected. Industrial estates provide a lot of employment within the area, and to this end they are very good. If you ever walked down Brentwood Road (and to be fair, there really isn't that much reason to...) then you will see car yards, cash-and-carry's, (particularly Chinese cash-and-carry's), and manufacturing factories as far as the eye can see. There seem to be quite a few scrapyards based around this area, as well as shops that are both foreign owned and aimed at a specific foreign clientele (i.e. Polish/Lithuanian shops etc). So pretty boring, in one way, but then this is where Tottenham has a small gem.

As I mentioned, there seem to be quite a few Chinese food distribution centres that are based here. In fact, if you were to look at quite a few packets of some of the popular brand Chinese foods that are in sale in many mainstream supermarkets, many of them seem to have their distribution centre based in the White Hart Lane area of Tottenham. So you may think, "Well, to be fair, I don't really eat Chinese food that much that I need to go to a distribution centre..." Well, there are other benefits to it. Many of the Chinese takeaways in the area are of a much higher quality than you would ever expect. Best of all, they are significantly cheaper than Chinese takeaways in any other areas. It's quite logical really, as they are only based about half a mile or so away from the distribution centre, meaning they can buy their stock in quantities that are much smaller, at the same price, instead of going to the distribution centre once a month and getting a massive order. Instead, they can go, for example, 15 times a month and get lots of smaller orders. So they still spend enough money to benefit from the cheaper prices that the cash-and-carry can offer, but it also means that they have less transport costs, as well as having less overheads as they are in one of the cheapest areas in London, and the food they have is fresher. If you are a vegetarian especially, the quality of Tofu/bean curd is way beyond anything you would get anywhere other than Chinatown. For example, there is a Chinese takeaway called PeSing (" stop laughing at the back please......") that, the last time I went there in approximately 2010, were still being able to serve people for £3.95 for a Chicken in Black Bean Sauce and Egg Fried Rice. The portion was plenty big enough to feed a person with even the most hearty appetite, and it was,(speaking as somebody who has tried about 50 different Chinese takeaways across the whole capital), to this day one of the best Chinese takeaways I have had. I wouldn't recommend you go to the area just to use it, but if you did find yourself in the area then you would be silly not to.Some of the other shops sell some amazing food that you will not find elsewhere, especially the Eastern European shops. 

So what I would say to Tottenham Hotspur is that the new stadium is desperately needed in order to revitalise the area. The fact that they even entertained the thought of leaving the borough and instead going to Stratford to use the Olympic stadium - Well, that lost me a lot of respect for them. I hope that they finalise and complete the project as soon as they possibly can, because it is desperately needed. It is also worth nothing, unfortunately, that the crime statistics show that the area has a higher rate of crime than other areas within Tottenham, especially late at night, although this has improved over recent years, but it is still worth mentioning.   But as opposed to this blog post being about how other parts of the area of Tottenham are so much better, instead it should be about how much fantastic potential this area has.   Mark my words, if they decided to build a proper tube line, or a train line run by the government here, the place would shoot up in popularity, which would likely bring with it a similar boost to the area in terms of investment, regeneration and property values.   Maybe now is the time to pub some smart money into the area.  After all, it is not as if the prices can fall any lower, surely..........?

The Best Parts:
Cheap properties
If you're a football fan...
Chinese Takeaways

Room For Improvement 
Transport links
More things to do in the area

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

4 - South Tottenham

South Tottenham

South Tottenham, is located, as you would imagine, at the very south of Tottenham, and it borders the predominantly Jewish-based community of Stamford Hill. Of all the areas that Tottenham as a whole borders, Stamford Hill is the area which many would see as being the most affluent, and therefore this is what has caused the knock-on effect to South Tottenham, in that it boasts much of the most expensive properties within the area. I have seen property's go for £500,000 for a three-bedroom, which is simply unheard of in other parts of Tottenham. For example, in Northumberland Park you might be paying £250,000 for a property with a similar specification. Much of this may just be down to basic logistics of the area: to get to London Central from Tottenham, you had to head south, and therefore Tottenham South is the part that is nearest central London. However, it is more than that. Much of South Tottenham borders the River Lea, and having been somebody who has walked down by the river quite regularly since 2005 to 2012, I have noticed a marked improvement in many of the developments that have sprung up around the River Lea. Many of them actually look very nice, for example, Watermint Quay

Despite being a relatively new housing development, I actually think it looks extremely nice, and would not look out of place in Chiswick or even parts of Richmond. I used to traverse the River Lee ticket from my home in Tottenham to Hackney Marshes to play Sunday league football, and I will never forget the first day I walked down there and, to my amusement and surprise, I came across a rowing club? A rowing club?!?!?! in Tottenham?!?!?! It would appear so.

