Bordering popular Brockley, Catford in Zone 3 has been humbly hiding its light under a bushel. One resident thinks its time to shine is now…
‘Ungentrified’ is a word much used about Catford in south-east London, but resident Lucy Abell thinks it’s all change in SE6. ‘Catford has reached that tipping point where it’s becoming trendy,’ she says. How can she be so sure? ‘Well, the number of buggies is rising all the time. Dead cert.’
Step out of Catford’s station and the impression is of space not decrepitude. That’s why Lucy’s here. ‘You don’t feel oppressed,’ she says. ‘There are wide pavements, good parks – even access to the countryside.’
True, the key reason Lucy moved to Catford from Brockley was cost. Her rent is lower for more room, a sizeable one-bedroom flat with a share of the garden. All the same, there are glimmers of change in Catford, the chief emblem being the Catford Constitutional Club, an agreeable vintage-style pub and restaurant. ‘But this being Catford, you still get old chaps at the bar, giving you banter,’ says Lucy.
Cheerful and cheap-ish
While people move to Catford for financial reasons, Lucy says they soon admire its unreconstructed merits. ‘It’s cheap enough to have useful things like car washes,’ she says. ‘But for me, a great thing is that life is lived outside. There’s loud reggae, kids playing out. People use the streets. It’s very neighbourly.’
Despite the lack of a Tube, the transport is surprisingly good, with Catford and Catford Bridge stations whisking workers to Charing Cross and the City. ‘I can be at work in Farringdon in 30 minutes,’ she says. Bellingham and Hither Green are near, and there’s talk of a Bakerloo line extension. Connection-wise there’s also the throbbing artery of the South Circular.
Pound those pavements
What of Catford’s shops? ‘Well, it’s holding onto its old character,’ says Lucy. ‘In Catford we’re still thrilled about Costa.’ Catford Broadway has had a cash boost to give it more pedestrian power, and there’s a street food market on certain Sundays. ‘Islington it isn’t, and there’s no Waitrose,’ says Lucy. ‘But who cares? We have an Aldi.’
Perhaps Catford’s greatest asset though is its plentiful parks. ‘Mountsfield Park is good for joggers and families.’ Ladywell Fields runs along the river Ravensbourne while Forster Memorial Park has ancient woodland and a BMX track.
But the major draw in Catford is still the housing, which Lucy calls ‘seriously gorgeous, with fab mansions and terraces’. In Zone 3, Catford reflects London’s suburban drift from Victorian through Edwardian through 1930s and the 20th century. The most coveted spots are Culverley Green and the 20th-century terraces of the Corbett estate.
Yet with all this, there’s still an image issue here? ‘When I tell people I live in Catford they grimace,’ says Lucy. ‘But more fool them.’ Now, she’s keen that whatever Catford does next, it keeps its down-home charms.
Photography: Jamie Baker