The residents of Herne Hill in south-east London are set to get some famous new neighbours, with Boris and Carrie Johnson rumoured to be moving into a large family home on the border with Dulwich Village.
The couple are believed to have bought a five-bedroom house on a sought-after street where properties often sell for over £3 million, according to the i.
While leafy, well-heeled Herne Hill with its great schools, buzzy eateries, stylish boutiques and half-hour commute into Westminster will undoubtedly please the Johnsons, it remains to be seen whether the overwhelmingly anti-Brexit, left-wing neighbourhood will welcome them with open arms.
Here’s everything you need to know about the latest London hotspot hitting the headlines:
Where is Herne Hill?
Herne Hill straddles the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, five miles south of central London. It is bordered by Brixton to the west, Dulwich to the east, Camberwell to the north and Tulse Hill to the south.
It has its own Zone 2 train station, with fast direct links to Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon, St Pancras International and Victoria, as well as St Albans City in Hertfordshire. The nearest Tube station is Brixton, on the Victoria line, and plenty of useful buses run into central London.
Herne Hill is home to the hilly Brockwell Park, in which stands the Georgian Brockwell Hall, built in 1831 and bought by London County Council in 1891 for use by the public, and Brockwell Lido, a 50-metre, open-air swimming pool built in 1937 and surrounded by an art deco building that houses a well-equipped gym.
Brockwell Park plays host to the annual Lambeth Country Show and, more recently, has been the site of several popular music festivals, including Mighty Hoopla and Field Day.
In a smaller park off Burbage Road, you’ll find the Herne Hill Velodrome, which hosted the track cycling events in the 1948 Summer Olympics. Sir Bradley Wiggins began his racing career here aged 12, and there is currently a campaign to secure its future.
You may also have heard of the The Half Moon, the Grade II-listed Victorian pub at the heart of Herne Hill that flooded in 2013 when a nearby water main burst, causing some £4 million of damage to 36 properties. It reopened in 2017 following a fervent campaign by the local community to save their beloved watering hole.
Famous past and present Herne Hill residents, our former Prime Minister aside, include food critic Jay Rayner, broadcaster Huw Edwards, and actors Olivia Colman, Mark Rylance and James Nesbitt.
What’s the appeal of Herne Hill?
This Labour stronghold has plenty to recommend it, with its community spirit, access to green space and bustling Sunday farmers’ market proving a particular draw for young families.
It boasts a swathe of independent shops, scattered along Half Moon Lane, Railton Road by the station, and the Dulwich, Norwood and Milkwood Roads. Favourites include family-run butcher and deli Dugard & Daughters, the charming Herne Hill Books, the always busy Blackbird Bakery and the Apple Tree Children’s Café with its popular soft play area.
Foodies can head to Olley’s famous fish and chip shop opposite the park, or try The Florence, The Prince Regent or The Commercial – all good gastropubs. Sample modern European fare at the highly-rated Llewelyn’s, tuck into aromatic stir fries at Lombok Thai or go plant-based at the all-vegan Peachy Goat.
“Instead of chains like Starbucks, you’ll find lots of little cafés in Herne Hill,” says Douglas Bernard, manager at the local branch of Winkworth. “It has a relaxed, green feel while still being urban, so it’s ideal for families and people with dogs; you can go for a walk in Brockwell Park before meeting friends for coffee.
“The pubs are great, and you’re ten minutes from Brixton at the end of the Victoria line, meaning you’ll always get a seat on the Tube.”
Property and house prices
“Most properties are Victorian and Edwardian, ranging from one- or two-bedroom flats to four- or five-bedroom houses,” says Mr Bernard. “The local market is very buoyant and a lot of people don’t want to move. I’ve been here for 15 years and have helped people secure tenances on small flats, only for them to return a decade later wanting a big family home.”
However, upsizers will need a big budget to plug the hefty price gap between two- and three-bedroom homes, with the former costing from £600,000 and the latter in the region of £1 million.
How much does the average Herne Hill house cost?
1-bed: £1,400 per month
2-bed: £1,800 per month
3-bed: £2,600 per month
4-bed: £3,200 per month
1-bed: £350,000 to £400,000
2-bed: £500,00 to £650,000
3-bed: £850,000 to £1 million
4-bed: £1.2 million to £1.5 million
Source: Winkworth Herne Hill
“Buyers who can’t find the extra money tend to move further out towards Forest Hill, Catford and Crystal Palace,” says Mr Bernard. “For better value in Herne Hill itself, look to ex-council housing such as that in Regent Road, with its excellent St Jude’s primary school.”
Only two months ago, Winkworth was selling most homes for more than their asking prices, with up to 12 offers rolling in on some properties. “We sold one house after something silly like 25 offers,” says Mr Bernard. “Things are calmer now, but renters should still expect to pay more than the price tag. That market is completely mad!”
Sought-after streets include Stradella Road, where detached Edwardian properties go for between £2.5 and £3 million, Burbage Road towards Dulwich Village, and the North Dulwich triangle where the larger period homes fetch around £1.5 million.
Poet’s Corner, where the roads are named after Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton, is popular with arty celebrities and is the place to look for characterful Victorian homes built in different styles.
Herne Hill and the neighbouring area offers offers a host of state primary and secondary schools rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, including the aforementioned St Jude’s, bilingual Judith Kerr, Rosendale, Evelyn Grace, St Martin-in-the-Fields and The Charter School.
Private primaries include Herne Hill School, Oakfield and Rosemead, with the three reputed secondaries just around the corner in Dulwich Village: Alleyn’s, James Allen’s Girls (aka JAGS) and Dulwich College.