Long before the regeneration bug took over the rest of Walthamstow, Walthamstow Village, or simply ‘the Village’, as it’s known locally, was a small oasis of boutique shops, restaurants and relatively expensive housing. Given the urban and slightly impoverished nature of the rest of Walthamstow, it was indeed odd to stumble across Orford Road, which is the heart of the commercial aspect of the Village. Even more remarkably, where Orford Road intersects Church Lane, there is a 15th century house, recently restored, along with almshouses and the Vestry House Museum, built in 1730 and originally a workhouse. Walking around this area feels more like being in an ancient village in Warwickshire than East London. The Village is popular with families as well because there is an abundance of nice housing, the Toy Library, cafés, free festivals, second-hand shops, a toy shop, a playground, and a Spar voted best convenience store in the UK in 2011 (it teamed up with the incredibly well-known Eat 17 to provide take-away pizzas and other high-end convenience foods, as well as the toe-curlingly delicious Bacon Jam).
Part of this veritable smorgasbord of delights is the Castle Pub, which was taken over by new management in 2013. The pub has huge windows, which gives it an airy feel, and its white and grey décor adds to the feeling of symmetry and space. It sells a great selection of wines, real ales, ciders and soft drinks, and it also has a professional espresso machine. The food is pretty good. Recommended is the beetroot and quinoa burger, topped off with goat’s cheese. The toilets are stylish and clean.
Best of all however is the fact it welcomes children. Like other child-friendly pubs, it allows them to wander around and will create special meals for them (we once ordered egg and chip off-menu and they were great about it). Unusually for a pub however, it also has toys and books in the cupboards along the left-hand side of the wall as you walk in. A friend and I, having packed our children off to school on a Monday, went there for lunch, and I was heartened to see tables filled with mothers with babies and small children. One of them had a particularly striking and piercing scream (by ‘them’ I mean the babies of course—we mothers only do silent and repressed existential screaming), and indeed kept it up for a considerable period of time. The young guy behind the bar, while looking slightly stressed, did his best to hold it in, for which he deserved a pat on the back. We swapped war stories of the hard times of early babyhood, but agreed that a great feature of the place in which we lived was that there were places for mothers to go where they didn’t have to feel guilty about noise, disruption and mess. The Castle is definitely one of those places.
Getting there: The Castle’s address is 15 Grosvenor Rise East, Walthamstow Village, E17 9LB. You can park for up to two hours on Orford Road and a few areas in the side streets for up to two hours with parking tickets costing £1.30 per hour. On Saturdays and Sundays the parking is free around the pub. The Village is also fairly accessible by bus and Walthamstow Central Tube and Overground Station, but you may want to take a buggy for the little ones and scooters for older kids, because it is a 10- to 15-minute walk. For more info, see the Castle Pub’s website.