We heart Penge: 9½ reasons why SE20 is an awesome place to live


1. Crystal Palace Park. Yes, we know. But despite the name, a number of the parks entrances fall within SE20’s boundaries. In fact, back in the day it was known as Penge Place – before a guy called Paxton rocked up with a load of glass and relocated an almighty greenhouse there. The park was subsequently rebranded in tribute to the large fire hazard he left behind. Originally a Victorian pleasure ground, it contains a maze, lakes, a concert bowl and, for now at least, the National Sports Centre athletic stadium. Not to mention the life-sized but anatomically incorrect dinosaurs hiding in the undergrowth.

1½ . The other parks. With Alexandra Recreation Ground, Penge Recreation Ground (aka Penge Green), Betts Park, Cator Park and Royston Playing Fields all either in Penge or minutes from its boundaries, we’re pretty spoilt for green space in SE20.

2. The Royal Watermen’s Almshouses. These pretty buildings, set back from the high street in a tranquil square, look a bit like an Oxford college. There are several Victorian almshouses in Penge, but these are the oldest, built around 1840 by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the City of London for retired company Freemen and their widows.  In 1973, the residents were moved to a new site in Hastings, and the original buildings were converted into private homes.

3. The Alexandra cottages. Rows of pretty little cottages, adorned with rose trellises and ivy – nope, not Devon or Dulwich Village, but deepest darkest Penge. These five lovely roads have a vibrant community attached to them, too; the centrepiece of which is Alexandra Nurseries, a chic little garden centre, vintage shop and café. This oasis of calm offers cakes, coffee and, er, chrysanthemums, and plays host to craft fairs, toddler music groups, gigs, beer events and pottery classes.

4. The food shops. Few high streets these days can boast a good old family butcher, but we’ve got a corker here in Penge in the shape of Murray Brothers. And at Penge Food Centre you’ve got Mediterranean herbs, spices, fruits, veg and breads under one roof. It’s so good, yet cheap, that the trendy folk of Crystal Palace are often spotted scooting down to PFC to top up their artisan scoff. For everything else, there’s the supermarkets – Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, Lidl and Aldi.

5. The transport. You can get to pretty much anywhere in Central London really easily. Penge East takes you to Victoria in 17 minutes, and the Overground at Penge West offers you Shoreditch or Canary Wharf in under half an hour. Depending on where in Penge you live, you might also have Clock House, Kent House, New Beckenham, Sydenham or Birkbeck stations nearby, with even more lines into town. Plus the N3 and 176 night buses from the West End terminate on the high street, so if you doze off after a heavy night, you won’t wake up far from home.

6. The Bridge House Theatre. The Bridge House Tavern, a gastropub next to Penge West station, is not only a great place to have a beer and a burger, it’s also got a theatre upstairs. One of South London’s finest fringe venues, it counts It’s A Wonderful Life and The Frida Kahlo of Penge West among its recent productions.

7. The music scene. Bill Wyman. Sid Vicious. David Bowie. They’ve all lived in or around Penge. (‘You can walk around in New York while you sleep in Penge,’ Bowie once sang.) Maple Road recently housed not one but two recording studios, and Twang Guitars is on one of its corners, with its own music school upstairs. Local musician Kimberly Ann, who’s been remixed by Bastille, is a rising star, and won an award at 2014’s London Music Awards. And Sam Sure is another current local chart botherer.

8. The beer. The Goldsmiths Arms reopened, to great acclaim, at the end of 2014, courtesy of pub geniuses Antic. Penge even has its own micro brewery, Late Knights, located in an old warehouse behind the High Street. They already own pubs in Gipsy Hill, Brockley, Ramsgate and Brighton and should have a pub of their own in SE20 in the new year, at the Alexandra. In the meantime, check out their regular pop-ups at Alexandra Nurseries and other local fairs and fetes.

9. The restaurants and takeaways. Our picks are the Blue Mountain and Bluebelle cafés on Maple Road, Rebaz, Penge Masala and Himalayan Kitchen for curries, Casbah for North African and middle eastern fare, and Friends of Flavours on Green Lane for Italian cuisine.

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