IG9 is the postcode for Buckhurst Hill, which is in Essex, indeed the TOWIE-est corner of the county. But it overspills marginally into London, twice, so I've had to go there as part of my quest to visit every postcode district in Greater London this year. A simple trip to the Underground's least-used station would have sufficed, but instead I wandered round both chunks to see what The Only Way Is Almost Essex looks like. [map]
The first chunk lies just to the south of Roding Valley station where five streets and a rugby club find themselves the wrong side of the IG8/IG9 boundary. It's properly suburban out here, all semis and bungalows, plus some quirky postmodern Tudorbethan terraces that scream Essex despite not quite being within it. Hillside Avenue stretches all the way from Woodford, unusually with eighteen separate brief cul-de-sacs branching off. Cherry Tree Rise correctly has a cherry tree at the foot of it, this being the only time of year I could tell for certain. Hawthorn Road bends contrary to the usual rules of T-junctions. And on Durham Avenue the odd thing is that certain seemingly-random neighbours are in a different postcode district to each other, it turns out for good reason.
For decades the Woodford/Chigwell border ambled in a straightish line across a field adjacent to the River Roding, inconveniencing nobody. Then in the 1930s these meadows were turned over to housing instead with general disregard for the underlying administrative subdivision. But the anomaly gained more import in 1965 when it suddenly became the edge of the capital, so in 1995 legislation redrew the boundary hereabouts to follow the river and the railway instead. Complete streets now found themselves in London, which made total sense, but the Royal Mail had based their postcodes on the original divide and saw no need to change.
Roding Valley station now lies entirely within Essex, but if you walk off the southern platform you walk straight into London which means Station Approach is very much within today's sphere of interest. It has one house and a small factory which since 1958 has been making... blimey, mission-critical fasteners. They're JP Aero, suppliers to the military, medical, nuclear and aerospace industries "whether you need a hundred, a thousand, or a million". Their website tells us that "rivet fasteners include semi-tubular, solid, blind, split and drive", and also that "fasteners that secure the wings must be able to hold the weight of the entire aircraft", and I feel like I've learned something just by being here.
There are parades of shops on both sides of the station, with the majority of the useful ones (post office, chemist, dog groomers, quilting supplies) being on the Essex side. But the official Station Parade is across the tracks in London IG9 and that's more holistic and financial, for which read duller, other than the shop at the end with the big skip outside. This is May of London, the local gunsmiths, who can't sell you a Deluxe Sideplate Hand Engraved Sporter Shotgun or a box of Standard Velocity bullets at present because they're doing up the shop. But come back on 9th May and they promise to be open again, so we can all drop off our firearms in secure storage at the very reasonable rate of £3.50 per week.
A meander in the Roding, and its tendency to flood, means that half of this postcode enclave is used for playing sport. Bancroft Rugby Club describe themselves as friendly and vibrant, have some particularly thriving youth teams and play in the Essex league despite their location. A flick through their Instagram feed suggests they've guided several boys and girls to senior level and equally aren't averse to laddish suckling bants while on tour. And for its final point of interest, this patch of IG9 is served by route 549, which as of today is London's very last five-hundred-and-something bus. But because it only runs every 90 minutes you're better off coming via the least-used tube station instead, and now perhaps you see why so few do.
The other chunk of IG9 straddles the High Road at the northern tip of Woodford Green. The houses are bigger here and also more quintessentially Buckhurst Hill, which essentially they very nearly are. Again the Greater London boundary cuts through adrift from any obvious reference point so the trick is to look for Redbridge street signs, ideally those with the IG9 postcode helpfully listed in the top right-hand corner. I walked here through Knighton Wood and Lords Bushes following what used to be Monkhams Lane, a delightfully thick leftover from Epping Forest, which might well have become multiple IG9 addresses had the City of London not thankfully preserved it.
If you know the High Road we're just north of Bancrofts School and just beyond the fork in the road where the Loughton bypass bears off. IG9 starts once the trees stop, so includes the classy postwar flats and the northbound bus stop, but once you're past that Essex begins instead. Beech Lane is swish and Greater London on one side, and terraced and East Anglia on the other. I spotted one house with bins for both local authorities out front, perhaps confused about collection day, perhaps just hedging their bets. I also felt particularly sorry for residents of Tilney Drive, a cul-de-sac that's been designated part of the Low Emission Zone despite being on the very edge of the capital, so is about to become an isolated few metres of ULEZ in a few months time.
Whitehall Lane contains a huge old mansion that's been here a while and a lot of later sequential infill. I suspect a lot of architects have been paid a lot of money to make a few frontages a lot more ostentatious. I think I'd be embarrassed to live in a street called Brancepeth Gardens but I doubt the residents are. I can also advise TfL's Bus Squad, if they're reading, that the missing nameplate for the Newlands Road bus shelter has been abandoned on the edge of the floral roundabout at the end of Almonds Avenue. It's all going on in London IG9, a peripheral postcode where a whole load of nothing much is the order of the day.