Woolwich is one of those areas on the edge of London which is currently considered to be “affordable” and attractive to new buyers due to its up-and-coming-ness. This is also the reason why it is gradually becoming less and less affordable. It’s awesome and getting awesomer by the day.
Woolwich is the perfect place to live; a short commute to central, a lively town centre and lots of greenspace.
The highest point in Woolwich, just off Shooter’s Hill, is my favourite green area, boasting not only stunning views of the entire London skyline, but also meadows, the serene Oxleas Woods, and Severndroog Castle, soon to be open to the public.
Other green spaces include Woolwich Common and Maryon Park and Charlton Park further to the west. As well as having General Gordon Square right in the middle of the centre, with a big screen and frequent community events.
Woolwich town centre is largely like many London high streets with many chicken shops and betting shops, but is luckier than many with discount and outlet high street stores, a traditional fruit and veg market, four supermarkets, and lots of lovely little independent places popping up here and there.
Blue Nile is a new Eritrean cafe and restaurant serving traditional Eritrean meals as spicy as you like them, as well as Eritrean-Italian spaghetti and deserts with authentically strong coffee. If you head there on a Sunday afternoon you can even spend the day on an Eritrean coffee ceremony, just gorgeous! The prices are a delight and the staff are quietly friendly. Perfect for a quiet lunch or a big sharing meal.
Looking out on the square is The Coffee Lounge, a typical large coffee shop with comfy sofas, free wifi and just the drinks and food you’d expect. Ideal for getting some work done or reading and people watching.
Koffees and Kream have just opened and are a cross between an American diner serving super cheap home cooked meals, and a trendy coffee shop.
Soon to open on the square will be The Woolwich, an Antic Collective pub serving quality food and drink and hosting live music and other nights. A far cry from the current pubs which make me feel like the female, non-regular I am, not the potential customer I also am.
Head towards the river and you reach the Arsenal, which both the station and the football team are named after.
Newly built, it still all feels very artificial. The contrast between these over priced, shiny apartments and the Estates through which you may have to go to get there, is incredible, and unfortunately very typical of many areas in London; pretending to tackle the housing crisis by building new and bringing wealthy people into the area, whilst ignoring those who already live there. Political rant over, this is actually a really lovely place to spend an afternoon and day dream that you could one day actually afford to live there.
Right on the river you could catch a river bus into central London and pick up some views on the way, or stick around and visit the Artillery Museum and the lovely Heritage Museum, which is free and outlines the history of the Arsenal wonderfully, including a whole section about the importance of women workers, and emphasis on the development of unions, which fellow socialists would appreciate. It also has a gallery space: excellent.
Intersperse your day with a trip to the Cornerstone Cafe for coffee or lunch, and Dialarch pub for drinks and dinner - both lovely places with great food, but not cheap. Cornerstone staff are really friendly and enthusiastic, service at Dialarch is also really efficient, but the amount of times I was called “darling” or “beautiful” I lost count. Needless to say this didn’t happen when I visited with my husband a few days later! That and the slightly high drinks prices is my only complaint. This pub is exactly what Woolwich needs.
A good 20mins walk from the town centre, towards Charlton, is Second Floor Studios, artists studios who regularly hold educational open studios with bbqs on the terrace. Hidden away in a noisy industrial estate, unfortunately out of the way, they are similar to Trinity Buoy Wharf, just across the river. The cafe is a lovely quiet haven in the midst of all this, but first and foremost they are a studio space, not a public gallery.
Other arts and culture include The Tramshed Young People’s Theatre which accommodates affordable performing arts courses for children and young people as well as some dance and fitness classes for adults. Their productions are also a cheap evening at the theatre and a good way to support local arts.
Just across the square is the Woolwich Grand. Not grand from the outside, but stunningly so inside, with a bit of imagination. The main space is a full-sized concert hall which wears its history, complete with disco balls, tiled floor and 1950s striped walls. Unfortunately not used as much as it should be due to the leaky roof which the owners refuse to fix, it has featured in many music videos and plays host to the regular roller discos throughout Saturday afternoons and evenings.
I visited for a cosy screening of Philomena, saved several pounds, met some lovely local people and left incredibly depressed that Greenwich Council are all set to knock this historical, vital place down in order to build more unaffordable flats. What’s the point of filling an area with new folk with money to spare, if there’s nothing cultural for them to spend it on?? With a cash injection, this place could be something amazing for the local community. On top of that the CEO of the Theatre is absolutely hilarious.