DescriptionI bought this first floor flat in 1998 as a first-time buyer after renting it for a few months and it has been a fantastic place to live. After 25 happy years, I'm moving to be closer to my mum in North Wales, but I will really miss it here.
The first thing I loved when I moved in was the spacious feeling. Although it's a flat, it's split over 3 levels, meaning there's a super high ceiling in the main hall, stretching up to the doors of the attic. This still gives me a wow factor when I walk up the stairs, even after all these years. I felt so lucky after renting for a few months, that the owner decided to sell and gave me first refusal to buy. I scrambled to get enough money together as I didn't want to let it go. For me, this flat was love at first sight, and the feeling never left me.
Another thing I love is the quietness of the road, which is dotted with trees, and a few raised grassy areas. Once a thoroughfare for coach-drawn horses in Victorian times, the road is especially wide, but is blocked off at one end, so although close to the south circular, the road is peaceful and safe - perfect for pets that need to go outside, and perfect for street parties, which happen every year. I've also kept the original sash windows because noise has never been an issue. The building is set back from the street, so it feels private and very un-London like. There's free parking on the road and I never struggle to find a place to park outside the property, plus there's a drive at the front of the building which can be used.
I renovated the flat when I moved in with walnut wood floors in all the living areas (with acoustic underlay so noise from the flat below has never been an issue), and with slate tiles in the kitchen and bathroom. (There is a pile of slate tiles and packets of wooden flooring leftover in the attic if the new buyer wants to replace anything.)
Since living here, I've used the single bedroom as a guest bedroom as it's large enough for a single bed, desk and a small wardrobe, but it could also be used as an office. The view from this room onto the shared garden with beautiful trees and planting is pretty special and gives the room a spacious feeling even though it's a single room. There's storage just outside this bedroom, too. The main double bedroom downstairs is large and has an original fireplace.
The main living area is large, with enough space to separate it into a dining and lounging area. The kitchen is also large with a breakfast dining area, oak worktop, and a cat flap in the kitchen window with access to the garden for any four-pawed friends. Owning a shared garden has been such a blessing, especially through lockdown as I would have gone stir crazy without it. At times it's been a real sanctuary, and it's so quiet and idyllic, with it's pear tree at the bottom, a small pond, a twisted hazel, roses and a hydrangea.
In terms of storage, there's a large attic, which you can easily move around in. I had a quote to have a hip-to-gable loft conversion, but it was just before lockdown so didn't go ahead as I needed to keep some funds back in case the job market crashed. Because the flat is spacious, I never felt pressured to have the loft conversion, but it's an option for anyone who wants more space.
An important thing for me when I moved in was to be well-connected to central London. The property is a 5 minute walk to Forest Hill station, with a frequent service both on the London Overground, which runs directly to Highbury & Islington (passing through Canada Water for connection to the Jubilee line, Hoxton and Shoreditch), and Southern Rail, which takes you to London Bridge in 17 minutes, or to Crystal Palace in 10 minutes and London Victoria in 40 minutes in the other direction. There are also bus stops at the end of the road, with the 185 which goes to Victoria Station, and to Lewisham in the other direction, or the 122 to Crystal Palace.
The street has a very friendly feel and I get along well with the neighbours, many of whom I've known for years and there is a strong sense of community in the borough generally. It's a 10 minute walk away for the local library, which is run solely by volunteers, and there is a never-ending cycle of community-led events. There's also a leisure centre with a swimming pool next door to the library, and there's many interesting and quirky little independent shops and cafes to visit en route. My favourite is Canvas & Cream, a gorgeous cafe with a secret garden, and little nooks filled with cosy fireplaces and armchairs. It also has gallery space at the back for local artists to exhibit their works. In fact, Forest Hill is a bit of a haven for artists with Havelock Walk just off the high street stacked with artists' studios. There's also plenty of cracking pubs, with live music and comedy nights hosted weekly.
15 minutes walk from the property is the famous Horniman Museum, which opened in 1901, and last year won the world's biggest museum prize (Art Fund's Museum of the Year) for its exceptional exhibitions and for being London's only museum to exhibit environmental, ecological and human culture side-by-side. This is a museum that just keeps on giving. I went there with my grandfather as a child and continued to go with my family many times over the years. There are plenty of great things to investigate, not least the famous 'overstuffed' walrus. The gardens are extensive, and beautifully kept, with a Victorian bandstand and views right across London. There's also a small animal zoo, housing llamas, plus an aquarium and a butterfly house. My favourite place in the museum is the interactive music room with just about every musical instrument that exists in the world on display and you can hear sound clips of them all, too.
Dulwich Park is another Victorian splendour, also within walking distance (or a bus from the end of the road). This is without doubt one of the most beautiful parks in south London. It has tennis courts, a boating lake, woodland walks, a café, a sandy running track and a cycle hire centre, as well as children's play areas and many differently themed gardens to explore. Me and my family love walking along the perimeter of the park on the wooded trail that goes under the trees and alongside the blackberry bushes. It's a great way to feel like you're escaping the city and getting into nature without going far from home.
Next door to the park is the leafy Dulwich Village, home to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the world's first purpose-built public gallery. The Dulwich Picture Gallery is home to collections of art dating from the 16th to the early 19th Century. In addition to the enormous collection of classics that includes works by Constable, Rembrandt, and Canaletto, the gallery hosts a range of special interactive events.
A point of note is that the buyer will be buying the freehold for both 25B and 25A. This is an uncommon set up, but it has served us (me and the leaseholder of 25A - the flat downstairs) very well for 25 years. There is an agreement set out between us that basically means that we have a chat if something needs doing in the communal areas of the building and split the cost 53% / 47% (as set out in the legal documentation). This has always been a relaxed and amicable affair which is why we didn't get lawyers to organise a 50/50 split of the freehold - an option on the table for the new buyer. The leaseholder pays me a peppercorn rent annually (which equates in modern terms to a cup of tea, or a carrot!) and there is a 974-year lease on the leaseholder's flat so no need to get a lawyer to issue a new lease any time soon. It also means for the new buyer organising buildings insurance once a year, but this is set up and straightforward, and I can hand over the current policy which can be replicated (around £400 per year, split 53%/47%, so around £200 each). There was a new roof fitted 16 years ago, which we split the costs for. I also had an Atag combi boiler installed 5 years ago.
The neighbours downstairs at 25A who rent off the leaseholder have lived there for many years and are kind and respectful. The garden is shared, and although on the deeds the garden is apportioned out half and half, we keep it as a single space not just because it looks much nicer, but because the people involved (us and the tenants) are friendly and considerate.
This place has a lot of fond memories and I will be sorry to leave.
No service Charges
Freehold of building
No Ground Rent
Lewisham Band C 1,614.94 per annum