Living in Willesden Green
By Jo Mullen
Willesden Green is located in North West London, zone 2 on the Jubilee line. To the north is Dollis Hill, Kensal Rise is to the west and Cricklewood to the east. Willesden Green is full of share houses mixed in with permanent residents. In general, east of the tracks towards Cricklewood is more upmarket than the residential area to the west towards and surrounding the High Rd. Willesden High Rd still has long way to go to be considered decent, but consists of a large Sainsbury's, workman's cafes, restaurants, Willesden Library, pound shops, and little pubs and off licences among many other small shops.
The average share house usually has around six or seven people living there, sometimes three stories and sometimes crammed into a two story. A single will cost about £260, a small double about £320, and a large double up to £370. Couples can expect to pay anything from £420 - £460 not including bills. You can also rent share rooms or flats and the choices are endless. The share houses are all terraced, some are traveller houses (party!) that are a bit run down and cheap but there are also well managed properties for professionals that have been refurbished nicely. Quality varies but sharehouses rule in this area.
Each year with the coming of summer Aussies, Kiwis and South Africans (and to a lesser extent Canadians) either arrive from their homeland or come out of the woodwork after the long, dark winter to enjoy the big BBQ/house party culture in Willesden Green. When winter arrives the numbers of travellers drop considerably and the place seems to decline only to come back in force the following year. There is also a big Polish, Irish and African community amongst the Londoners who have been there all their lives.
Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment
On the whole Willesden is a great place to drink and is much cheaper than drinking in the city or the west end. The Green is the first pub you see as you come off the tube with it has a big outdoor sitting area in front and a restaurant out the back. The food is good but pricey and it always has a good crowd on a hot summer's day. Shish across the road has a cocktail bar on the second floor. These two places are the more classy and pricey in the area. My favourite, however, is all the way down the other end of the High Road: The Willesden Crown. Antipodeans have frequented this place for years, drawn by the pool tables and the cheap booze. It slowly became run down and became a bit rough but with a new manager and refurbishment, both inside and in the beer garden, it has been redeemed. Prices are very reasonable and the atmosphere friendly and acoustic nights and a restaurant are in the works.
Around the corner is Number 8 (the old Ned Kelly's) which has also been done up. Not such a friendly vibe but it has a big screen to watch sports and runs pool competitions, karaoke nights and has DJs playing. Dark little pubs full of regulars are dotted all along the High Road, many of them Irish pubs. Tony's, almost off the High Road, shows all the Irish sports and does a large roast on Sunday very cheap. The only other place worth a mention is Liquid in the middle of the High Road which is the only bar as such with DJs amongst other things.
The Cricklewood Crown is out of the area but still worth a mention as a lot of locals are drawn there, there are bands and dj's it is very spacious and in very good condition.
Gyms and Fitness
There are three gyms around the area. Cannons is a 10 minute walk from the station and boasts a salt water pool. It's £35 a month for students. There is the newly opened Willesden Sports Centre which is more expensive but you can go to classes cheaply without membership and it has a running track out the front. For those on a tight budget there is the clubhouse at the corner of Gladestone Park with the cheapest membership and classes possible.
Parks and Recreation
Gladestone Park is the major park in Willesden Green and pretty much the best thing about the area. In the summer there are well organised touch rugby competitions as well as many other sports such as hockey and football. The Down Under Centre on the High Rd organises teams so is the best place to enrol. The park also has tennis courts for £5 an hour and underneath the park are Winston Churchill's bunkers that are open to the public once a year. On a sunny day the park is full of runners, people walking their dogs and people testing out their hobbies. The other notiable park is Roundwood Park which often holds fairs and is great to watch the fireworks on Guy Fawkes night.
Shops, Restaurants and Takeaways
Willesden has no clothes shops on the high road aside from a few charity shops. There are many restaurants; Little Star is cheap and cheerful gastro restaurant, Shish, a couple of Chinese and Indian Restaurants, and a Japanese place. There are pizza shops and Italian restaurants as well and many coffee shops. Plus there seem to be chicken shops of dubious quality every 100 metres.
You can't beat the Jubilee line and the buses out of Willesden Green travel in every direction around or across London.
AREAS OF LONDON