Living in Putney

Overwhelmingly, Putney's history centres on the River Thames and all that means. The river is intrinsic in the character Putney has developed and it has become the place to settle if all things boatrelated appeal. From the highlight of the social calendar, the university boat race between Oxford and Cambridge, to the rowers' lonely 6am training sessions, or feeding the ducks by the boathouses, the river seeps into every aspect of Putney life. Outdoorsy types will be in their element, in fact, as the water sports lifestyle is complemented by the acres of running and cycling space at Richmond Park, Putney Common or Wandsworth Park. For all Putney is a destination for athletes though, surprisingly few choose to reside there, no doubt outpriced. Instead, political and literary names have been born or chosen to live in SW15, including postWar Prime Minister Clement Attlee and latterly Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg.

Putney's political past extends beyond famous residents and significant events in British civic history have taken place in this part of the capital. Most notably, Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army was located in Putney for a time, and St Mary's Church by Putney Bridge was the site of the Army's historic discussions, the Putney Debates, considered to have played a major part in the foundations of contemporary democracy.

Community

As one of the more affluent parts of the Borough of Wandsworth, Putney could easily be mistaken for a posh town with loads of big private houses and very little community life. Not so. Putney's community events and religious centres are wellattended, and the area has a thriving voluntary sector. Among the places of worship in the area, London's first mosque can be found. The Fazl Mosque opened in 1926. Not only is Putney strong in the philanthropic sense, but it caters well for citizens from the council's perspective, with community centres, a very good library and yet more sporting facilities, indicating that leisure is of primary importance here.

Housing

Putney is a popular and smart place to rent, not to mention an excellent area to settle with a family as it's just that little bit more spacious and out of town. Putney property enthusiast, Dan Doherty, recommends going for a stroll down Putney Bridge Road to check out what's on offer. There's you'll find a mix of flats and houses from the affordable to the ridiculous. As that road hits Wandsworth, you'll find Riverside Quarter, an ultraluxurious complex, with two- and threebed lets. Expect to pay about £3,000 a month for a twobedroom flat. At the other end towards the high street, Putney Wharf is the equally if not more prestigious development, where monthly rentals can be around £4000 for a three-bed place. To buy, you're looking at £1.2 million, etc.

Coming back down to earth, for those who can give the riverside views and penthouse suites a miss, there are several more affordable options on Putney Hill and along the Upper Richmond Road. Flats here are older and hardly pristine, but mainly homely and often with security and servicing. An ample threebedroom flat can be as little as £1,200, which is excellent for the area.

On the lanes behind the high street, you'll find pretty little terraces interspersed with the odd new-build, low-rise apartment block, and some vaguely maritime architecture. There are some larger four- and five-bedroom places in this residential area as well. These are located down Felsham Road, Hotham Road, Quill Lane, Clarenden Drive and their offshoots. Be aware, though, that the main line trains run behind here, including through the night.

Shopping

Reasonable but nothing spectacular, Putney suffers a little from its location when it comes to shopping. Midway between Wandsworth's Southside and Kew Retail Park, it has only a very small shopping centre Putney Exchange and handful of high street names like Gap, Cargo, Marks & Spencer, Waterstone's, La Senza, Monsoon and Next. Some smart but low key ladies' names can be found on the high street, including Jigsaw and Benetton, but there really is little else to inspire. A few treasures can be found along Lacy Road. For one, Shehan is excellent for decor, in particular ornaments, mirrors and decorative fixtures, and Farago is fantastic for gifts and trinkets. Another not to be missed if you're looking for novelty is Jerusalem Gifts, a jokeshopcumfancydress store, selling all the bits and pieces you need for a celebration, streamers, gift wrap, balloons, and of course party costumes. Putney being quite the middle class neighbourhood that it is, you can also pick up some quality clothing and nearly new books in some of the charity shops on the Upper Richmond Road.

Eating Out

For good dining choices in Putney, head off the main high street where you'll mainly find chain places like Pizza Express, GBK, Wagamama, Strada and Real Greek. On the Upper Richmond Road, Ole is a consistent choice for Spanish food. There are certain things it does really well, and the tapas is better value than the meals, but service isn't brilliant. The Hare and Tortoise on the same stretch has really great prices and is constantly packed even early in the week. Further along, Talad Thai is excellent, with attentive waiting, and a specialty Thai supermarket next door if you fancy giving something a try yourself. Thai Square on the riverside is an impressive venue, with an upstairs restaurant with awesome views, and a bar turning into a nightclub where you can dance away dinner until 3am.

Pubs & Nightlife

Putney is pub territory, though, with 10 or 11 superb options and a couple of not so great ones. Among them, more fantastic places to eat can be found. Starting north of the river, The Temperance is a grand, twostorey affair with an array of continental beers and plenty of room to spread out with big groups of mates. Just the other side of the bridge, The Boathouse is a firm summer Pimm's venue and a river bank favourite for rowers and rugby types, not least Matt Dawson. The Idle Hour is a fantastic wine bar on the main road, not only with an extensive selection of wines, but also promoting some obscure and organic grapes. And further along the high street, the Spotted Horse is a pretty spacious and sophisticated choice for a more restaurant quality meal and great wine again.

If something more hidden away is your thing, The Cat's Back an arty affair with a creative menu is down in SW18 or the Coat and Badge, which has hearty meals and shows sports, is a good one for the lads. Another of similar ilk, where a wild night every weekend is guaranteed, is the Dukes Head. But ask anybody their favourite pub in Putney, and you're bound to hear the reply the Jolly Gardeners, good for Sunday lunch and cider, or a cracking Friday night. It also gets in on all the events and is a brilliant place to spend the boat race as they usually hold a hog roast or barbecue. Further out of town, The Telegraph is good, if you don't mind places that are super child-friendly for family weekends.

Putney is more limited when it comes to drinking til dawn, so most people end up reluctantly heading to Fez, the area's main offering. Fez claims 'legendary status by dominating the clubbing scene in SW15' and this is true to a point. Whether that's down to its 'vibrant fun-loving party atmosphere', though, is hard to tell. Something tells me those £2 Jagerbombs on a Wednesday night and free shuttle buses for Roehampton students are equally to blame.

Kris Emery