And it actually looks pretty damn nice as well!! (I actually got my phone out and called my partner to say "You'll never guess what I've just seen?") On a Sunday morning, there were groups of well-to-do teenagers, putting themselves through their rowing paces. None of them seem to be nursing hangovers, and they all seemed to have a surprising amount of enthusiasm, considering it was 8:30am. It was almost like they were their of their own free will! Behind them, a rugby game was commencing, while a crowd of about 80 people looked on. I walked down, and came across a lovely little cafe, which was joined onto the rowing club. Just past that, was a lovely little picturesque bridge.

And then we come to the actual Marina itself, which is surprisingly nice. In fact, for any bands that are based in the area, they even seem to put on gigs there. Although I am not 100% certain where the gigs are, I have seen a couple of bands posting links to gigs on Twitter that they have at Springfield Marina, N15.. It would be a fantastic place to play a gig, although to be fair, it is quite far away from public transport. There are even some Tennis Courts right next to it, which are in pretty fantastic shape; they seem to be maintained very well, in that they have been laid recently, and there never seems to be any rubbish or litter there, and the nets are also well maintained. In approximately 2009, my ex-partner and I decided to pop down there for a game of tennis. Having popped to the nearest Argos to buy rackets, located right next to Tottenham Hale station, we made the approximately 25 minutes walk down to the tennis courts located in Springfield Park. We saw a sign up on the wall saying that it was £5.20 for one hour, so we stayed for 90 minutes, and then headed off to see where we could pay our fee.

However, it was only then that we realise that everybody seemed to be playing their tennis, and heading off in different directions, with seemingly none of them heading towards any sort of building which looked like an official Council building to pay. We walked for approximately 10 minutes in Springfield Park before we finally came to a lovely little cafe area, and it was in there that we realised that was where the council offices were. We walked in and asked if we could pay, and the gentleman who worked for the council there said,

"Pay for what?"
"The tennis?"
"Oh, God, right, yeah, I'm not actually sure who you pay for that....."

10 minutes later, and we still could not find somebody to accept the money. Eventually, the gentleman just suggested to us, "look, I wouldn't worry about it to be fair..." So, it would seem, there seem to be free tennis courts located approximately 25 minutes south of Tottenham Hale Station!! We ended up going back approximately 12 to 15 times and never once did we see anybody pay, and it was a fantastic facility within the area. It gave us something to do and also kept us very healthy.

Here is where we get to know one of the greatest paradoxes about Tottenham. Once again, the best and the worst seem to sit side-by-side, as Springfield Park is a mere five-minute walk away, if that, to the notorious Murder Mile in Clapton. Now, this blog is for me to inform you about certain parts of the area, but the fact that it is called the Murder Mile, I don't think it needs to much embellishment..... (I'm going to bow out of this one gracefully...)

