Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

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SouthLondonDaddy
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Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby SouthLondonDaddy » Wed Sep 06, 2017 1:44 pm

We are considering moving to Balham. Could you share some honest feedback on Balham as a place to live for a family? We both work full time and have a 2-year old we’d like to send to a state school, ideally a non-religious one.
It is hard to get honest feedback on where to live, because most people seem all too keen to convince you that wherever they live is the most beautiful paradise on Earth, and treat any remote suggestion to the contrary the way religious fanatics treat apostasy! So, please, pretty please, any feedback on what you think and why would be most welcome, but merely saying “Balham is best” won’t really help much.

We love Putney, but is beyond our budget. Balham ticks most of our boxes: good public transport, apparently good state schools (we have only just started our research), an abundance of overpriced cafes and Bugaboo-pushing parents which suggest it is a gentrified, family-friendly area…

The one thing that hasn’t impressed us much (other than the lack of an ice cream parlour: tough to explain to our child!) is that there seem to be fewer playgrounds and parks compared to where we are (Dulwich); the 3 commons nearby (Wandsworth, Tooting Bec and Clapham) are great for kids to run around but are not as nice as Dulwich Park or Peckham Rye Park, although, to be fair, I doubt toddlers and children care much, as long as they have somewhere to run around, plus Battersea park is just a few minutes away by train (shame Battersea park station is so old and pushchair unfriendly).

A big driver in our potential decision is public transport: Dulwich is (supposedly…) served by Southern Fail, but trains have been so unreliable over the last few years that the commute is often hellish, and getting around London at weekends as a family is so much of a mission we often can’t be bothered. It wasn’t like this when we first moved to the area about 6 years ago. Balham is served by Southern, too, but not only (tube, etc), the Southern services have been less unreliable from Balham, and are way more frequent to begin with. The thought of being able to get somewhere in zone 1 in less than an hour, or not having to wait 30 minutes at Victoria for the next train if you miss one, seem like a very welcome dream for us at the moment!

Thanks!

Balhammom
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby Balhammom » Wed Sep 06, 2017 3:27 pm

I love it but will try to be unbiased :-)

1. Parks and spaces: I love our green spaces them and have spent days of my life on the Commons. Not sure if there are specific things missing that you want from green spaces but I'd have thought these were a big advantage over other areas so curious whats lacking here.

2. Transport is strong. Northern line/over ground are pretty good and also part of night tube. You can often get a North bound Northern Line seat from Tooting Bec in rush hour(never from Balham). Leicester Square is 25 minutes direct by tube, I
love going "up west" with family but being home in minutes

3. some schools are amazing but catchment areas for the good state ones are tight.

4. amazing, and I mean, amazing sports clubs. Spencer Hockey, Ironsides rugby, Spencer Cricket etc are some of the best/biggest clubs in the UK for their sport

5. Buzzy nightlife. Bedford Pub is a serious music venue, Balham is "cool" in a way that Clapham isn't anymore and Tooting for Asian food is out of this world- some of the best in Europe.

6. It's diverse - ok not as much as it was but it still feels real in a way that some areas certainly don't.

Downsides:

1. schools: there are a number of really rubbish ones and for secondary schools research very carefully where you might end up. Bolingbroke is excellent and Chestnut Grove on the (very very quickly) up but they're not, yet, grown up versions of the popular middle class state primaries.

2. some of it is tatty and the high road isn't pretty in a way that Dulwich certainly is. I can't believe that we have a Travis Perkins and a Burger King on such huge sites by Clapham South and we have a Greggs and load of mobile phone shops on the high street and I've no idea why there are so many bank branches - far far too many and many of those will close in the years to come. That's great if they're replaced by restaurants and bars but not if it's charity shops.

3. CrossRail2 might mean years and years and years of building work if it comes to Balham

4. I think the houses are small. We don't have the big villas that you have in Dulwich etc. Not that I could afford one.

Hope this helps

:-)

SouthLondonDaddy
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby SouthLondonDaddy » Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:31 pm

Thanks!

