Selly Park life helps you work, rest and play, as David Faers explains.

You don't have to live in leafy Worcestershire or Warwickshire to enjoy some of life's pastoral pleasures after a hard day at the office.

You can feel grass under your feet, watch big broadleaves bending in the wind and listen to the babble of a brook a mere ten minutes' drive from the heart of Birmingham's traditional business district.

That's ten minutes on a good day, of course. Either that or a traffic-free Sunday morning, such is the reality on Birmingham's traffic-choked arteries.

So head out along the Pershore Road, past Edgbaston cricket ground and you are there - Selly Park.

It is arguably one of the unsung heroes of Birmingham's housing market. It lacks the cosmopolitan, faded hippy high street of Moseley with its once-a-month farmers market. House prices have not shot up to the same heady heights as the over-rated Harborne.

But the Victorian and Edwardian builders who put up most of the the houses lining the hillside roads running down from Selly Park itself to the edge of Cannon Hill Park certainly knew what they were doing.

To borrow the catchphrase of the comely Kirstie Allsop and ever-so-urbane Phil Spencer, its all about location, location, location.

Selly Park is near enough to the city centre to make commuting to work a doddle and far enough to feel cushioned from the roughest edges of big city living.

Take The Avenues, for instance. The three and four-bedroom terraced houses that were built for relatively well-to-do professionals and their families in the early part of the 20th century are equally popular 100 years later with an upwardly-mobile mix of media people, medics and academics from the nearby University of Birmingham.

Many of them have made their home in the half dozen or so tree-lined cul-de-sacs running off the main road like the ribs on one side of a backbone. And here they tend to stay as the Edwardian houses are roomy enough to cope with all but the bigger family - especially with the addition of a conservatory, breakfast room-kitchen or attic conversion.

Another key part of the attraction for the Avenues is their friendly, family-centric feel, although the solid, two-storey houses are popular too with a smattering of young, single professionals who share rented properties.

The additional cars put extra pressure on precious on-street parking spaces but, in tune with these increasingly eco-conscious times, a growing number of householders prefer to ditch the car in favour of a pushbike or one of the frequent 45 or 47 buses.

An active residents association helps to foster the strong sense of community that so many people enthuse about, organising front-of-house sales, an annual Christmas party for local children and other social events as well as the kind of bread-and-butter meetings that deal with parking problems, gripes about rubbish bags and other parish pump matters.

In Second Avenue, human resources professional Louise Holland is happy to let her eight-year-old daughter, Fay, play in the street with neighbours children and wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

"It's really friendly here. In some ways, it's more like a village than some villages. Everyone in the street knows everyone else and it feels safe for the children to play on the pavement - just like I did when I was a girl," she explains.

"The fact that the park is right here on our doorstep was one of the factors that influenced our decision to buy a house here. It's a great place for the children to play. We've even had birthday parties there. You get a real sense of being in the country, although, of course, you are in the town.

"Its lovely and quiet here even though the Pershore Road can be busy during the day. Sometimes, when I'm walking home at night, I can hear the small river running along at the far end of the street.

"Having the Mac virtually on our doorstep is also a big plus. Its only a ten-minute walk away and there is loads to do there - everything from live music and theatre to Saturday morning drama classes for my daughter and evening classes in jewellery making. We go there all the time. Like the park, it's a real treasure - and right on our doorstep."

Her enthusiasm is shared by Mike and Fiona Lacey, who live in the next street with their school-age children, Paula and Robin.

Such is the strength of community spirit that the residents of Second Avenue even organise an annual summer street party, happily collecting £7.50 from each household that joins in, baking cakes and putting in the prep for plastic duck races on the River Rae.

It's not unusual for residents to come home on a spring night and find half a dozen neighbours gathered around the front of one home having cracked open a couple of bottles of plonk while they discuss the high-points of last year's party and share the chores for this year's event.

The August bash is also bound to see the welcome return of several former residents - as it does each year.

They move to upsize or to qualify for the catchment area of a desirable secondary school in another neighbourhood.

The lack of a single, strong feeder school for Year Six pupils leaving Raddlebarn Primary School and St Edward's Catholic Primary School - the two most popular junior schools for Selly Park families - is probably this neighbourhood's Achille's heel.

For many parents, that means moving house or opting for a fee-paying school.

The grander houses on the far side of the Pershore Road are one popular choice for upsizers who want to stay in the immediate area.

Would-be buyers are spoiled for choice if they drive along leafy Upland Road, Oakfield Road, Selly Wick Road or Selly Park Road.

There are well-maintained detached Victorian and Edwardian houses in abundance, not to mention plenty of spacious inter-war properties, 60s-looking bungalows, some more recent-looking and modest homes, the odd modern infill - even a hacienda-style horror.

On the Pershore Road itself, Temple Oak's builders are busy putting up a clutch of new four-bed executive homes on a plot of land once occupied by a now-demolished nursery - and there's a waiting list of potential buyers, according to agent Dixons.

The homes are taking shape on the opposite side of the road to the Selly Park Tavern, a popular meeting place with an equally popular bowling green and clubhouse behind it.

Shops are few and far between but residents get by with a Chinese takeaway, a curry house, a couple of petrol stations, a doctor's surgery, chemist's shop and Spar.

The local market is buoyant enough with Sue Robinson, assistant manager and executive valuer with Dixons - one of the dominant local estate agents - reporting brisk sales of well-maintained homes with original features in the Avenues as well as any of the bigger detached homes that come on to the market on the other side of the Pershore Road.

"The Avenues and these grander homes are always popular," she says. "The Avenues tend to appeal to people who are relocating to Birmingham from elsewhere. One look and they fall in love with the place - and they tend to stay until they want to upgrade or have to move away from the city because of their job.

"They also appeal to people who can't quite afford the postcode they really want."

According to Sue, there is a definite pecking order at the Avenues, with Sir John's Road and Fourth Avenue at the top - properties can fetch anything from £275,000 to just under £300,000 - and gradually descending prices as you move down from Third, to Second to First.

Even the cheapest homes fetch £200,000, although Sue is quick to point out that unsympathetically "improved" houses with naff replacement windows and internal fixtures can be hard to shift.

Across the main road, buyers are prepared to pay anything from £500,000 to £800,00 for an individually designed detached five or six-bedroom home with a quarter-acre garden and sweeping drive.

And the future looks even brighter for property-owners wanting a healthy return on their bricks-and-mortar investment. Their eyes are firmly fixed on the former BBC Pebble Mill site, where a £90 million research and development park is about to rise up from the rubble.

The words of one council spokesman when referring to an anticipated £1.3 billion-plus spending on this site, the new super-hospital and Birmingham Battery site at the nearby Selly Oak Triangle must be music to their ears.

"This investment will not only strengthen Selly Oak as the hub of the city's knowledge-based economy, it will also create major opportunities for residential growth and employment," he says.

"Selly Oak (and that means Selly Park as part of the wider area) will be reinvigorated as a place to work, live and play in south Birmingham. It will also become a vibrant urban village and exemplar for delivering quality, sustainable development and living concepts."

It's not clear what little Fay and her Second Avenue playmates will make of that. They're more concerned with the prospect of another street party stretching into the wee small hours and a summer of playing in the park, cycling along the Rae Valley cycle path, visiting the Birmingham Nature Centre and craft workshops at the Mac.