In defence of moving to zone 4

Redbridge station. Image: Sunil060902/Wikimedia Commons.

As a hip young millennial, by rights me and my housemate should be living in a £900 per month loft in Shoreditch/Dalston/Stoke Newington, where he has the bed and I have a “mezzanine floor” which is really just a large shelf with a mattress on, fearing for my life every time I get up in the dark. Alternatively, we could go for an artsy flat with cacti growing out of the wall but also no hot water (I’ve been there) for a mere £520 per month.

It’s not often, as a young person, that you get advised to shed the shackles of coolness, nightlife, bars and even a Sainsbury’s Local in favour of your friendly Zone 4 location nearly in Essex. But that is what I am here to do.

About October last year, me and my current housemate decided we would finally live together because 1) we were both sick of our current housing situations and 2) we knew we’d get on. The only problem was we were both poor and flats in London are expensive. So we had three choices – compromise on location, on price, or on quality.

We decided to do the first.

When we found a flat in the suburbs, we both started desperately justifying it. It’s right by Redbridge tube. It’s a short commute to work for us both. It’s £50 cheaper than any flat we’ve seen and actually under our budget. It even has nice parquet floors.

After a fair bit of wrangling with the landlord needing a double deposit lest all our references be fake, despite the fact neither of us have ever been late on rent in our lives, we got it: The Flat Of Dreams right out in Zone 4.

And it’s perfect.

So, here is my defence of Zone 4 And Not Living In The Hippest Places.

It’s cheap and large AND we have double rooms each

As mentioned, for £575 a month in rent, we each have double rooms, there’s a lot of hallway and a big living room, bathroom, small kitchen, and a lot of cupboards. The best bit, though, is the bay window and balcony with a panoramic view of the Redbridge roundabout and the tube station, which is excellent for people watching.

It’s not expensive and neither of us have to sleep in a hallway in lieu of a room. I’d say this was a stereotype of many hipper more central locations, but seeing horror stories about airing cupboards/under the stairs cupboards/an actual shelf, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration.


We have Wanstead right next door

I have come to think of Wanstead as a sweet, quiet oasis, in which, on Saturday mornings, I can see green grass and people with small dogs, hear a bird sing and breathe air that is probably only 45 per cent saturated with pollution. Seriously, it’s really good.

There are a lot of places in the suburbs of the capital where you can reap the rewards of swapping the hip stuff for things a bit further out. This one has one of the best high streets in the country, and loads of nice pubs that could almost be in the countryside. It’s great.

Big supermarkets are few and far between in London

Having moved around a lot in London I am always craving a big supermarket. I feel soothed in their large cathedral like aisles where I can browse for hours, buying things I don’t need.

But you don’t really get many big old Tesco Extras in the middle zones of London. In sweet Zone 4, however, we have a big Tesco,  medium Tesco, medium Sainsbury’s, another medium Sainsbury’s, many Lidl and a Co-op. Like – yes you may think that is mundane, but when you need a baking tin at short notice on a Tuesday night it’s ideal.

It takes literally 20 minutes to get into central London

I mean it’s on the Central Line. It’s not exactly two hours on a pacer train away (yes, friends who live in south west, it takes 45 minutes to get from yours to mine so you can definitely manage it).

The night tube is a thing

We have two things on our high street open after 9pm – a Spar in the petrol station and also the Beefeater pub. If neither of these things tickle your fancy on a night out, the night tube now does run and calls at our very Zone 4 station. Even going out in Brixton only takes an hour home, with enough time to eat a Maccies in the station before you get on the train.

I’m not going to pretend I don’t go to bed at 10pm every night, but the network of night busses is also good, along with Uber. 

It’s nice.

I like where I live, it’s a good flat and it’s a cheaper location than everywhere else. Yes, even though Wanstead is recommended for families who don’t quite want to leave London yet, there’s literally nothing around Redbridge station – but for sacrificing a postcode, we got somewhere pleasant we can afford between just the two of us without too much hassle, which is saying a lot in London. Loads of good stuff is in walking distance and to be honest I can’t even be bothered trying to be hip enough to have cool clubs and pubs on my doorstep.

Living in Zone Four is just more like living in a normal non-Londoney place – it takes 20 minutes to get into the city centre. It’s reduced my stress levels a lot because there aren’t always people around . And come on, it’s London, there’s a tube every four minutes.

