The hidden hilltop suburb that residents never want to leave

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Angela Helsloot, Principal at Allambie Heights Public School. As of this year, Allambie Heights Public School is homework free. Photographed Thursday 28th April 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SHD NEWS 170428

Angela Helsloot, Principal at Allambie Heights Public School. As of this year, Allambie Heights Public School is homework free. Photographed Thursday 28th April 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SHD NEWS 170428

Its elevated blocks of land boast sweeping views of the Northern Beaches district and it's mere minutes to Manly by car.

But the suburb of Allambie Heights retains a secluded feel. Some locals call the place the "best-kept secret on the Beaches".

"It's close to the surf and it's close to main roads that take you north and south, but it's also tucked away," says Lee Hilton, a retiree who moved to Allambie Heights 32 years ago.

Significant green space encloses the suburb on all sides, creating a sort of "moat" of bushland that keeps the big city at bay. It's fitting, then, that 'allambie' is an Aboriginal word for 'peaceful place'.

"We've got our own little wilderness on our doorstep," says Hilton, citing the biodiverse Manly Dam Reserve to the south, Garigal National Park to the west and Allenby Park to the north.

Allambie Heights was one of countless 'war veteran suburbs' that were developed after World War II as a result of crown land releases. From the outset, its residents felt loyalty to the suburb that had sprung up in the bush.

"When my husband and I moved in 32 years ago, it was very much a place with multiple generations of the same family," says Hilton: "You'd have mums and dads who'd attended the public school themselves now sending their own kids there."

Hilton says Allambie Heights Public School, where she worked for 16 years, is a focal point for the community. There is a large community centre, next to the school, that was built in the 1980s, and the local shops are also clustered nearby.

The public school's growth in recent decades helps illustrate the changing demographics in Allambie Heights. "When my kids started at the school in the 1980s there were about 290 pupils - there are over 500 now," says Hilton.

According to Brian Mills, who built the Allambie Veterinary Clinic in Allambie Heights in 1984 with his wife, Elaine, the suburb has become a robust favourite for young families searching for value on the Northern Beaches.

"These days we have a lot of new families," he says, "I think because the suburb a bit more affordable than other areas. Then, once they get to know the suburb, they tend to put down roots here."

Clarke & Humel agent Casey Faets concurs. "It's definitely a value-for-money area that's family friendly," he says. "The typical block size is almost double what you get closer to the beach."

He adds: "It's also a tightly held suburb. Once people arrive, they don't want to leave. People will say to me, 'I'm never selling'."

The combination of seclusion and geographical convenience has also begun to attract more-affluent buyers. "Allambie Heights used to be very public-service and trades-oriented but now it's attracting new faces," Hilton says. "We have executive types living here now - there are a lot more four-wheel-drives."

Interest from multiple demographics means properties are selling briskly, despite a broader market downturn across the Northern Beaches region. "It's very rare that a property will go past the auction date," says Faets. "They're generally sold beforehand or at the auction, which indicates there is plenty of buyer interest in the area."

Some residents are concerned that the forthcoming Northern Beaches Hospital, which is due to open next year, will increase traffic from Manly through Allambie Heights. The hospital sits north-west of Allambie Heights, in Frenchs Forest.

But others say the tight-knit community feel of the place will endure even if through-traffic increases.

"Allambie Heights is a suburb where a lot of people know a lot of other people," says Mills, the vet. "That's not always easy to find in Sydney."

This story The hidden hilltop suburb that residents never want to leave first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.