May I ask what other areas you considered before deciding for Balham?

I agree with your comments about some parts looking tatty; especially the part of Balham high road north of the Waitrose seems shabby.

The Lordship lane high street of East Dulwich is slightly bigger and possibly nicer, but, to be honest, I’d much rather have a smaller high street but better public transport.

Parks: what I mean is that the 3 commons (I haven’t yet explored all of Tooting Bec, I must say) are, well, large green spaces, but not proper parks, they’re not nice the way Dulwich Park, Peckham Rye park or Battersea Park (which, as I said, is just a few minutes away by train) are. However, not a deal-breaker: as long as we can bring up a “free-range child” that can run around in these 3 commons, fine.

The playgrounds might be a bit farther away than we’re used to, but not a dealbreaker; other users kindly listed some here: viewtopic.php?f=46&t=89405&p=208374&hilit=playgrounds+balham#p208374

How about council-subsidised gyms or swimming pools? Our daughter loves swimming, and we often go for family swimming on Sundays.

Transport: I have heard mixed feedback about the northern line at rush hour, but we’d be commuting by train, and relying on the northern line at weekends only.

Primary schools: Ravenstone, Alderbrook and Henry Cavendish seem to have a good reputation. Henry Cavendish has a swimming pool – I still can’t believe it! I wonder what impact the 800-metre sibling rule (which our current council, Southwark, does not have) will have on admissions.

Secondary schools: we have heard good feedback about Chestnut Grove and Bolingbroke. Graveney is supposed to be very good, too, but farther away (and is partially selective, right?). Plus, to be honest, who knows what’s going to happen between now and the time our child starts secondary school!

To be clear, we live in East Dulwich (roughly this area: https://goo.gl/maps/iC8SDj8Lm9B2 ), not the Dulwich Village, which is what maybe most people think of when thinking of Dulwich College, Dulwich park, etc. East Dulwich is not as posh or expensive as the Village, but is less-poorly (I cannot bring myself to say “better”!) served by public transport, and has a proper high street. There are huge villas in the Village but not in East Dulwich; the housing stock in East Dulwich seems, in fact, quite comparable to that of Balham. If East Dulwich (which is zone 2) feels like zone 20, the Village feels like zone 200: getting anywhere is even harder, and the high street of the village only has a pub, a bank branch, a bakery and a couple of restaurants – not even a corner shop to buy a pint of milk. Plus, even if you buy a freehold, the Dulwich Estate (http://www.dulwichestate.co.uk/ ) still acts as your freeholder: not sure what the legal technicalities are, but, basically, you have to pay them a fee for the maintenance of some common green spaces (fair enough), plus you have to live by their rules: double glazing is a big no no, any modification to the property requires their consent, etc. Yes, even if you have the freehold. The Dulwich Estate is a charity… which doesn’t fund cancer research, but 3 local independent schools (the Dulwich College and 2 others). Even if I won the lottery I’d never live in the Dulwich Village!

What’s odd is that 5-6 years ago East Dulwich properties were way cheaper than in Balham; we knew the area wasn’t as well served by public transport, but we were fine with it because the area was cheaper. Now, instead, prices are roughly comparable, but public transport in East Dulwich has become a nightmare; both last summer and this one there was only 1 train per hour [yes, you read that right] into London bridge during rush hour, instead of the usual one every 10 minutes. Even if the situation with Southern improves, connections are still worse than in Balham (eg one train every 30 minutes from Denmark Hill to Victoria at weekends).

Balhammom
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby Balhammom » Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:38 pm

May I ask what other areas you considered before deciding for Balham?


Earlsfield which is lovely but the transport isn't as good

How about council-subsidised gyms or swimming pools?


As far as council facilities: Pool at Balham is small but pleasant. They've squash courts and a gym too. Tooting (which is close too) has a massive pool but it's a bit sixties in terms of size and I've always found it a bit cold. Latchmere is the best family fun pool. Warm with a wave machine and a slide - lovely.