I just think it’s something we all need to consider, rather than turning it into the only-being-able-to-afford-a-zone-four-flat joke.

 
 
 
 

Wild boar are moving back to Genoa, and not everyone is pleased

A wild boar, c1933. Image: Getty.

Crossing the Ponte Gerolamo Serra in the Italian city of Genoa, I spotted a small crowd clustered by the river wall. I approached, intrigued, and peered over the wall to discover the subject of their delight: a sounder of eight wild boars – the adults sheltering from the heat in the undergrowth, while the juveniles foraged among the foliage that grows in the river bed during the dry summer months.

In any other city, such a sight might have been surprising. But in Italy, and particularly in the region of Liguria, where Genoa is located, the population of wild boars has been increasing at such a rapid rate that these incidents are now common. Across the country, it’s estimated that the population has risen from 600,000 to 1m over the past decade.

But while wild boars may look comically out of place trotting about the city, it’s actually a natural result of the way people have migrated – and the wars they have fought – over the course of recent history.

Making a comeback

A species native to Europe, the wild boar (or “cinghiale”, in Italian) largely disappeared from its historical territories during the 18th and 19th centuries. Their decline was widely attributed to the combined effects of habitat change, competition for space and resources and, of course, hunting.

Wild boars were a prized quarry, revered for their ferocity – and the danger involved in pursuing them. According to local folklore from the region of Liguria, the last truly wild boar was hunted and killed in 1814, in the province of Savona.

After an absence of more than a century, wild boar began to return to Liguria, and to the neighbouring region of Piedmont. A further influx occurred during World War I, when it’s believed that military activities in the south-east of France forced parts of the population back into Italy over the Alps.

Although hunting fraternities were quick to augment this fledgling population with wild boars transported from elsewhere, the return of the species was primarily due to natural causes. From the 1950s onwards, traditional agricultural practices were abandoned as more and more people moved from rural towns into the cities. This meant that large areas of formerly cultivated terraces and pastures were rapidly overgrown, fast becoming dense secondary woodlands.

A city gone wild

This spontaneous “rewilding” has become a controversial issue in the region. Many conservationists and environmental organisations consider the region’s return to a “wild state” a success. But others believe that the encroaching wilderness signals a loss of traditional woodland knowledge and a reduction of biodiversity, associated with the pastures and meadows.


The province of Genoa is among the areas most densely populated by wild boar in Italy, with an estimated 25 boar per 10km². Rewilding processes have brought woodlands to the city limits, blurring the boundary between rural and urban areas. The species has expanded beyond the hinterlands, colonising highly urbanised, densely populated city spaces in Genoa, drawn by the abundance of food waste created by humans.

In 2009, the infamous boar Pierino made his home at Righi, on the outskirts of Genoa, where he was routinely fed with focaccia by enthusiasts. Today, a family of wild boar call the Albergo dei Poveri – a historical hostel for the Genoese poor in the city centre – their home.

But while their antics are often recorded and shared with glee on social media, the threats posed by the presence of wild animals has become a preoccupation for the city’s municipal administration.

Boorish behaviour

Wild boar have been involved in a number of traffic accidents, and have proven to be particularly dangerous when with their young, attacking dogs and even people. The city council in Genoa has put forward many proposals to reduce the number of animals in the city, ranging from forced removals, to sterilisation, increased attention to waste disposal and approved hunts. About 90 wild boar were reportedly culled in 2018.

Needless to say, each of these measures has been hotly debated. Animal advocacy groups staunchly oppose the proposals, and sometimes obstruct the authorities’ attempts to take action, often sending patrols to care for the animals, and even give them names. But other residents are displeased with the animals’ presence in the city, and have consulted with the council on how to address the problems that they cause.

And so Genoa continues to grapple with thorny issues surrounding the presence of wild boar in the city, with the city authorities seeking to resolve a polemical issue that embroils the lives of animals and humans alike. So far, a collective, coherent and communally agreeable strategy has proven evasive; one that considers the need for public safety, hygiene and health with the ethical responsibilities towards to wild boar themselves.

Meanwhile, the animals themselves continue to lounge and forage beneath the Ponte Gerolamo Serra and elsewhere, bringing a little of the wilderness into the city.

The Conversation

Robert Hearn, Assistant Professor in Human Geography, University of Nottingham.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.