On a crisp, clear-blue sky spring day, it could be a film set for a Ralph Lauren fashion shoot. The Hamptons, a 60-acre "community" of New England-style homes in suburban south-west London, is a bit of a beauty among the beasts of endless interwar terraces — but alluring nonetheless. Houses are selling quicker than the developer, St James, can build them — notable in this still uncertain property market.
Young couples and growing families are driving demand. Many are moving from higher-priced Putney, Barnes, Wimbledon and Wandsworth. Ten miles from Charing Cross and in travel zone four, the Worcester Park address is seen as a good value, child-friendly location.
Next week sees the launch of a new collection of four-bedroom houses, currently under construction and available to buy off plan. They range between 1,484sq ft and 1,665sq ft, have open-plan interiors, three bathrooms, garden and a garage. Prices start at £479,950.
The Hamptons is a housing estate like no other in the capital. Built on a former waterworks, residents arrive via a treelined avenue that opens on to a town square with community hall and clock tower. Apartments, Shaker-style cottages and houses are set out in lanes and crescents on the perimeter of the site. Painted in hues of red, blue, white and grey and bordered by white picket fencing, they have gables, porches, shutters and verandas.
After Thames Water closed the plant in 1997, areas of grassland, wildlife habitats and pools emerged on the site. This was too precious a natural asset to build on, so St James set about creating a 645-home estate set among lakes and parkland.
‘The architecture is fresh, the setting is stunning and you get a lot of house for your money’
Today, the grounds include an amphitheatre, used for concerts, on top of a hill, tennis courts, children's play area, nature trails and cycle paths.
"Buyers are drawn to the development first; they then decide which home they can afford," says sales director Tina Dedman.
Thomas Grant paid £400,000 for his four-bedroom house. He had been renting in Putney following a spell working in New York, and now has a job in the City.
"It sounds cheesy but I was hooked as soon as I saw the place. The architecture is fresh, the setting is stunning and you get a lot of house for your money. My two-bedroom flat would have cost nearly £700,000 to buy in Putney."
Thomas, 34, lives with his partner Katy White. Another attraction, they say, is the clean, well-kept, litter-free environment and "sense of community". Covenants are in place preventing residents from painting the exterior of their homes a different colour. No estate agents' sale boards are allowed and upkeep of front gardens is paid for out of the communal service charge.
Providence Place, the latest phase of 96 homes, which includes apartments, is a slight departure in design terms, with Scandinavian architectural influences complementing the New England look. Architectural purists are unlikely to be convinced, but it may be an improvement.
Close inspection of the earlier phase of houses shows that supposedly wooden façades are in fact clad in manmade grainy boards that will never mature into the faded elegance of authentic New England architecture.
The buildings now going up are said to be reminiscent of grain mills, storehouses, meeting houses and quayside warehouses and make use of natural timber and warm-coloured rendering.
That makes it sound like a theme park, but the development continues to strike a chord with buyers. A show home opens on 27 March. Call 020 8337 3425, or visit www.thehamptons.co.uk.
About 40 per cent of residents commute to central London from Worcester Park station. Fast trains to Waterloo run every 15 minutes at peak times and take about half an hour.
Georgian grandees built country mansions in this part of the world, along the then rural stretches of the Thames, upstream and upwind of the city. 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.
Right next door is Richmond Lock, a new name for a former Brunel University campus turned into an upmarket estate of villas and houses alongside the Thames. Impressive three-storey, five-bedroom town houses are for sale at Grand Terrace, the final phase.
Though formal on the outside, with portico-ed entrances, the interiors are designed for relaxed family living, having a large, open-plan kitchen/diner/family room and en-suite bedrooms.
Prices from £1.3 million. Call Featherstone Leigh on 020 8744 4320.