All of these places have good council run gyms

I have heard mixed feedback about the northern line at rush hour,


It used to be shocking but it's much improved. Access to Gatwick is also ace (direct train that only stops at East Croydon)

Agree with your comments about secondaries - a long long way away :-)

SouthLondonDaddy
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby SouthLondonDaddy » Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:45 pm

Thanks!

We have friends in Earslfield, but we didn’t like the high street (almost non-existent).

Access to Gatwick would be better than from Dulwich, but access to Stansted much worse – however, no biggie, it’s not like we fly from Stansted every week.
I have been keeping an eye on properties in both Balham and East Dulwich; not sure how representative this is, but in both areas 2-bedroom properties seem to still sell relatively quickly, but not 3-beds: I have seen many, many 3 beds being reduced multiple times then pulled completely from the market. Probably a generic, London-wide trend.

keepingitreal12
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby keepingitreal12 » Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:11 pm

Hey

I can give an unbiased opinion as I grew up on the Streatham Hill/Balham borders & know SW London pretty well. Plus I live in Balham.

Tooting Bec Common (don't think it's called that now) was & still is my local common. There are 2 playgrounds. If you were to live in the catchment areas of Henry Cavendish/Telferscot then you would be pretty close to 1 of them. Dulwich Park is obvs much nicer but don't think kids care.

Balham does have v.good transport links but I detest the Northern line during rush hour.

I think most primary schools are good in Balham, I've heard that the catchment areas for Henry Cavendish/Telferscot are pretty tight though.

Balham has improved massively from when I was young, there was nothing really there so we largely shopped on Streatham high road where they had a JL/Waitrose (still miss it!). However I do think Balham is a little overrated, the high street is a bit rubbish (no real shops) & property is so small with very little off steet parking. IMO Lordship lane is much cooler & Dulwuch has nicer/bigger houses in general. Having said that I would chose Balham over Dulwich as i'm not sure I could live without the tube & I always want the ability to be able to walk to a shop for milk etc.

Re secondary schools I'd worry about that later.

oh & if i could live anywhere it would be Wimbledon/Wim Villiage, great schools, green space, retail shops, chains & independents, restaurants, cinema, theatre, nightlife etc. Just need to win the lotto ;)

Boutiquemum
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby Boutiquemum » Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:14 pm

Balham has changed loads over the past 5 years and as a strong family vibe but also a large amount of people that have lived there for years. Check out the Heaver Estate (SW17) the houses are of a great size and you are served with primary schools such as Ravenstone, Rutherford house (a tight catchment now). The beauty of that spot is that you can pick up the N.Line from Tooting bec in the mornings but you are only a 10 minute walk to Balham if you prefer to catch the overground. Also Tooting common is fab, the playground is great and it does come alive on weekends.

keepingitreal12
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby keepingitreal12 » Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:26 pm

Yes the Heaver houses are beautiful & a good size.

It depends what you want really as you could go the Balham/Clapham South end which has the common & nice places for brunches, wilder nightlife etc. Or the Balham part between the High Rd & Wandsworth Common so near Bellevue etc

the parsley song
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby the parsley song » Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:35 pm

We are on our third property in Balham/Tooting Bec and have been very happy here. If we didn't have kids we'd probably be somewhere more hip and inner city :P but I'm not complaining. I know what you mean about Dulwich Park and the village being very special but it's a quick drive from balham along the a205 and free parking makes it an easy regular trip when we want a break from our 3 local commons. Plus, Balham isn't marooned in a sea of less desirable areas like Dulwich Village is and feels more connected to its neighbouring areas.

You mentioned icecream - if you want ice cream there is Oddonos on Northcote Road and Afters on Upper Tooting Bec!

Balham is mostly typical Victorian terraces, which are lovely, and if you check out the older streets like off Trinity Road, Balham Park Road and the like you get the bigger villas with off street parking and big gardens and the streets on the tooting side of Ritherdon.

SouthLondonDaddy
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby SouthLondonDaddy » Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:41 pm

keepingitreal12 wrote: However I do think Balham is a little overrated, the high street is a bit rubbish (no real shops) & property is so small with very little off steet parking.

