You may think greyhounds and market when you think of Walthamstow, but what really makes this corner of London, just six miles from the centre, is its people. The market is the focus of this cosmopolitan community where street traders from many ethnic backgrounds banter with each other and the punters six days a week. There you can buy quality produce from around the world as well as Calvin Klein-style boxers and a whole range of market tat.
When it's cold outside, the Selborne shopping centre beckons with its jewellers, pawn brokers, banks and sprinkling of high street fashion stores, but this is not Gap land. Locals await the redevelopment of the old Sixties arcade in Hoe Street into a new library, shops and leisure facilities with some trepidation.
City-style coffee shops and cafés have yet to arrive although it seems, from the many emails I've received from locals, that the newly opened Café Rio in the High Street with its Latino beat and frothy coffees is the start of something bigger. Until then, the food fayre in down-town Walthamstow remains decidedly greasy or of the stewed steak and boiled veg variety, unless you are a pie and eel fan. The queue starts early in Manzi's handsome pie and mash emporium.
A short walk up the hill, however, reveals another community centred around the conservation streets of old Walthamstow with its ancient church, almshouses and local history museum. A pre-school nursery and Asian Centre bring a steady stream of visitors to the quiet, narrow winding streets lined with period properties. Frank Ison's old-fashioned ironmongers and oil store sits happily alongside the two Italian restaurants, which are highly recommended by locals and there's even a bakery café with steel chairs and tables outside. The aptly named Village Pub is a free house and packed out most nights by the locals.
Walthamstow is many things but it's definitely unpretentious. Long may it stay like that.
Tenants are made up from young professionals working in the West End and the City, creative types just starting out in the theatre, music or advertising, in addition to nurses, refugees and some foreign students attending the local college. "We find some people rent quite cheaply here until they have enough money to buy in Islington or Highbury," says Andrew Lipski from Churchills lettings agent. "We don't attract many student because the houses just aren't big enough for sharers."
Mainly terraced Victorian and Edwardian houses and purpose-built flats. Popular lets, when they come available, are the two-up, two-down cottages especially on the roads up to Walthamstow Village. "Warner" flats built at the turn of the century by an industrialist for his workers are often rented out. A few modern developments near Blackhorse Road tube.
"Most tenants just want to be near the stations," says Lipski. Walthamstow village up the hill to the east is also popular and only a 10-minute walk from the tube. The roads around Lloyd Park further to the north and next to the stadium tend to be favoured by people who know the area, not newcomers.
How much to rent per month:
Flats: Studios from £500; one bedroom from £600; two bedroom from £720; three bedroom from £800.
Houses: three bedroom from £800; four+ bedroom from £1,200
Why live in Walthamstow?
* Affordable rents.
* Excellent Victoria Line tube and rail links to the city.
* Harmonious atmosphere on the streets.
* The conservation village is small but delightful in blossom or covered with snow.
* The market's fresh food stalls and lively cosmopolitan atmosphere.
* Manze's pie and eel Edwardian shrine.
* High Street is pedestrianised.
* Lots of places to visit when friends come to stay.
* High Council Tax
* Streets and houses can look a bit tatty.
* Stations need to be upgraded and safer at night.
* Definite lack of café society, more spotted dick than bruschetta.
* Limited choice for evenings out locally.
Central, 179 Hoe Street, E17.
Tel: 020-8520 0077
Churchills, 2 Church Hill, E17. Tel: 020-8503 7575
CMC, 332 Hoe Street, E17. Tel: 020-8520 1970
WJ Meade, 373 Hoe Street, E17. Tel: 020-8509 1333
* Tube: Zone 3. Walthamstow Central and Blackhorse Road (Victoria Line) to Kings Cross 16 mins, Oxford Circus 21 mins, Victoria 25 mins.
* Train: Silverlink from Walthamstow Queen's Road and Blackhorse Road to Barking (District Line and Hammersmith and City tube links) 14 mins; WAGN from Walthamstow Central to Liverpool Street (Central Line, Circle Line, Metropolitan tube links) 17 mins.
* Bus: Night buses N26, N38, N73 to Walthamstow Central. Excellent range of buses into central London and the City and into Essex and Hertfordshire.
* Road: Good access to the North Circular, A12 and M11.
10/10 for range of tube, rail and road links; 6/10 for local parks, open spaces, rivers and ponds; 7/10 for its famous mile-long street market; 2/10 for proper coffee served in cafés; 8/10 for the potential of the village.
London Borough of Waltham Forest, www.lbwf.gov.uk; postcode E17; council Tax Band D: £928.10.