After Gardeners’ Question Time

So to continue. We left the Teahouse Theatre with Celia carrying a large wedge of cake in a white box, and headed across Spring Gardens where the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens used to be to the main road which we crossed and put behind us as quickly as possible.

It turned out that although Celia has been to Vauxhall many times she had never been to Bonnington Square. Back in the day it was a squatted place with a reputation for drugs. But there was always more to it than that. I think Vauxhall is how Notting Hill would like to be; a mixed area with lots of community pockets and people who enjoy their lives.

Italo was open and Celia got tea while I had a beer and we took both to the little park with its adult sized swings. Perfect.

An RSCPCA inspector appeared to look at a fox asleep in the foliage. Residents though he was injured, but he showed a healthy speed when he realised his liberty was at stake.

Can you see the fox?

Can you see the fox?

A cat watched the proceedings unperturbed.

Unperturbed cat

Unperturbed cat

Dan Pearson, who has just won gold at Chelsea used to live in the square and his hand shows in the community planting that still thrives. If I didn’t live where I do now, Bonnington Square would be my choice. The natives are friendly; there are privately owne houses, housing association tenanted houses, houses with shared owneship, all the permutations. Italo is a fine and friendly deli, and then the Bonnington café, which was the squat café is still run on community lines.

But it could all change very quickly. Like my own neighbourhood, Vauxhall has been identified as a central part of London that is ripe for development. Development tends to attract people looking at houses as investments rather than homes, pushes prices up and rapidly alters the demographic. The other side of the railway line, the river side, is already a mix of brutalist bling, MI6’s Babylon on Thames and Jeffrey Archer’s penthouse pad. Soon the new US embassy will open here. I understand a new development has seen the houseboats moored along the stretch of the river given their rowing orders and their floating community is not the view buyers want from their investment opportunities. I hope that’s wrong, but it sounds very likely. Someone told me that Julie Driscoll who hails from Vauxhall still lives in the area which I hope is true, and several years ago when I was shopping in Vauxhall’s Sainsbury’s, Joanna Lumley seemed to be stalking me. But maybe that was just my imagination.

We walked home via Kennington, and caught the end of the annual summer fête in Cleaver Square where its said Shirley Bassey once lived, and the Richardsons used to drink in the pub that was for a time Paddy Ashdown’s London local.

The end of the fête

The end of the fête

I showed Celia the pea, bean and tomato plants in our garden. She admired the flourishing geraniums, then in the street we met Carol, she of the lovely lilac and ravishing roses.

I know a man who has lived in Belgravia for nine years and does not know any of his neighbours. Nine years. I’ll settle for a home.

You can keep your investment opportunities.


9 thoughts on “After Gardeners’ Question Time

  1. It’s good to learn about ordinary London neighbourhoods, I’m just a very rare visitor to an uncle, to shop or to a gallery. I absolutely hate the way developers move in and change peoples lives and make it so that only the wealthy can afford to live where they’ve always lived. Exeter has fallen victim to landlords converting family homes into student accommodation, for our university which is now one of the best in Europe apparently. Very few ordinary, hardworking people can get on the property ladder now and private renting has also become too expensive.

    • I fear we are heading for a crisis. It is simply not sustainable. People with low paid jobs need to be able to live centrally as well. We are creating exclusion zones. Very bad news.

      • In Devon the other problem is the high number of second homes that sit empty for long periods and the wealthy come down and add nothing to the local economy. The result is that property prices rise even more. Salaries are also very low in Devon and even worse in Cornwall.

        • While here we have foreign investors seeing London property as a good place to see their money grow, buying but not living here, pushing up prices, and not contributing to the local economy! Key workers have to live further out, travel longer and pay high fares to get in to work.

  2. Bonnington Square and Harleyford Gardens were a real treat. I’ve walked, driven and bussed so close but had no idea just where they were. I shall certainly include the gardens and deli and cafe again when I’m in Vauxhall from now on.

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