For most people, a mention of Croydon conjures up images of a busy high-rise metropolitan area often beset by noise and crime.

However, for much of the borough the opposite is very much the case.

Croydon’s southern half differs to its north in that it is greener and richer.

This area also marks some of the farthest reaches of the Greater London boundary, and it’s here that you will find Coulsdon and Old Coulsdon. 

Coulsdon and its smaller neighbour to the south, Old Coulsdon, sit just over four miles south of Croydon town centre.

Historically a part of Surrey, they are served by the Brighton mainline and are home to a number of well-performing schools and two beautiful green spaces in Farthing Downs and Happy Valley.

Your Local Guardian: Couldson valleyCouldson valley

While being a London borough has its benefits, many Coulsdon residents were recently up in arms about the controversial ULEZ plan and how it would affect their border town.

On a wet and windswept Wednesday, the local democracy reporting service (LDRS) spoke to long-time Coulsdon residents Andy and Anne Dalby about the ULEZ issue.

Andy told the LDRS: “ULEZ is difficult for people who can’t afford so much. This high street is covered by ULEZ, but further up the road, you leave the zone.

"Half the town is covered by it, it’s down the road in Purley. It seems quite silly, but I guess they have to stop it somewhere.” 

Anne, a school teacher who has taught children in many of the local schools, said: “I know of families of working-class families of children who I’ve taught who have to change their route to school just so they avoid the ULEZ zone.”

Local businessman Gary Beckett, who has run the Advanced Print shop on Brighton Road for 33 years also acknowledged the changes brought by ULEZ.

Your Local Guardian: Gary BeckettGary Beckett

Inside his shop, Gary told the LDRS: “ULEZ and parking are the two biggest issues at the moment.

"There are too many people parking here all day using the hour ticket, and they keep feeding the metres and taking up space. There’s also the ULEZ problem but that’s the same everywhere.

"We have gotten quieter since ULEZ came about but I don’t know if many of our customers had to scrap their vehicles. It didn’t affect us too much because we mainly deal with businesses that use electric vehicles, however, it has seemed to have made everything quieter and less buoyant.”

Despite this, Coulsdon residents seem content with the standard of public transport in the area.

The public transport around here is good, though.

While South London is famously short of underground stations, Coulsdon is lucky to be served by two busy train stations on the Brighton mainline.

Local resident and chair of the East Coulsdon Residents Association Charles King said: “Transport is good, on the trains you can get to central London in half an hour, and it’s in the travel card zone. I will often say I can turn left out of my house and be in central London in half an hour and I can turn right and be in the country in ten minutes."

Anne, who often uses public transport, agreed, saying: “Coulsdon is great for pensioners like us because we’re still in the London area, which means we get to use our freedom pass.

"This means I can choose how I travel. When I go up to London with my sister, on the other hand, we have to go everywhere on the buses.”

In recent years, South Croydon has become a hotspot for developers with its access to green space and good schooling.

This has meant that many new businesses and housing units have shot up to meet the growing demand.

Andy told the LRDS: “Of course, it’s changed over the years, there’s a busy ALDI where the Red Lion Coaching Inn used to be. The main change came when they built the bypass, before that there was traffic everywhere.”

Anne commented: “There still is a lot of traffic, but not nearly as much as there used to be. It is still a nice place to live as you’re close to open country as well as the motorway.

"The high streets are good, but it’s just full of nail bars and hairdressers. Shops come and go very quickly around here. They’re not empty for long. We have all the shops that we need.”

King praised the area’s resilience and spoke of how it has bucked the trend by having a thriving high street.

He said: “In some ways, Coulsdon hasn’t changed at all, in other ways it has changed completely.

"Obviously, the shops in the town centre are different, but we still have quite a lot of nice independent shops.

"We also have quite a number of nice restaurants here now as well. We are a lot better than many other district centres in that we have very few empty shops.”

As well as serving as the chair of the local residents’ association, King is also an avid local historian.

He told the LDRS: “In Coulsdon, we have a number of sites of special scientific importance along with Saxon and Roman burial grounds. In fact, the name Coulsdon originates from a guy called Cuthred who was a Saxon warrior in the year 600 AD.”

Despite his love for his hometown, King still believes the area is not perfect and does need some improvements.

He told the LDRS: “There’s not much that needs to be improved, but the council really needs to get back to improving the parks. We have quite a lot of amenities for younger children, but we need more for 11-16-year-olds.

"We need more youth clubs and better football pitches as well. If you’d asked me ten years ago, I would have said there’s not enough flats, there are too many big houses. Now we have loads of flats, but we need more two to three-bedroom houses that younger people can afford, and older people can downsize in.”

Two miles uphill to the south of the town lies the village of Old Coulsdon.

This village of around 10,000 is Greater London’s southernmost settlement and has a distinctly more rural feel to its larger neighbour.

The village is largely affluent and is home to larger semi-detached houses in the mock Tudor style.

Despite sharing a name, some Coulsdon residents see themselves as different from their leafier neighbours. Gary Beckett is one of those people.

He told the LDRS: “Old Coulsdon are much more snooty than us, they don’t like Coulsdon. They go to Caterham up the hill to do their shopping.” 

While Old Coulsdon does appear to show the hallmarks of a quaint village, including a verdant common and duck pond, it has more variety than meets the eye.

The Tollers estate features a number of private and council-owned properties that sit against the backdrop of nearby Happy Valley.

A local resident who was walking across the ancient Coulsdon Common during a break from the rain put it best when she told the LDRS: “I like it round here, it’s got all the perks of being in London but also has such a villagey feel.”