In many ways it is public transport that has come to define Willesden, which forms part of the borough of Brent in North West London. Once a small parish, it burgeoned into a vibrant and diverse suburb following the arrival of the Metropolitan Line in 1879.
Now, with the advent of the 24-hour tube, it is set to become even more popular. According to research conducted by DataLoft on behalf of SellMyHome.co.uk, Willesden, along with Stratford and Mile End, is destined to become a property hotspot.
With this in mind, we made a trip to the area to gauge the vibe.
The Usual Suspects
Of course, to get a feel for an area, it is necessary to pay a visit to the high street which, in this instance, has two very different ends to it.
Emerging from Willesden Green we are faced with all the signs of a rapidly modernizing area with the usual suspects, a Sainsbury’s Local, a Costa and a Pizza Hut clustering along this end of the street. But if you walk east along the High Road towards Dollis Hill, independent businesses dominate - and though still a bit rough around the edges it has a certain low-key charm.
People tend to want something different and there isn't another vegetarian restaurant around here.Palian Patel, owner of Bhavna's Vegetarian Takeaway
Willesden is one of the most diverse boroughs in London and this is reflected in the cuisine on offer where you can find eateries from all parts of the world. We spoke to Palian Patel, owner of Bhavna's Vegetarian Takeaway on the High Road. Palin took over the restaurant from his parents who in turn bought Bhavna’s off a previous owner.
Palian doesn't seem too concerned about the arrival of the chain stores on the High Road because they increase footfall. He says, “Business is slowly picking up now that the area is getting busier. People tend to want something different and there isn't another vegetarian restaurant around here.”
“Since the Sainsbury’s came, footfall has increased. This in turn makes people recognise the specialist businesses like mine, the butchers selling meat from different countries and the foreign cafes.”
He continues, “I personally think the bigger companies should come here quicker, to make it more desirable. I know a lot of small shopkeepers don't like it but I believe if there are more people in the area it makes a difference. I understand that Sainsbury’s takes business away from us but we're still here as a specialist shop that people desire.”
As well as diverse cuisine, there are some interesting drinking spots too. There is a cocktail bar Shish, a fancy kebab shop where people go to relax on a Friday night after a long week. Shish offers cocktails for £6 each with a resident DJ to liven up proceedings.
I am very happy with the schools located in Willesden Green.Julia, local mother in Willesden Green.
For the more family-minded, Willesden has got a large selection of schools, with Ofsted giving most schools in the area 86% or above in their reports. The top school is Convent of Jesus and Mary RC Infant School.
Local mother, Julia, 31, says, “My children are still very young so before the school age but I am very happy with the schools located in Willesden Green. There are a couple of schools I've heard bad news from but you get those everywhere.”
One important question for #VillageLondon is whether there is a sense of community. This is of course hard to gauge but the sight of a man wandering down the High Road high-fiving and shaking the hands of several passers by is an encouraging sign.