The areas bordering the Park and the heath, and around Crooms and Royal Hills make up the “posh bit” of Greenwich.
Roads full of dinky little terraces and fine Georgian townhouses all painted white and gracefully draped with wisteria and old roses seduce the visitor – of which there are few – most tourists stop at the fan museum if they even make it that far – into a mix of fantasy and plain nosiness – I went there with a friend the other day and at one point she was on tiptoes trying to nose into people’s houses. Disgraceful. Not that I’d do that myself of course.
There are some splendid double-fronters in Crooms Hill and up the back streets near the heath little private roads lead to yet more architectural delight. I always find it fun to take the western gate out of the park and walk through the little alley and down the little pathway to Crooms Hill – it doesn’t take much imagination to step not only back in time, but out of London entirely. The houses are large and imposing – and those on the heath and backing onto Greenwich Park are fine indeed. I’m particularly covetous of Robert Hooke’s old house, The Grange, which I once got a sneaky peek inside while it was being renovated – I instantly fell in love.
On Royal Hill there is a wonderful mish-mash of architectural styles which are in such a fine state of higgledy-piggledyness that for a fan of such things it’s difficult to know what to look at first.I envy them not only their peace and quiet around these roads but the variety of shops.
The bottom of Royal Hill sees a little parade of fab retail outlets – what I call The Royal Hill Lovelies – a good old fashioned cheesemongers, a family butcher, a greengrocers which always has lovely displays of seasonal produce outside and a delightful florist which also has a couple of tiny tables and chairs for the odd tea consumer.
Oh – that we could enjoy such delights in East Greenwich. Frankly we have more dead shops than open ones.
Royal Teas is a tiny, tatty-looking-from-the-outside shop which attracts the Saturday morning Guardian readers and Yummy Mummies. Very ‘alternative,’ it’s always so packed with bloody pushchairs that I can’t ever get in. I always used to prefer the Argentinian café/deli Buenos Aires a few doors up – less crowded, with squashy armchairs and divine cake, but it now gets pretty full itself.
Gloucester Circus, I understand, was originally intended to be a complete circle, but the cash ran out and only one side was built. The other side is filled up with rather ugly flats – but at least they get a good view. There is a lovely private garden in the centre with mature chestnut trees which shields the swanky owners from the hoi-poloi opposite – though being deciduous the trees naturally give less screening in winter. The residents moan that it costs a fortune to maintain but frankly I think it comes with the territory – you want to live somewhere truly fab? You have to look after it.
All in all, West Greenwich is a seriously desirable area. Well – I desire it, anyway.