More For Your Money: Little India, SW11

London's Afghan enclave
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The Independent Online

Little India designates a residential pocket in Wandsworth containing roads such as Afghan, Cabul, Candahar and Khyber, which were named to commemorate the big news of the day, the Second Afghan War (1878-1881).

Little India designates a residential pocket in Wandsworth containing roads such as Afghan, Cabul, Candahar and Khyber, which were named to commemorate the big news of the day, the Second Afghan War (1878-1881).

Near the Thames, in south London, this compact community contains many period terraces built by the Victorian property developer Alfred Heaver (1841-1901), himself commemorated in the large Heaver Estate, in Balham.

Little India is little by necessity, hemmed in by two roads - Falcon Road and Battersea Park Road - and by rail lines linking Clapham Junction and north London. These tracks effectively form Little India's southern and eastern borders, as they curve between the two main stations. Thanks to their configuration, the tracks have left two oddly shaped green spaces in their wake.

Danny and Frances Chalkley found Little India by chance five years ago. "We were living in Enfield, in north London," Danny explains. "Both of us were working in central London, and we couldn't stand all that travelling to and from work anymore. So we took a map and stuck a pin in a section that looked convenient. One of our few regrets is that we didn't move to this area years before."

Their move from a flat on Falcon Road to a nearby house a few years later was also a bit whimsical. "It was just before the Iraq war and prices were dropping rapidly," he explains.

"I was out one day, realised that estate agent boards were going up all over, and saw that prices were dropping. One house was actually £30,000 cheaper than it had been three weeks earlier. I chose one house in particular, the only double-fronted three-bedroom house in Little India, because I got such a good deal."

It was a good deal because it needed a lot of work - no problem for Danny, a building surveyor, who intended to sell the refurbished property rather than live in it.

"We stripped it back to the four walls, but by the time it was finished, Frances was pregnant, so we let our flat and moved into the house. We are selling now because we have the one baby, Mia, who is nine months' old, and will, we hope, have another child soon. This is a fantastic area, and we will probably stay."

Newcomers tend to be young professionals and families, replacing a dwindling number of long-term residents. Danny notes that "the woman we bought our house from had been there for 55 years and had done almost nothing to it in that time. Another neighbour has been there 40 years, and the house opposite has three girls sharing."

What kind of buyer does Little India attract?

The area appeals to buyers who want a house for the same price as a flat at Battersea Park. "Little India is made up of predominantly three-bed, Victorian, terraced houses," explains Kirsty Burnham, of Douglas & Gordon. "There are few flats, largely because the houses are too small to divide. When young couples start to have a family, they tend to move out."

What do properties cost?

Kirsty Burnham says that "standard, three-bed terraces average about £380,000, up to £525,000 for a fully extended house in Rowena Crescent". Alasdair Mackenzie, of Cluttons, says that "a three-bed house selling in the late £300,000s to early £400,000s in Little India would cost between £500,000 and £600,000 in the Northcote Road vicinity, on the other side of Clapham Junction, although houses in the latter area are slightly larger.

"Little India is better value, partly because Battersea Park is not on your doorstep, and partly because there is a fair amount of local authority property nearby." Smallish gardens also help keep prices down.

How's the transport?

Clapham Junction is just south-west of Little India, across Falcon Road, providing service to Wimbledon, Richmond, Kingston and the southern and western suburbs.

Trains also go north to Willesden Junction and south to Gatwick.

How's the shopping?

For technologically savvy shoppers such as Danny Chalkley, the question is increasingly irrelevant. "We used to shop at Asda at Clapham Junction, but it has become too popular and uncomfortable," he says. "Now we sometimes shop online, and at Sainsbury's at Vauxhall."

King's Road, on the other side of Battersea Bridge, is a 20-minute walk away. The selection of bars and restaurants is "fantastic", he says, citing Antipasto, Positano and Thai on the River.

Does Little India have any green spaces?

Within Little India are Falcon Park and, next to it, recreational grounds in Shillington Open Space. Sandwiched between two sets of curving tracks, Falcon Park deserves its nickname of Banana Park. Near Little India is 200-acre Battersea Park, with diverse sporting facilities, a boating lake, art gallery, children's zoo and special events, such as the twice-yearly Affordable Art show.

And one for the pub quiz

What does Rowena Crescent, in Little India, have in common with the Asian-named roads?