Londoners get a chance to explore the capital’s hidden gardens and private squares on Saturday and Sunday June 8 and 9. The Open Garden Squares weekend is part of a wider initiative to put nature and creative landscaping at the heart of new residential communities — to weave green space into the fabric of the capital so that city-dwellers do not have to go in search of it.
At the end of May, the first of Mayor Boris Johnson’s 100 “pocket parks” was unveiled in Landor Road, Stockwell. His aim is to transform small urban spaces (typically about the size of a tennis court) into green retreats.
Green space improves quality of life and is of great recreational use, particularly for young families. Living close to a park or open space does not have to cost a fortune. Increasingly, affordable homes are sprouting up alongside, even within, parks, often as part of wider regeneration prioritising the natural environment.
Shared-ownership at Orchard Village east London
Award-winning Orchard Village in east London is an £80 million regeneration of a Sixties council estate built to accommodate Ford Dagenham workers. The new name picks up on the site’s former use as a fruit farm. Green corridors through the development link open spaces within and around the site, including a new community square with grids of trees and sculptures of giant apples, cherries and strawberries. Circle Anglia housing association is buiding 555 new homes for rent, shared ownership and private sale over the next six years. Visit circle.org.uk or call 020 7288 4000.
“Public parks and community spaces are an extension of the home for many young people and families who cannot afford a property with a private garden or a large terrace,” says Jaimie Beers of South Bank estate agent Madley Property. He cites Tanner Street Gardens, an upgraded space alongside fashionable Bermondsey Street, which is now a new neighbourhood hub, with tennis courts, picnic lawns and a children’s play area.
Burgess Park, south-east London
Burgess Park, a 113-acre expanse running between Peckham and Walworth, is one of the green spaces benefiting from mayoral investment, topped up by £6 million from Southwark council. The park has a number of listed buildings including a Victorian church, library and baths, almshouses and artisan cottages, and is being upgraded with a new lake, entrances, pathways and recreational areas plus 90,000 new plants and trees and a wildlife garden.
L&Q housing association has launched Albany Place, which borders the park. This comprises four new buildings with 261 homes. Prices at Ruskin Walk, which overlooks the park, start at £220,000.
Cowdrey Mews, in a leafy area of Lower Sydenham, is another L&Q scheme. Buyers are being offered free membership of nearby Beckenham Cricket Club, a multi-sports club and grounds. Prices from £197,500.
Central Park, a new development bordering Blackheath and Greenwich, is a council estate transformation. The first phase of 328 homes in jazzy-looking apartment blocks lines a new urban park. The homes, including three-bedroom family houses, are being built to high energy-efficiency standards in order to reduce fuel bills and service charges. A district heating system will supply heating and hot water to all of the homes, while electricity generated from solar energy will be used to power lifts and communal lighting. Prices start £225,000. Shared-ownership options are available. Visit centralparkliving.co.uk or call Family Mosaic housing association on 020 7089 3917.
Brenley Park ,Mitcham
A short walk from Mitcham Common are the four open acres of Brenley Park, where new brick terraces of apartment blocks, each divided into six homes, are a modern reference to the area’s Victorian housing stock. It is a “tenure blind” scheme, with a mix of private, rented and shared-ownership homes, and also boasting traffic-free home zones, a children’s play area and a “green” (outside) gym. Homes start from £66,000 for a 40 per cent share. Visit nottinghillhousing.co.org.uk.
Victoria Park, east London
Victoria Park in east London has acquired “village” status due to the cluster of independent shops, bars and eateries that have sprouted up around Lauriston Road. Who would have guessed a Ginger Pig butchers and a Burberry outlet store would pop up here in the Hackney heartland?
For many, it remains a leafy secret, just far enough away from the hard urban face of Stratford but close enough to benefit from all the new amenities and infrastructure resulting from the Olympics.
Park Apartments at Cadogan Terrace is a new-build block directly overlooking the park. The less-enticing rear of the building faces on to the roaring Blackwell Tunnel Approach Road. Homes have up to four bedrooms. Prices from £250,000. Call Thomson Currie on 020 7226 0000. Visit opensquares.org