South Tottenham also has a massive added benefit of recently being added to the Overground Train Network. I have been actually quite taken with the Overground Train service, and it used to go past my flat in Bream Close, when I lived there. Having said that, it barely went by at all. That was because the train seemed to be once every 30 minutes, but I would swear that there were whole hours that went by without a train going by. And also the train seemed to stop at roughly 10pm. Not officially, mind, it's just that I never saw them - they seemed to be cancelled a lot. This was when it was called the Silverlink, or the North London line. However, recently, the London Underground has totally revamped, spruced up and relaunched this line under the London overground name. And how is it? Well, it's great actually!!! The trains arrive every 15 minutes, and what's better, they do actually arrive every 15 minutes!! No hour long wait for South Tottenham residents of 2013. South Tottenham residents of 2008 may have had to wait for one hour for their train, but no more! It has fantastic commuter links to Gospel Oak, which is great for exploring Hampstead Heath.... Yes, you see, if you live within a few minutes of South Tottenham station, then technically you could be 20 minutes away from Hampstead Heath. The train takes 13 mins. (13 mins!!!) The very same Hampstead Heath that sells two-bedroom properties for £1.5 million. You're also a very short distance away from areas such as Wanstead to the east (which if you ever had a bit of spare time on your hands, I would recommend walking across Wanstead Flats towards Wanstead Park, as it is one of the most underrated parts of London). Some of our Studio staff have also said that they have gone to gigs at the Barfly where they have changed at Gospel Oak and gone to either Camden Road or Kentish Town West, and managed the journey from door to door in 30 mins or less. I have gone from South Tottenham over to Crouch End station many times, and I have even made the barely five-minute journey across to Green Lanes to sample some of the fantastic Turkish Shops that are over there. It is very hard to underestimate just how important the new station has been for the area. If before the transport regeneration, South Tottenham was a 6/10, this redevelopment of the train station has definitely turned it into a 8/10.
Having said that, I do think that the area is slightly overpriced. I guess if you have the money, and had reason to stay in the area, then it would be worth it, but for me personally, it is an area that is much more expensive than the rest of Tottenham and is only a bit better than the average. Maybe I'm being unfair: I mean, as I have said it is a fantastic part of Tottenham and it has so many things that the rest of Tottenham does not offer. So if you were looking for somewhere to rent, and if you maybe didn't mind paying a little bit more money, then by all means go for it. You are barely a five-minute journey away from Stoke Newington, which is a great vibrant area full of live music, restaurants and artistic folk, and only about 15 minutes away, at the most, from Dalston, which seems to be the new hotspot of the world, and seems to attract hipsters like Rappers attract Gold. I would say, though, that in consistency with the rest of Tottenham, it does seem to lack a range of pubs. (Maybe I should have written a blog called Tottenham: A Tale of Closed Pubs....) I think that is the one thing that brings the area down the most. However, if I had to live in South Tottenham, whilst in 2005 I may have not jumped at the idea, now I would certainly be happy to do so, as the area has improved that much. In fact at the time of writing in February 2013 there seems to be a new Sainsbury's opening literally just down the road, and they seem to be clued up on which areas are up-and-coming. Who knows, maybe in a few years this will be the new Dalston?

One final note, few citizens of South Tottenham realise that there was actually originally an extra station that was planned in South Tottenham, which was at the location of St Anns, and is now a convenience shop. It used to be between South Tottenham and Haringey Green Lane station, and it would be more than possible to reopen it, and even possibly connect it to the Victoria line because the Victoria line runs underneath it. People who have been reading these blogs will know that I seem to be going on about opening new tube stations all over Tottenham (in fact, I will not rest until the day I am on a tube train and hear "the next stop is - "Bally Studios Personal Station" - alight here for copious amounts of tea.....") but my only point is that if the tracks are already laid there, then it would actually make good economic sense to open them, even if they were only operated on peak hours like Turnham Green.

Best bits
Rowing Club
Springfield Marina
Springfield Park, especially the tennis courts
New Overground station

Room for improvement
High Prices (although to be fair, if they keep their value,then it is not too bad)
Lack of bars (again.........)

Thursday, 2 May 2013

3 - Bruce Grove

Bruce Grove

Bruce Grove is the area that most people will have seen of Tottenham. For the wrong reasons. You remember the big building on the corner that was set fire to for the Tottenham Riots? That was in Bruce Grove. As was the bus that was set alight. So it's a bad area, yes? Well, no, I actually quite like it!!! There are a lot of good aspects about the area. The main area is centered around Tottenham High Rd. This road runs North-South, with a spur coming off it in the very centre of Bruce Grove, which comes off it in a North-West direction, towards Lordship Lane. 

On this road, there are a few types of shops. You have the usual chain stores: Asda, Greggs, McDonald's, KFC, the usual banks, etc. And then you have the independent shops, many of which are fantastic, and 99% of them owned and run by immigrants. There is a Reggae record stall right near the station, African shops that sell indigenous food (Snail on a stick, anyone?), a shop that sells some great Turkish pizza, and some great restaurants, including an Italian, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Caribbean, Turkish and African restaurant. On this road, I have had some of the greatest ever Caribbean Chicken ever, (super fiery hot with amazing quality chicken and soaked in tangy sauce, served with Caribbean rice) which was at a Caribbean takeaway which was briefly based next door to The Elbow Room, and I have been able to track down some great Cypriot food from some of the Eastern European speciality shops that operate there. You only have to take a stroll down the road to see exactly how multicultural Tottenham is, and how much the richer it is for it. More details are in this BBC piece on the area, and its diversity. (Ironically enough, though, my love for many of the shops was thrown into a bit of a quandary one day, by the BBC themselves, as I have explained in an after note....)

