Living in Putney
By Tim Leach
Located by the river in leafy South West London, Putney faces Fulham across the Thames. It's in the borough of Wandsworth, just inside Zone 2. Characterised by handsome architecture, plenty of greenery and the lack of a good tube line, Putney is ideal for those who like a little peace and quiet with their city lifestyle. The fast overland service to Waterloo and the rows of grand houses may threaten to turn it into a commuterville, but Putney manages to retain a small town feel and charm of its own, largely due to the busy high street and the vibrancy of the drinking scene.
Despite the well-to-do nature of the area, some good housing in Putney can be surprisingly affordable - the slightly average transport system takes the sting out of the price a little, and Wandsworth Council tax claims to be the cheapest in London. Anything just off the high street is likely to be pretty expensive, but if you are willing to be a short bus ride or walk away from the centre of Putney, you can look at a rent of about £100 a week in a shared house - something of a bargain considering how nice the area is.
Putney isn't the most ethically diverse part of London, but nor is it totally homogeneous: a vocal South African contingent makes its presence known at the big sporting events, and a rash of Thai restaurants and a Thai supermarket hints at an South East Asian minority as well. Young professionals and those looking to raise a family make up the majority of the people in Putney, and the relative wealth of the area makes it a quiet, safe place to live.
Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment
Putney is well served for pubs and bars. Nearer the station, the local Wetherspoons, The Railway, is even blander than most of its kind but it provides cheap drinks and is a good launch pad for the evening. Just opposite, and far better, is The Fox, with several big screens which make it the best place for big sports events. Most of the bars are concentrated north of the station towards the river. There's plenty to choose from (including a ubiquitous Walkabout) with the pick of the bunch being the Whistle and Flute and Bar Room Bar.
After the pubs shut, the infamous Redback Tavern is the only one choice in the area for swigging snakebites, dancing badly and screaming along to a rock music until 3am. This place is feral and foul but loads of fun and a must for any Aussie or Kiwi in London. You'll either love it or hate it but it has to be experienced at least once. It has cheap drinks, live music and a free BBQ in the summer.
If you want a quiet drink away from the high street, the quaintly/offensively named Arab Boy on Upper Richmond Road claims to be the oldest pub in Putney, and has the no-nonsense, slightly rough air of a proper local. Further down is the Jim Thompson, a very good pub that also serves up cracking Thai food in a chilled atmosphere (check out the special offers on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
When it comes to clubs, for those desperate to dance but too lazy (or too drunk) to make it into the city, there can only be one - Fez Club does service as Putney's sweatbox of choice. It's not pretty, but it gets the job done and is something of an institution for Putney locals.
Putney also has an Odeon cinema and a small arts theatre for drink free nights out, though theatre lovers and film buffs would be better served by taking advantage of the fast train to Waterloo and the South Bank.
Parks and Recreation
Southwest London in general is characterised by its greenness, and Putney is no exception. Putney Heath is small but pleasant, with woodland, open spaces and the picturesque Telegraph pub nestled at its centre. Richmond Park to the south west claims to be the biggest urban park in Europe at 2500 acres. It features a golf course, horse riding, several beautiful old buildings and over six hundred deer roaming around as well. Not as large, but still a very nice slab of greenery, is Wimbledon Common to the south. Fans of retro TV may recall it as the home of the Wombles in the cult 70's kids show, and it features a handsome windmill as a centrepiece. The only downside to the acres of parkland are the hoards of foxes they generate - any unsecured bin bags are likely to have their contents emptied over your back garden.
Shops, Restaurants and Takeaways
For shopping, the Exchange Shopping Centre and the high street itself have a fair range of high street type stores. There's a particularly good range of charity shops including an outstanding little second hand book shop. For groceries, there's a large Sainsburys, a medium sized Waitrose and a tiny Tescos in the area.
For eating out, oriental food is the flavour of choice, with the Hare and Tortoise, Cho-san and the Talad Thai being the pick of the bunch. For more traditional English fare the Popesye Steak House is a hidden gem a little way down Upper Richmond Road. There's not much on offer but steak, steak and more steak, but it's extremely good.
The District Line from East Putney station is infrequent, slow, and generally a poor option unless you are just popping up to Fulham and Chelsea. Far better is the overland service from Putney overland station to Waterloo, which is fast (about 20 minutes) and very regular. Given the strength of the overland service, the buses are fairly redundant except for short hops through town, but the 14 can be very useful. It runs from Putney station to Tottenham Court Road in about 45 minutes and it runs 24 hours a day, making it perfect for getting to and from late nights in Central London.
AREAS OF LONDON