If a Starbucks opened here, people wouldn’t be chuffed,” says Helen Gray, from Your Move in Camberwell Church Street.
Independent cafes sit next to spit-and-sawdust pubs, and trendy bars by grotty kebab shops.
It’s a mix of young, arty and gritty. Because of Camberwell College of Arts, the area is a hub for young arty types, who fill cafes such as Johansson’s Deli in Grove Lane and bars such as Victorian boozer The Tiger
A lot of people are attracted by the arts. Gray says: “There are small galleries, pop-up exhibitions, especially towards Peckham.”
The South London Gallery is in Peckham Road , right by the college, where you’ll find modern art made by both British and international hands.
Alongside the bohemian side of Camberwell, Gray says the area also attracts young families, who stick around after they move in. And it’s home to both commuters and an original working-class population.
Denmark Hill Hospital attracts plenty of doctors, nurses and plenty of medical students.
Gray says it’s also a lively place.
“In the evening especially it gets very busy,” he adds. “The shops are open, people are walking around at night. It seems to come alive after 7pm.”
When it comes to the housing, look one way and you’ll see council blocks. Look the other and you’ll find streets of period buildings that have been turned into flats. Behind those there are new apartment blocks being built.
“There are some fabulous Georgian properties,” says Bob Norfolk-Thompson, from Your Move. “You’ve got Victorian, a bit of Edwardian, Twenties, Thirties, and you’ve got the post-war infills and you’ve got a complete mix architecturally.
“Historically it was a spa town. People used to take the waters from the Camber Well. The nicest houses are at the top of Camberwell Grove, where the spring is.”
Simon Goh, from Haart in Camberwell Green, says the sense of community is strong, adding: “People are very proud of the area.”
And this time next year, the area will get smarter as the council starts redeveloping old social housing. But for now, Goh says most estates are fine. “During the riots Peckham got done over, Brixton got done over, even Dulwich got done over,” he explains.
“We had an attempted break-in at the local phone shop and that was about it. We pretty much missed it.”
Camberwell residents also have plenty of green space to enjoy – with Camberwell Green in the centre (where there’s a monthly farmers’ market), Burgess Park to the north and venture a short distance south to find Peckham Park, with its outdoor gym.
As for other surrounding areas, you don’t have to go too far for a night out – Brixton and Clapham are both easy to get to.
So where are the best bits to start looking for a place?
“Camberwell Grove, Grove Park and Grove Lane – anything on the hillside – are the most sought after because of the views and the nice tree-lined streets,” Goh says.
But the period conversions from Coldharbour Lane to Loughborough are a good place to look for the best deals.
WORDS: CLARE VOOGHT