Hot Spot: Wood Vale, South London - A vale of Victorian value

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The south London street answering to the name Wood Vale is a border; in fact a double border. It formally divides the boroughs of Lewisham and Southwark, and it casually separates Dulwich from Forest Hill. It is also the kind of area where one property can be tens of thousands of pounds cheaper than a similar property just one or two streets away.

Wood Vale runs the half-mile from its northern edge at Forest Hill Road to a T-junction with the South Circular, where Lordship Lane becomes London Road. Despite the busy main road, the southern end, closer to Dulwich, is the pricier, with its large houses, some with immense gardens, and its proximity to the Horniman Museum. At the Forest Hill Road end are a park, Brenchley Gardens, Camberwell New Cemetery and council estates.

The Horniman is the kind of museum which you always intend to visit but somehow never get around to doing so. Granted, it is not a British Museum where new treats unfold regardless of the number of visits one makes. But, with its diverse and interesting collections and gardens and rich schedule of events, the Horniman is a good and generous neighbour.

Stephen Smith, of Bushells estate agents, says that some buyers are happy with otherwise small gardens because of the Horniman. "They buy houses that back on to the Horniman nature reserve, and they use the Horniman grounds as their garden and the place to walk the dog. The Horniman brought up the values on the whole road."

"Wood Vale contains many pairs of Victorian houses, some of which remain as houses, but many of which have been converted into flats. In addition, there are flats in bog-standard low-rise 1980s blocks which sell for as little as pounds 55,000 for one bedroom and pounds 65,000 for two bedrooms," Mr Smith says.

Marc Wiehe, of Winkworth, remarks: "Fifteen years ago, if you mentioned Dulwich, people said `where's that?' The atmosphere has changed totally since then. There are plenty of nice restaurants and cafes in the area now, and people come to Lordship Lane for the antique shops."

According to Mr Wiehe: "Wood Vale attracts families from Dulwich when the children leave primary school. There are no good state schools, so they either have to pay for schooling or move. Some move to Wood Vale and get a house twice the size."

Prices near the estates and cemetery are low but, says Mr Wiehe, "on Melford Road and the better roads nearer Lordship Lane, you can expect to pay between pounds 300,000 and pounds 400,000 for houses that have six and even seven bedrooms".

The stretch of roads at the opposite end of the cemetery, closer to Honor Oak, forms another desirable area.