Living in Tooting

By Jeff Richie

Tooting is located in the South West of London in the borough of Wandsworth, sandwiched between Balham and Colliers Wood with Streatham on the left and Wimbledon on the right. If you head a little further south from Tooting Broadway you pass Colliers wood and get into Morden (or Mordor as it's known to the local residents). Tooting looks pretty rough but having lived and worked here for over a year I can confirm its bark is definitely worse than its bite.

Housing

You can pick up some great deals on housing if you have the inclination to buy and a few quid in savings as there are some very attractive ex-council houses on the market at the moment. Prices for renting are pretty standard, ranging from the cheapest flat shares (above the chicken shop with a live in landlord) to the most ridiculously overpriced 'luxury' studio flats over towards Wimbledon. However, if you're not into either of those extremes there is an abundance of reasonably priced accommodation, and if you're prepared to shop around you can find some pretty good places.

People

For the most part, the people in Tooting are salt of the earth types more interested in their own lives than yours or mine. There are a wide variety of nationalities represented and there are several schools in the area which means there are a lot of young people milling about during week day afternoons. Tooting Broadway boasts an impressive market and the market traders are real characters, from first light to the late afternoon come rain or shine they'll be shouting out barely comprehensible descriptions of there wares to the passing crowds.

Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment

There are several pubs of varying quality dotted around the Tooting area. Pubs such as The Castle and The Tram Shed (affectionately known as The Tramp Shed) are probably best avoided as is JJ Moons, the obligatory Wetherspoons pub. Although this one does have the dubious advantage of opening at eight in the morning and does do a great line in cheap booze and food - two meals for a fiver anyone? Two of the better pubs are the Kings Head and The Selkirk. The Kings head is a traditional looking boozer catering to a mixed crowd of drinkers where as The Selkirk is a bit more upmarket, serving real ale and cocktails to a relaxed, youngish clientele. It also has a great beer garden and does a pretty good roast on a Sunday.

For late beers in Tooting you need to become a member of The Broadway Snooker Club. Membership costs ten pounds per year and is thoroughly worth the money as they are open twenty four hours a day. You can also play snooker and American pool if you fancy it. If the snooker club isn't to your taste and you want to carry on drinking after the pubs in Tooting close you can take a short bus journey into either Clapham or Brixton where many late bars and clubs are located.

As well as drinking yourself to oblivion in the various pubs in Tooting, you can also take a short journey (about fifteen or twenty minutes depending on the traffic) to The Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium or 'Wimbledon Dogs' as it is known to the regulars. The greyhound racing is an excellent experience and comes highly recommended. A day out at the dogs caters for all walks of life from young to old or groups of families and friends. Everyone loves a flutter and you don't have to break the bank as they accept bets as low as a pound, you don't have to bet on every race and the drinks are very reasonably priced.

Parks and Recreation

Tooting Bec boasts a massive expanse of grass and trees called Tooting Common. The Common is placed between Balham, Streatham and Tooting and can be used as a shortcut between these three places. It can get very busy, especially when the weather is nice, and on any given day you can expect to see dog walkers, horse riders, fishermen, footballers and even the odd Frisbee match.

Possibly the best attraction at the Common is the Lido which is a giant (300ft by 100ft) open air swimming pool. During the summer months it can get a little bit crowded, with over two thousand visitors per day. However it is very unwise to try swimming between October and July as the water is so bone shatteringly cold that just dipping a foot in is enough to induce a heart attack.

Shops, Restaurants and Takeaways

If you live south of the river and fancy a decent curry, you don't need to travel all the way to Brick Lane, just get yourself along to Upper Tooting Road for the veritable Smorgasborg of Indian restaurants and takeaways. This is arguably the best place in South London for a curry. Mr. Korma is great for deliveries and if you fancy eating in try Mirch Masala.

As well as being famous for curry houses, Tooting also boasts a number of other restaurants. Unfortunately for the health conscious among us these, for the most part, tend to be establishments of the junk food variety. From bargain basement one piece chicken and chips for a pound to a seven quid kebab, the clown in the abattoir or the colonel from Kentucky, all the (fast) food groups are represented. Although if you fancy a bagel or a Burger King then you're fresh out of luck and will have to take a long walk into Clapham.

Transportation

Tooting is quite well connected with two underground lines (Tooting Bec which is in zone 3 and Tooting Broadway which is in zone 4, both of which are on the Northern Line). There is also a national rail station and an impressive bus and night bus service.

Good Points

  • old school London vibe
  • brilliant for fast food, especially curry and kebabs
  • affordable housing

Bad Points

  • very busy
  • you have to go to Clapham or Brixton for trendy bars and clubs
  • can be a little bit rough round the edges (ie quite pikey)
  • bad reputation

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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