More and more Londoners are taking their summer holidays at home in the city. The capital's residents increasingly prefer to take time off to enjoy their homes and the rich and varied cultural programme on their doorstep during July and August.
© Barry Phillips
This is when city parks are alive with open-air opera, theatre and musical events - both on the big stages of the Royal Parks and in tiny "secret" squares across the capital.
'Secluded homes in the beating heart of the capital that offer a "through the wardrobe" experience strike a chord with urbanites who want a haven close to the action'
London has more green space than most world cities. As well as the eight Royal Parks, there are heaths and commons, 600 garden squares (many open to the public), and countless public-owned parks and National Trust and English Heritage estates.
Mayor Boris Johnson has joined in the drive to encourage us to enjoy the capital. A newly-launched "great outdoors" initiative - with more than 80 projects completed or in the pipeline - is aimed at improving the quality of London neighbourhoods, while the Royal Institution of British Architects is sponsoring a "forgotten spaces" competition for the imaginative re-use and adaptation of neglected plots, encouraging designers to work with local groups and residents wherever possible.
A showpiece new community park, one of the largest in London outside the Olympics zone, is to be created as part of the Myatts Fields regeneration in Stockwell (left), bringing 808 new homes to the market for rent, sale and shared ownership, due for completion next year.
In the state-of-the-art community centre there will be a new IT suite, café, crèche, and for grow-your-own enthusiasts - allotments. For more information visit prparchitects.co.uk.
Modestly-priced homes are available at Royal Parkside, Sandy Lane, alongside Bushy Park (from £359,995), while at Seren, next to majestic Greenwich Park, prices start at £300,000. Call Knight Frank on 020 7861 5444.
Hampstead and Highgate are perfect places for Londoners who want to enjoy town and country. With a 790-acre heath (think countryside, not a manicured park) above two ancient villages with private roads, fashion boutiques and speciality shops, restaurants and medieval pubs, two golf courses, noted schools and an architectural mix unmatched elsewhere in the capital, this leafy corner of north London, only 15 minutes from the West End, arguably has it all.
Hampstead's Telegraph Hill was named during the Napoleonic Wars when the Admiralty built a network of semaphore signalling stations linking Whitehall to Great Yarmouth and ports along the south coast (quicker than a messenger on horseback). The station at the summit of the hill is gone but the vista can be seen from four new houses, cleverly secluded in gated grounds bordering the heath.
Sitting above a private drive hidden by a tree-lined embankment, the homes (the smallest is 5,134 sq ft) have Thirties façades and classic-contemporary interiors, with six bedrooms, cinema room, swimming pool and terraced gardens. Prices from £7 million. Call 020 7724 4724.
Homes at another Telegraph Hill, in postcode SE14, highlight the price divide north and south of the river. Nine houses with up to 2,254 sq ft of space, priced from £1.05 million to £1.095 million, are being built on a former reservoir in part of a leafy Victorian conservation area with wide tree-lined roads, two refurbished parks and a highly rated state secondary school - Haberdasher's Aske's Hatcham College.
With six-minute train connections to London Bridge, it is "one of the capital's best-kept secrets", according to Paul Bennett of developer St James. The homes have gated off-street parking behind a perimeter wall, big gardens with allotments and rear terraces.
Separate access to the ground-floor living area means the space can be used as a self-contained flat. The scheme is called St Catherine's Place. Call 020 3326 1550. Families from west and north London searching for better value south of the river are scouting the area.
Nearby Blackheath is also significantly cheaper than the leafy slopes of north London, yet occupies a high plateau alongside Greenwich Park and has a village centre plus private roads with detached houses in big plots, making it a fine place to live if you are a bonus-wielding banker employed at Canary Wharf.
The latest arrival is a niche new-build development of large period-style semis and detached houses with integral garages (much prized) in a tree-lined lane close to the heath and village. The homes are spread over three storeys (in addition to the basement garages) and have handsome brick frontages, clay tile roofs, gabled windows and porches, plus front and rear gardens. Called Liskeard Villas, the homes are due for completion in spring next year and cost from £2.25 million. Call Millwood Designer Homes on 01732 770991.
The great green tract of Richmond Park remains a magnet for Londoners who want to combine town and country. Richmond has the bonus of being on the river too, with all the leisure and sporting opportunities this provides.
Georgian grandees built country mansions there, along the rural stretches of the Thames upstream and upwind from the city's ancient heart. St Margaret's Estate, a private enclave of villas nestling in woodland, was laid out in 1854 by Viscount Raleigh. It was London's first garden suburb. Two new five-bedroom homes have been built on the 12-acre estate, priced at £3.5 million. Call Featherstone Leigh on 020 8744 0595.
White Cottage is a rare home alongside Wandsworth Common designed by Arts&Crafts master architect Charles Voysey in 1903, now on the market for £5 million. Call 020 8682 7777.
Secluded homes in the beating heart of the capital that offer a "through the wardrobe" experience strike a chord with urbanites who want a haven close to the action, says Carl Schmid of Shoreditch estate agent Fyfe McDade, which is selling a four-storey house with walled garden on busy Kingsland Road. He adds: "The property once incorporated a shopfront and is very unassuming from the outside but has a dramatic interior, with double-height ceilings and a glass wall that invites you into a courtyard garden." Price £949,950. Call 020 7613 4044.
Choumert Square on the Peckham/Camberwell border is a tucked-away avenue of Victorian cottages and 46 "mini-gardens" that have been created by the close-knit community of owners. Prices from £315,000. Call Wooster & Stock on 020 7708 6700.
And for that riviera touch...
Developers are always keen to exploit the cachet of a park-side location, and one such project - which will hugely improve the quality of the area in which it sits, thanks to its graceful reconstruction - is this week launching its second phase of homes.
The Lancasters, an exotic confection of ambassadorial elegance in Bayswater, is one of the longest terraces in London, made up of 77 grand apartments all set behind the snow-white stucco and wrought-iron façade of this restored Victorian building fronting Kensington Gardens. Show homes include one furnished and designed by David Linley with stunning bespoke pieces.
A wide forecourt has exotic French Riviera-themed landscaping (palm trees and non-symmetrical parterre gardens included) and acts as an impressive carriageway and arrival point for residents. Valet parking is one of the round-the-clock concierge services offered. Below ground are two levels of parking and luxury spas. Prices from £900,000. Call 020 7402 8822.