What’s it all about?
With picture postcard good looks and old school charm by the bucketload, Blackheath is one of London’s prettiest and most welcoming neighbourhoods. The focal point is the historic windswept heath, which dates back to the Middle Ages and is overlooked by magnificent Georgian and Victorian houses. But Tranquil Vale, the appropriately named high street, comes a close second, with a florist, baker, greengrocer and butcher bumping up against high street stores. Straddling two postcodes, SE3 and SE10, and two boroughs, Lewisham and Greenwich, the neighbourhood is well connected and popular with professionals who can be at work in the City or Canary Wharf in less than half an hour. A variety of architectural styles attracts everyone from young professionals and families to those downsizing and, with such a high proportion of families living here, it’s no surprise that Blackheath schools are some of the best in the country. It’s also a neighbourhood that fosters community spirit, spearheaded by The Blackheath Society, one of the oldest such societies in the country, which organises activities to 'preserve and enhance the area'. There is a good social scene for adults, and plenty of village style shopping, cultural events and even a microbrewery to visit.
The name Blackheath is often, incorrectly, said to be because the area was used as a mass burial ground for victims of the plague in the 1340s. In fact, it got its name because of the type of soil on the heath.The London Marathon begins in Blackheath. It was first held on 29 March 1981 with 7,747 starters and 6,255 finishers. In 2014, 36,000 people took part. Blackheath is the home of England’s first golf and hockey clubs.
Architecture and property
In the 18th and 19th centuries wealthy residents would have homes surrounding the heath, hence the predominance of large Victorian and Georgian houses in this area, some of which have now been converted into flats. After the war, it was necessary to provide more houses, particularly for families and the baby boomer generation, so Eric Lyons developed the unique ‘Span’ housing design, and built hundreds of two and three bedroom modernist homes. Span housing focused on sharing the landscape between residents in order to build a local community, so most properties have access to a communal garden. Many examples of this are located within The Cator Estate. The estate also has Victorian family houses for those with larger budgets, while smaller terraced houses are predominant in the centre of the village. An enclave within the hustle and bustle of the Capital, Blackheath has become one of the most sought after areas south of the river.
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Drinking: The village vibe in Blackheath is partly due to the large selection of traditional style pubs in the area. The Hare and Billett has an impressive selection of local lagers and ciders, while The Princess of Wales does an excellent Sunday roast. Real ale connoisseurs head to microbrewery Zerodegrees for a pint of the good stuff.
Eating: There are some truly great places to eat here too - Chapters restaurant has two AA rosettes and offers quality meals at very affordable prices, or if you’re in the mood for the best Argentine steaks head to Cau or Buenos Aires.
Music: When you fancy some music, the O2 Arena is just ten minutes away in North Greenwich and has concerts throughout the year featuring big names such as U2 and Beyoncé, as well as a huge array of restaurants and a bowling alley. For a range of classical music and opera, as well as stand up comedy, the area is well served by Blackheath Halls.
- There are a number of independent shops offering organic and homemade foods. The Village Deli is a particular favourite, and is always busy in the morning as locals pick up a coffee en route to the station.
- Blackheath’s main shopping streets are Montpelier Vale and Old Dover Street, with a mix of high end chains and quaint independent boutiques. One of outer London’s oldest bookshops, the Bookshop on the Heath specialises in rare books and collectibles. For your home design needs head to Farrow and Ball showroom or John Lewis of Hungerford.
- Every Sunday the car park of Blackheath railway station is flooded with locals doing their weekly fruit and veg shop at the farmers’ market and the nearby Greenwich Market has up to 120 stalls selling everything from antiques and collectibles to clothes and crafts.
- Blackheath Library has a range of services, from kids’ classes to coffee mornings and adult learning sessions, as well as a specialist language section.
- Blackheath station car park and Blackheath Grove car park are both less than a five minute walk from the train station.
- Grocery shopping options include a local Marks and Spencer and specialist shop Cook, as well as a large Sainsbury’s located a few minutes walk to nearby Lee.
The heath itself is the focal point of the area, and provides a genuine sense of detachment from the bustle of the urban environment. It is a popular spot for kite flying, walking and other sporty pursuits, as well as the venue for an annual Bonfire Night firework display. Nearby Greenwich Park, one of London’s eight Royal Parks, is home to the Prime Meridian Line and Royal Observatory and offers stunning views across the Thames to St Paul’s Cathedral and beyond. For those who like to stretch their legs, the Blackheath to Royal Observatory route is filled with beautiful vistas and many opportunities for ice cream breaks. Neighbouring Greenwich is a tourist trail staple, with the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark just a short journey away.
- OnBlackheath is a music and food festival held for the first time in September 2014, featuring a variety of street food, appearances from top chefs and performances by Aloe Blacc and Imelda May. Another is planned for 2015.
- Planning permission was recently granted to build 130 homes on The Cator Estate, a popular private residential area.
Rail: Overland trains from Blackheath station take 12 minutes to get to London Bridge and 20 minutes to Charing Cross. Other nearby stations include, Greenwich, Kidbrooke and Westcombe Park.
DLR: The DLR operates from Greenwich and its Jubilee line connections make travelling to the West End from Blackheath easy.
Tube: The nearest Tube station is North Greenwich, on the Jubilee Line.
River: Running from Greenwich Pier, the Thames Clipper service offers a more unusual commute to the office.
Bus: Buses from Blackheath station include the 53 (to Whitehall), 54 (to Woolwich or Elmers End), 108 (to Stratford) and 202 (to Crystal Palace). The night bus N89 goes to Trafalgar Square.
Cycle: The Blackheath to Canning Town cycle route takes in the Royal Observatory, the O2 Arena and Canary Wharf.
Blackheath has a wealth of choice for local schools, including primaries close to the village centre, such as All Saints C of E Primary School and John Ball Primary School. There are numerous options for secondary education, both state and private, as well as a variety of faith schools nearby.
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