What’s it all about?
In the late 19th century local residents banded together to save Chislehurst Common and St Paul’s Cray Common from the rampant suburbanisation of south east London that had swallowed neighbouring villages and hamlets. Their efforts can still be felt in Chislehurst, a surprising village oasis protected from the outside world by an almost complete ring of green space. Residents are proud of their ponds, parks and open spaces, and there is still a strong sense of community spirit – residents regularly arrange events and activities, and more recent campaigns led by the Chislehurst Society have saved Petts Wood, Hawkwood and Scadbury Park from development. Although it has a sleepy and suburban feel, Chislehurst can also boast a great selection of shops lining the High Street and the Royal Parade, some excellent restaurants and pubs, and is only a 20 minute train ride to London Bridge. The commons are the focal point for the active local community, who enjoy taking part in the traditional May Day celebrations, summer fairs and even outdoor film screenings. There is a wide range of high quality homes available, from cute cottages to large detached modern family homes, as well as Arts and Crafts houses.
- The Earl Camden (who lends his name to Camden Town in north west London) hails from Chislehurst, and Camden Palace, now the golf club, was his home in the 18th century. Exiled Napolean III also lived and died there.
- The area’s main tourist draw, the Chislehurst Caves, is regularly used as a filming location for Doctor Who.
- Chislehurst Common has its very own cockpit, a place used for cockfighting until the activity was made illegal in 1834, after which it became a traditional community meeting place. It is considered to be one of the best examples of a cockpit in the country.
Architecture and property
Chislehurst’s first railway station was built in 1865, but it was only with the arrival of the exiled Emperor Napoleon in 1870 that the area began to make a name for itself as a desirable residential location. City workers realised it was a good option for London living and occupied many of the large Georgian and Victorian properties built in the area around the Commons. Since Victorian times, there has been some redevelopment within Chislehurst. Some of the large modern homes have been built and some older properties have been converted to flats, which appeal to the young professional couples looking to be close the main line train station. The few superbly designed Arts and Crafts houses are highly sought after, but the area is mostly well known for its stunning array of detached family homes.
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Events: Families in Chislehurst will never be short of something to do, with numerous events held all year round on the Commons. A highlight is Chislehurst Rocks, a free family friendly music festival held at Chislehurst’s recreational ground featuring bands, stalls and a bouncy castle.
Eating and drinking: Chislehurst is dotted with cosy pubs serving both standard pub grub and gourmet fare. One of the best is Ramblers Rest, which has been serving traditional ales since the 17th century, and has live music every weekend. For hearty Italian pasta dishes, head to Due Amici, or take your pick of The Bickley’s extensive wine list.
Heritage: The spooky Chislehurst Caves are believed to be of ancient origin and are the area’s main visitor attraction. Entirely man made, the 20 miles of dark and mysterious passageways were originally used to mine flint and chalk. Reputedly haunted, the network of tunnels and caves has since been used as an air raid shelter, a concert venue where David Bowie, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd have all performed, and a film location.
- Chislehurst’s library is a big part of the community with its regular coffee mornings and music groups for parents and tots. Every Saturday ‘Chatterbooks’ aims to get children aged eight and above to talk about books and join in with games.
- Chislehurst locals enjoy independent boutiques such as La Belle Femme and furniture and interior design store Louis Baron. The Royal Gallery on the Royal Parade specialises in original art by UK artists. The Orangery Interior Design shop is the go to place for the locals. Higgs Butchers is a local favourite, with friendly and professional staff.
- Chislehurst has a large Sainsbury’s with 110 parking spaces, as well as easy access to Waitrose, M&S and Co-operative supermarkets.
- The 18 hole Chislehurst Golf Club is a picturesque course set within 70 acres of parkland with a stunning clubhouse in a period Grade II listed building.
- If your exercise requirements run to the more exotic, book a belly dancing class with local resident teacher Jacqueline Chapman.
- The pond at the north end of the common is the starting point for the South East London Green Chain Walk, a 40 mile network of footpaths running through south-east London.
The Chislehurst and St Paul's Cray commons are some of Chislehurst’s main attractions, offering 177 acres of tranquil open space. Locals come to the common to walk in the woodland or relax by one of the area’s beautiful ponds. At weekends, the Chislehurst and West Kent Cricket Club holds its matches on the common. Petts Wood and Hawkwood are National Trust areas of woodland boasting impressive wildlife, and the nearby Scadbury Nature Reserve is a favourite destination of locals and visitors alike.
Bullers Wood School currently only accepts boys in sixth form, however the team there are planning to set up a free school for boys with a proposed opening date of September 2016.
Rail: Chislehurst station provides direct links to every major station across the south of the city. Trains to Charing Cross take half an hour and it’s just over 20 minutes to London Bridge. Bickley station also runs services to London, taking just 30 minutes to Victoria.
Bus: Local buses include the 61, 161 and the 273, connecting with Bromley, North Greenwich and Lewisham. The N136 night bus runs to Oxford Circus.
Road: It takes just 15 minutesto get to the M25 via the A20, which also gives easy access to Dover ferry port.
Cycle: The area’s green spaces afford plenty of opportunities for family bike rides, while Chislehurst’s hills offer up challenges to local road cycling clubs. Brompton folding bikes are a familiar sight on commuter trains into central London.
Getting away: To travel further afield, Gatwick Airport is a 40 minute drive away.
One of the reasons Chislehurst is so popular is its good mix of independent and state schools. Edgebury Primary School and does Bullers Wood School for girls aged 11-19 are among the most popular, Coopers Technology College has academy status, and there are a number of independent schools in Chislehurst, too. Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication is a draw for older students of music, fashion, animation, photography and online media. Redhill School, Mead Road and St Nicholas are also all reputable schools in Chislehurst.
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