Thanks for your replies!

Unfortunately the same applies to most of London! :lol:

keepingitreal12 wrote: IMO Lordship lane is much cooler & Dulwuch has nicer/bigger houses in general. Having said that I would chose Balham over Dulwich as i'm not sure I could live without the tube &

I can live without the tube if trains are frequent and reliable; for example, if we pull the trigger and move to Balham, we'd probably rely on the trains to Clapham Junction - Victoria more than on the Northern line.

Not so sure about houses being bigger in East Dulwich - I have viewed so many "3 beds" which are, in fact, 2 beds plus a shoebox where only a cot fits, not even a single adult bed! :x

The Lordship Lane high street is a bit better, but, to be totally honest, other than food and kids' shoes at the local store, we still tend to do most of our shopping either online or in zone 1, plus it's not like we go shopping every single weekend. In a way, part of the appeal of a nicer high street, at least to me, is probably that it contributes to making the area feel less isolated.

We have seen there's a nice butcher opposite Waitrose, and the same fishmonger we go to on Lordship lane has a shop near the Clapham South station.

How about ice cream? Is the closest one Nardulli in Clapham common?

SouthLondonDaddy
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby SouthLondonDaddy » Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:56 pm

the parsley song wrote:Balham isn't marooned in a sea of less desirable areas like Dulwich Village is and feels more connected to its neighbouring areas.

I had been meaning to ask about this. East Dulwich can sometimes feel like a bit of a white middle-class ghetto: you walk just a few blocks and it becomes a completely different area, e.g. from Bellenden road, with an organic butcher etc, to Peckham’s Rye lane it’s only a few minutes on foot, yet it feels like a different planet. Of course I know it’s certainly not the only area like this in London. So you’re saying Balham is not like this?

As for Heaver, is it a conservation area? Does that mean getting the council’s consent to install double glazing etc? From a quick look on street view, the properties seem nice, but they’re closer to Tooting than to Balham.

keepingitreal12
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby keepingitreal12 » Wed Sep 06, 2017 6:05 pm

So the Southern fiasco did affect my trains but because they are so frequent from Balham it wasn't so bad.

tbf not checked property prices in the last yr but a friend bought a large 4 bed semi (loft not done) off Lordship for around 1.2m in 2016/2015 That would get you a 3 bed or 4 bed with loft conversion in the Henry Cavendish area. Flats are probably similar in price & i have noticed that Balham prices have stayed pretty constant over the last few years (at least where I am) with prices rising to match in other areas such as Tooting.

Balham is definitely better located in general in my opinion and as other poster said has nicer areas around it. Have you considered Wimbledon?

SouthLondonDaddy
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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby SouthLondonDaddy » Wed Sep 06, 2017 6:46 pm

What prices do you think 3-bed flats and houses start from in Balham?
We have viewed a 3-bed house with a bit of garden and off-street parking, recently refurbished top to bottom, roughly between Cavendish and Martindale rd, reduced from £850k to £750k. The rooms were a bit small, but we have viewed similar house with similarly small rooms in East Dulwich at very similar prices.

We haven’t done any viewings in Putney nor Wimbledon (both areas we’d like better than Balham) but lots of Rightmove browsing, and prices seem to be quite a bit higher.

Earlsfield seems possibly slightly cheaper, but, like I said, we didn’t like the (almost non-existent) high street.

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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby keepingitreal12 » Wed Sep 06, 2017 7:03 pm

As I said flat prices are probably similar between E.D & B but in terms of houses you tended to get more for your money in ED when spending 1m+ or at least you did.

In terms of general prices in Balham I think a lot is driven by the catchment areas.

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Re: Honest feedback on Balham for a family?

Postby keepingitreal12 » Wed Sep 06, 2017 7:07 pm

From talking to friends I believe the catchments for Telferscot & HC this yr were around 350/250 metres after sibling offers but not 100%.

I have seen small houses priced similarly to maisonettes as they can be a similar size.

What was the sq footage of the house you saw?


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