ANY LONDON area which has a local Underground station named after it usually has nowhere to hide, but Tufnell Park has stubbornly retained its obscurity and, thus far in terms of house prices, its modesty.

With its solid housing stock and excellent transportation, this small residential community is still affordable and continues to represent excellent value.

Tufnell Park nestles among better-known neighbours - Camden Town to the south, grim Archway and Holloway on its immediate northern borders, and posh Hampstead and Highgate just beyond.

Holloway gives its name both to Her Majesty's Prison for Women, which lies just within Tufnell Park on Camden Road, and the area's main shopping thoroughfare, the no-nonsense Holloway Road.

"Tufnell Park is not well known to people outside the area because it does not have the bars, shops and restaurants to draw people here," says area resident Hilary Wade, who is also marketing manager for Winkworth Estate Agents. "We have corner shops, but we even have to travel to supermarkets. Tufnell Park is purely residential, which is good as well as bad."

Ms Wade lives in a split-level two double-bedroom apartment atop a four- storey house. "I bought the flat three years ago but let it for the first time two years, at more than pounds 1,000 per month. It was snapped up immediately. Tufnell Park is a good area for letting." Previously, she lived in the Angel end of Islington, where prices soared in recent years.

The most popular roads in Tufnell Park, according to Liam Sullivan, senior sales negotiator for estate agent Drivers and Norris, are Hugo Road, which is near the underground station, St Georges Avenue and Dalmeny Road.

The latter continues into Dalmeny Avenue, which skirts Holloway Prison. But as befits any slammer worthy of the name, it is self-contained and hardly impinges on its surrounding area. "The prison does not affect anything," says Mr Sullivan, who also notes that the better roads "are residential, leafy and wide. The local council estates are small and safe. They are not the kind associated with our traditional images of high crime."

Convenient to the City as well as the West End, Tufnell Park attracts young professionals and also families who want more house for their money than is available elsewhere in Islington. "Tufnell Park is the only area in Islington with good schools," says Winkworth's Ms Wade. "And some of the homes are architectural gems."

The absence of local restaurants, cafes and clubs is not entirely dire. Mr Sullivan notes that while Tufnell Park itself is quiet, "there is also a bit of life around here". Camden Town is only two underground stops away. Also nearby is Highgate, which has excellent pubs and restaurants. Kentish Town and Holloway Road also cater for night owls.

The Low-down

Strengths - Handsome large Victorian houses and superb transportation - bus as well as underground - characterise Tufnell Park, which has its eponymous Northern Line station and is also close to Kentish Town station. Holloway Road extends from Archway to Highbury Corner, where the Victoria, Piccadilly and North London Lines converge. Buses on Holloway Road serve the West End and the City.

Weaknesses - Not much greenery, and shopping involves a trek to Holloway Road, which contains major supermarkets and a smattering of new and second- hand furniture shops.

Prices - Ex-council one-bed flats sell for pounds 70,000, and two-bed flats sell for pounds 85,000 and up. By comparison, a one-bed converted flat sells for approximately pounds 95,000, and two beds go for pounds 125,000 and up. Three bed houses start at about pounds 250,000, and a five-bed houses are in the pounds 400,000 range.

Council Tax - Council Tax in the People's Republic of Islington tops the charts for London, from pounds 608 in Band A to pounds 1,824 in Band H.

Schools - Yerbury and St Marks are the local primary schools, and Mount Carmel Roman Catholic and Acland Burghley (Borough of Camden) are the secondary schools. Harborough caters for autistic children.

Estate Agents - Barnhams 0171 609 3537; Drivers and Norris 0171 607 5001.

Greenery - Don't look for a park named Tufnell. The area is named after William Tufnell, who inherited a manor in the 18th century. Nearby are a recreation ground and a small park, on the far side of Tufnell Park Road. There is also a tiny park, converted from of a row of houses bombed- out in the Second World War, on the far side of Tytherton Road. However, Hampstead Heath is close by.