Living in Clapham

By Liam Barrell

Clapham is a varied, vibrant area of South London comprising of a huge Common, a long High Street (Clapham North and South) and Britain's busiest railway station (Clapham Junction). Due to the area's size, as you'd expect, there's a great deal of variation in pretty much everything.

Housing

If you're after a one or two bed flat, prices in Clapham can be quite off putting when first moving to London. You'll be lucky to find anything other than a small studio or one-bed flat for less than £200 per week, and the prices rise accordingly with additional bedrooms. If you want a decent garden for those summer barbecues you can expect to be paying around £300 per week for a decent one-bed property.

If you don't overly value your privacy, a houseshare is a much more affordable and common option. Single rooms can be rented for under £100 per week, and often the quality of the property will be significantly better than if you had rented a cheap flat to yourself. A townhouse with decent garden shared by five or six people is a realistic possibility if you look hard enough.

People

Clapham has a great variety of people within its wide borders, including middle class Britons, young professional couples squashed into studio flats and many foreign travellers sharing the cheaper accommodation. Unfortunately, you can also find the occasional knife wielding hoody due to nearby council estates; though these are also occupied by immigrants from all over the globe resulting in a diverse mix of culture. At night you can expect to see twenty something Britons and Antipodeans partying along Clapham High Street; the younger drinkers pushed out by both cover and drinks prices. The late bars/clubs all adopt an over 21s policy at the weekend.

Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment

Clapham has two main areas for evening entertainment; Clapham High Street and Clapham Junction. Clapham Junction boasts the famous Clapham Grand, a venue hosting a great variety of events depending on the night. Most tastes are catered for in the Grand at some time or other, and the place has a great feel to it. Inigo is a much smaller bar/club about five minutes from the station, and plays a wide range of funky house and dance music along with regular promotional drinks offers. Clapham Junction also has a Rileys' 24-hour pool bar, which is a bit of a boys club and hosts both pool and poker tournaments.

The High Street is home to the phenomenon known as Inferno's. Never has a nightclub been so loved and loathed at the same time. Really, you either adore this place or you absolutely despise it! The best way to make your judgement really is just to down a few drinks and go. Seventies nights and cheesy tunes are usually on the menu, and at weekends it's always really busy a variety of clientele.

If a cheesy night isn't your thing, you'll find more contemporary tunes at Revolution, a bar/club aimed at single twenty somethings with a bit of cash to spend. They have a huge cocktail list, and a great variety of different shots to try (you'll find one that goes down easily eventually!) and the prices (whilst being fairly high), certainly aren't disgraceful.

During the summer, Clapham Common is always a good laugh. Regular events such as one day festivals, football tournaments and picnics ensure you won't miss having a garden if all you can find is a third floor flat. Also nearby is Tooting Bec Lido, a great place for checking out the opposite sex in nothing but their swimwear whilst topping up that holiday tan with some struggling English sun. Battersea dogs' home is nearby to Clapham Junction station; even if you're not planning on adopting a pooch you're welcome to visit and donate.

Like most large areas of London, Clapham also has a cinema, leisure centre and several gyms so you'll never have to travel too far to avoid being stuck inside.

Parks and Recreation

Clapham Common is the most obvious choice for residents who want to chill out in a green space, and with its variety of events (previously mentioned) can be a great summer outing. It isn't the only park worth visiting in the area however, Wandsworth Common is only fifteen minutes walk from Clapham Common and has a much more natural feel to it; if you're interested in seeing birds, plants and insects perhaps scared away from Clapham due to its openness and noise, Wandsworth is certainly a better option. Battersea Park can also be reached easily by bus in around ten minutes, and like Clapham Common also has a variety of events during summer, including music at its famous bandstand.

Shops, Restaurants and Takeaways

Clapham High Street isn't great for shopping really. As with any High Street in London you can comfortably cover your essentials at any time of day or night and have the choice of a few supermarkets in which to do your weekly food shop (including a rather strange and certainly out of place modern Sainsbury's), but that's about it.

Clapham Junction (actually in neighbouring Battersea, but the presence of the station has overtaken the area!) has far more in the way of a shopping experience. The famous grand old Arding and Hobbs building nowadays houses a Debenhams (a large department store), and there are a few more clothes shops in the surrounding area for some retail therapy. Itís still probably worth a twenty-minute trip into central London though.

Clapham High Street is littered with small restaurants and takeaways; and you can find kebabs, curry and a late opening KFC after a night out with ease. Youíre really spoilt for choice when dining out in Clapham - the area is littered with restaurants of every description. The High Street has cuisine from just about anywhere, and around the Common you can find some lovely little places to eat without the irritating noise of a constant flow of traffic. If you fancy a fantastic Indian, Tooting (one of London's biggest Indian areas) is just down the road.

The variation of Clapham's restaurants perhaps epitomises the variation in the area itself, and the best advice on finding somewhere good to eat really is just to ignore reviews and go exploring - try a different place each week and establish your own favourites, as places get to know you they'll always be far more generous with your portions and extras!

Transportation

Clapham Junction is about eight minutes from Waterloo, with 35 trains an hour. It's nice to have guaranteed timing in your journey to work! There are no Underground stations in Clapham Junction but with so many trains, it hardly seems to matter. The station also provides you with the opportunity for a day out almost anywhere in the south of England without too much hassle.

The High Street has three stations on the Northern Line (Clapham South, North and Common), which can all have you in the West End or the city in fifteen minutes (though is an absolute nightmare in rush hour- think sardines). Clapham High Street, a small usually unmanned station, also has a service to Victoria.

The area also has regular night buses from central London; so you'll never have to leave your drink/pull/friends to go and catch that irritatingly full last train home.

Good Points

  • quick, regular transport into London
  • wide variety of restaurants to choose from
  • vibrant and vivacious catalogue of events on Clapham Common every summer

Bad Points

  • housing estates have had bad press due to gun crime recently
  • finding cheap and affordable housing can be difficult
  • bit crappy for shopping (so that great transport comes in handy!)

AREAS OF LONDON


Acton
Cheap rent means more money to spend at the pubs.


Brixton
Gritty, cheap and international with loads of character.


Camberwell
Edgy, gritty and artsy area close to central London.


Camden Town
Full of punks, market stalls and a great canal.


Clapham
Diverse area with everyone from yuppies to yobbos.


Ealing
Decent shopping but the nightlife is a bit uninspired.


Earl's Court
In zone one but expensive and full of tourists.


East Dulwich
A posh area south of the river but still affordable.


Finsbury Park


Fulham
Very nice area but expensive and the District line is crap.


Greenwich
Nice, safe, close to the city but not much nightlife.


Hammersmith
Great transport links and near to the Thames.


Kilburn
Great transport links but a bit dodgy at night.


Putney
Green and pretty but a little bit on the dull side.


Shepherd's Bush
A lively, edgy, multicultural area in West London.


Shoreditch
Edgy, creative and trendy with a great nightlife.


Stoke Newington


Tooting
A bit rough around the edges but a great place for a curry.


West Hampstead
Well connected by transport but a little expensive.


Willesden Green
Cheap, full of travellers and well connected.


Wimbledon
Nice area, decent nightlife and good transport to the city.

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