Why I live in Walthamstow: The ‘real’ east London area with indy appeal


bought a two-bedroom apartment in Walthamstow in 2002 because it was cheap. I never wanted to live south of the river as psychologically it seemed too far from Glasgow, where I was born and raised. Living north of the river felt like home was closer.

What’s always been fascinating about Walthamstow is the mix of cultures that influence the variety of shops, cafés, coffee shops and bars.

About seven years ago, more independent shops opened, and it’s been like a gold rush to move here ever since.

Eating and drinking

Homies on Donkeys, is a popular tiny Mexican taco place, in the antique market on Wood Street. There’s always a queue at weekends, which is great for the Homies, but frustrating when you’re hungry, although it’s always worth the wait.

I used to go to the Lamb Café, a classic greasy spoon at the top of Lea Bridge Road the morning after a late night. A fry-up was my hangover cure. There are not many places left where you can get rid of a hangover for £6.

The Castle, a pub in Grosvenor Rise East, is child-friendly and attracts a trendy parent crowd.

The Wild Card Brewery’s Barrel Store in Walthamstore

/ Adrian Lourie

A feel-good place with great-tasting, healthy food is The Gleaners Café, part of the Hornbeam Community Café, in Hoe Street, for plant-based meals made from surplus food that would normally go to waste. You pay what you feel the meal is worth, or you can afford, which allows those with very little money to eat there, and those with more can pay more.

If I want to impress friends visiting, then I take them to Arte E Pasta, an authentic pasta restaurant in Shernhall Street. It’s inside an old industrial unit and has some cool art on the outside and a gallery on the inside. Orford’s Fish & Chips in Orford Road is a classic chippy and The Flower Pot on Wood Street is a classic boozer. The tastiest coffee, pastries and sourdough in the Stow are at Hucks on Grove Road. My husband used to go every morning until I told him our bank balance could no longer support it. Ravenswood Industrial Estate has a collection of bars in the old units. Or, a crawl along “beer mile” on Blackhorse Lane takes in around six breweries and taprooms. I’ve not managed all of them yet.

Graphic designer Jack Renwick says when independent shops started opening, people flocked to the area

/ Handout

Where I work out

Charity or vintage shopping is my preferred exercise. Walking top to bottom of the High Street takes in around eight shops with Scope at the top and a brilliant Oxfam at the bottom. Weaving across to the Salvation Army on Forest Road then round to Wood Street Antiques Market for some serious vintage viewing provides a full circuit, treasure-hunt workout.

To commune with nature

Hollow Ponds at Whipps Cross Road is great for picnicking, duck watching and row boating. It’s large but quiet and you feel that you are far away from the city. The herb garden behind the William Morris Gallery in Lloyd Park is beautifully serene and smells amazing; it’s also a great place to watch bees. The cemetery at St Mary’s Church is a favourite place of mine for walking and looking at the old gravestones. A walk down through Walthamstow Marshes gives me a boost of calm.

Grocery shopping

Tesco Express, mostly. Walthamstow Market is always great for fresh fruit and veg at a good price and the East End market seller banter is alive and well. Akdeniz Supermarket in Hoe Street is good for anything Middle Eastern and the posh Spar in Orford Road offers fancy items but it’s not cheap. I once paid £8 for a bar of chocolate.

God’s Own Junkyard shop and bar on the Ravenswood Industrial Estate

/ Adrian Lourie

For a culture fix

Walthamstow Trades Hall (The Trades), on Tower Hamlets Road is a working men’s-style social club that attracts an older crowd with great music, comedy and bar prices. The Vestry House Museum in the Village is possibly the cutest museum in the world. It has been a workhouse, a police station and now houses the Bremer Car, the first British motor car with an internal combustion engine. There’s a nice café there and you can dress up as a Victorian housemaid. There’s also a barrel outside where I’ve been told drunkards used to be put. Wood Street Walls does a great walking tour of street art including many large-scale paintings on the sides of people’s houses.

Getting around

I can’t drive so I get the Tube, walk or take the bus. I am not confident enough for a bike. I also carry a lot of stuff with me so it wouldn’t be practical.

The 15th-century Ancient House is said to be London’s oldest

/ Adrian Lourie

Dream street

I’m quite lucky with the street I’m on. It’s just received the status of being a “bee friendly street” and the council has supplied a selection of flower bulbs for residents to plant to encourage more bees to thrive.

Something you only see in Walthamstow

The Ancient House — it was built in the 15th century and is rumoured to be the oldest home in London.

What’s the catch?

Becoming popular is a blessing and a curse. With house prices rising, I wouldn’t want to lose the socio-economic and cultural mix that gives Walthamstow its character.

In three words

Vibrant, real and interesting.

Jack Renwick is a designer and deputy president of D&AD (jackrenwickstudio.com; dandad.org)


Primary schools with an outstanding Ofsted rating are The Woodside Primary Academy, Greenleaf, South Grove and St Saviour’s CofE School. Secondary schools with an outstanding rating are Walthamstow School for Girls and Eden Girls’ School, Waltham Forest.


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