However, there are two shops that dominate the road. The worst offender being betting shops. Even the local MP, David Lammy, has been on his soapbox about it. Quite rightly too. There are too many of them. "How many is too many?" you might say?" 4? Is 5 too many? "People like to bet don't they, what's wrong with betting shops?" Well, there are 38 of them in Tottenham. Within a 6 mins walk, you can pass about 6 or 7 of them. And if I am being honest, I have seen a deterioration of the area since they opened. Local pub? Good place for a betting shop!! Local family business? Ladbrokes will love that site!! I think this is the one factor that is holding the area back the most. I have personally spoken to about 6 bands who have come to Tottenham Hale to use the studios, really liked it, and then decided to check out rental property in Bruce Grove, as it seemed close to the studios, and they were surprised by the quick transport links to the area. Sadly, all of them, with no exceptions, said that the betting shops were an eyesore. And you know what? They are! How many were interested in renting in the area? 6. How many ended up renting? 0. All of them had jobs, were nice people, and would redoubtably have spent money in the local area. Such a shame. 

The other shop that is plentiful in the area are hairdressers, and barbers. Tottenham, in general seems to be full of them. 30 or so, at least. I think that they are really great, and add to the area a lot. (Which I guess is ironic for a man who hasn't been to one in nearly 15 years). Now, when looking at the effect that any shop can have on an area, you can look at it from one of two different points of view. The first one being from a cultural and community point of view, i.e. a non economic point of view, which is just counting the value that they add to the area, apart from a value that can be measured in pound-sterling. For example, an Art gallery, as well as giving people a chance to spend money in an area, and employing people in it, are nice for an area. They give you something to look at while passing, and can bring a bit of vibrancy to an area. I believe that the betting shops detract from the culture and community of the area, and take both money and the soul out of the community. However, the barber shops, I think do the exact opposite. Walk past, and, especially on a Friday and Saturday night, they seem to be crammed, almost like they are a social club! I guess that, in a way, they are. After all, if you don't drink, and don't want to be in a drinking atmosphere, as many of the social clubs seem to have shut down, there are not too many places where people can gather for social reasons.

Especially in Tottenham, there are no cinemas, no dance halls, no bingo halls, roller skate rinks, ice rinks, youth clubs, etc. (Having said that, Tottenham was once a hotbed for entertainment venues). Therefore, these salons, in part, seem to serve this purpose, and by this, I believe they really add to the sense of community, and vibrancy of the area. From an economic point of view, the rents are relatively low (compared to other parts of London), and there always seem to be at least 2 stylists/barbers busy cutting or styling hair in each salon, so they provide employment aplenty. Seeing as they are businesses that have very low operating costs, they are relatively stable and can ride out economic hardship better than many businesses, and are therefore usually passed down through the family, providing security for future generations. They are cheap to set up, in that they do not need massive amounts of stock, and instead of adding a profit margin on a product that needs to be bought first, they turn skill and training into cash. To my mind, businesses such as these can become the foundation of growth and prosperity of an area

Finally, transport wise, Bruce Grove is well served. The train station has direct links to Liverpool Street, and there are numerous bus routes, including the 149, which has direct links to the very up and coming Dalston, before continuing to London Bridge. 





The Best Parts:

Great range of restaurants, takeaways and shops with a wide cultural range.

Great sense of community.

Good amenities, such as supermarket, banks, etc

Train service is vastly underrated.


Room For Improvement:

Way too many betting shops


A slight parenthesis: After living in the area for about 6 months, I had a bit of a shopping spree one day, and came home laden with about 7 bags from 5 different, local shops. It was about 2pm, and just as I was making a cup of tea, I heard the voice of John Peel coming from the TV. John Peel? On the TV at 2pm? I wandered into the sitting room, cup of tea in hand, to see what this programme was, and John's dulcet tones continued: "Haringey Health inspectors are carrying out a raid on local shops within the Bruce Grove area of Tottenham....." and to my horror, a camera crew was walking into the very shop that I had been in 10 mins earlier!!! (Although obviously it had been filmed many months ago). Still, when the producer unveiled a rats nest, and cockroaches in the kitchen, my heart sunk! After the credits rolled at the end, the announcer revealed there were 3 more shows like this. 4 shows in a row. Oh dear.... Now, I'm not saying that Tottenham has a problem with Health and Safety, and Hygiene; To the contrary, the Haringey website seems to suggest otherwise. However, the difference being that when other places have a less than perfect health and safety record, I didn't have to watch it on a 32 inch TV with stereo sound!! I confess, that it did put me off going to some shops, the shops that were exposed, but I can genuinely say that the show was called something along the lines of "Grime Inspectors" or something similar, so they were obviously hunting out the worst offenders. Still, many of the locals shared my fascination of the show, and I can assure you that it is not representative of the shops of the area as a whole. Honest :-)