Them and us: East Dulwich

For the second in our "Them and Us" series, we thought we'd better get the inside track on East Dulwich - an area that has gained totemic status in Brockley's great 'gentrification debate'. So we asked Jane - who lives there - and this is what she told us:

What are the best things about living in East Dulwich?

The range of shops and services in East Dulwich, many of which are still independently owned; the mix of people - hasn't (yet) been completely repopulated by families moving out from Clapham along 37 bus route; Lordship Lane is still fairly quiet in the evenings - the ratio of shops to bars and restaurants is far better than in places like Northcote Road; the parks nearby; easy access to Victoria and in fact Kings Road if you take the stopping train from Denmark Hill; nice victorian houses on quiet roads; interesting fringe areas to visit such as Bellenden Road/Peckham, Horniman, Dulwich Village, Sydenham Woods. It does have a very good community feel to it and there is lots to do, such as pub quizzes, film nights, local WI (very popular), various fetes and fairs throughout the year. Also there are no major roads running through ED whereas Forest Hill up the road is basically built around the south circular, and there's a market on Friday and Saturday on Northcross Road.

What has been the biggest change since you moved to East Dulwich?

We moved here in December 2003 - the biggest change must be that then it was still very good value for money compared to areas such as Clapham and Herne Hill. The other main developments have been the increase in destination shops and cafes on Lordship Lane and the ensuing increase in traffic and visitors - also now much harder to park.

Some people in Brockley hold East Dulwich up as an example of an area where "gentrification" has gone too far and the area has lost something as a result. Do you think that's fair?

There's an element of truth to this - as I mentioned the mix of people living here which gives it a fairly safe community feel is changing and becoming more homogenous and therefore less interesting. With gentrification come rent rises and you lose some of the more surprising and interesting shops and businesses which give an area its character. These are being replaced with lots of mainstream shops catering entirely to the incomers who do seem to be mainly young parents. This process of Claphamisation does seem to be inevitable.

What do you think prompted East Dulwich's gentrification?

House price rises meant that ED became the next obvious place for people to move to. I think transport links improved, and the myth that it is really difficult to get to was debunked.

How does the area build a sense of community?

Aside from the groups I mentioned earlier, the East Dulwich Forum is hugely popular and most people I know spend a lot of time there, lurking if not posting. The Dulwich Festival is always a draw, as are the events and courses run by Dulwich Picture Gallery - not in ED but within easy reach.

What would you recommend for the casual visitor to do in E Dulwich?

Assuming the visitor was casual, they might like to drop into Le Chandelier and try some of their freshly baked breads or pastries, then stop at Jacks on Pellatt Road for their coffee or flapjack. Later on they could pick up some fishcakes from Moxons or some meatballs from William Rose butcher, then have a Sunday Roast in Franklins, and a drink afterwards at Green and Blue or Liquorish, followed by a cheeky kebab down the Yilmaz. Yummy Mummies can hang out in Blue Mountain Café and indulge their loved ones in Jo Jo Maman Bebe or the many other overpriced kids clothing shops. I would also recommend a walk in the park or down to Bellenden Road where Le Petitou does an excellent quiche. This has become culinary...So for something other than food there's Northcote Road market - or one of the small art galleries on the same road.

What (if anything) can Brockley learn from E Dulwich's experiences?

Brockley can learn that if you build it they will come. But is that what you want? Eh?

Coming soon: Hither Green, although the locals have been rather less forthcoming so far...