The phenomenal number of waterways in east London — all the docks, canals and rivers — combined with the sporty allure of the superb canoeing and rowing facilities at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, have fostered enthusiasm for all things aquatic in and around Docklands.
The area has seen an explosion in clubs dedicated to water sports, from kayaking and bell boating to rafting and even raft building.
For those who prefer to gaze at the water from a deckchair rather than dive in, the Urban London Beach returns this summer to the Royal Docks in E16.
Developers have duly noted the trend, building houses and flats beside the water and priced at every level.
Come on in, the water’s lovely at royal docks
The 2012 Olympics put Newham on the new homes map, with record numbers of buyers keen to take advantage of the London Aquatics Centre and the rest of the sports facilities that are the legacy of the Games.
This year the borough saw London’s fastest property price growth, with an average rise of 14 per cent.
Europe's largest floating village
Newham will soon be home to Europe’s largest floating village at Royal Victoria Dock, where Carillion Igloo Genesis will create homes, shops and restaurants and a potential floating lido. Heaven for outdoor swimmers, Royal Docks is now home to the UK’s fastest-growing mass participation sport, providing a safe stretch of water for casual and competitive swimming, including courses and training.
At Royal Victoria Dock, the Great London Swim takes place on July 1 this year with 22,000 competitors expected to swim in the open waters next to ExCeL London exhibition centre, watched by about 50,000 spectators.
All ages and abilities can try rowing, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, bell boating and raft building at the London Watersports Centre at Royal Docks. Visit londonsroyaldocks.com to find out more about the 2,000-metre rowing course with seven racing lanes plus a boathouse and rowing tank.
Wakeboarding and paddle boarding are on offer at London’s premier wakeboarding centre, Wakeup Docklands, at Royal Victoria Dock (wakeupdocklands.com). Meanwhile, Chris Romer-Lee of architectural practice Studio Octopi is responsible for the capital’s most ambitious outdoor swimming proposal, the Thames Baths project.
It is now closer to becoming a reality with plans to install a floating 25-metre heated lap pool on a pontoon in the Thames between the Millennium Bridge and Blackfriars.
An all-party parliamentary group has been set up and Romer-Lee hopes the pool could open by 2020: “It has taken three years to get this far but reception from Londoners is enormous.”
E16 new homes
Royal Docks West is a 19-storey tower containing 105 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom homes, including 26 affordable homes, alongside retail space and public landscaped gardens in Western Gateway. Developer Mount Anvil’s Jon Hall says the range of local sporting facilities gives buyers “an exceptional quality of life”, including proximity to the Urban London Beach, a stretch of sand for free family fun days, returning to Royal Victoria Dock on July 17.
Royal Docks West homes will be ready by next year. Studios start from £385,000 with service charges from £4.55 per square foot and annual ground rent from £350. Call 020 3883 7238.
On the south side of the river, Surrey Docks Fitness and Watersports Centre has plenty to offer enthusiasts including sailing, kayaking, windsurfing and canoeing. Also in SE16, the latest phase of Quebec Quarter has one-bedroom flats from £560,000 and Help to Buy is available. Monthly service charges start from £274.16 plus £300 yearly ground rent. Call L&Q on 03330 033 663.
Tom Daley Diving Academy
Dubbed “the pool of champions” the London Aquatics Centre in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (londonaquaticscentre.org) with its stunning, wave-like roof is home to the Tom Daley Diving Academy.
The park’s waterways have been cleaned up and water sports now take place on the River Lea, where a summer programme includes canoeing, rowing and stand up paddle boarding which can be enjoyed year-round when a new pontoon is installed next month.
The latest phase of homes inside the park at Chobham Manor launches this summer, with two-bedroom flats from £580,000.
No ground rent applies, but there is a yearly “park charge” of about £850 and service charge of £1,600. Call 020 3435 9269.
A 10-minute bike ride away in Bow, half of the 79 studios, one-, two- and three bedroom apartments at Merchants Walk have now been sold. Peabody’s Andrew Peglau says their young professional buyers all say how much they enjoy the leisure facilities on their doorstep. One-bedroom flats start from £375,000 with monthly service charge of £116 plus £350 ground rent a year. Help to Buy is available. Call 020 3369 8670.
Developer L&Q capitalised on new E8 scheme The Overdraught’s proximity to Laburnum Boat Club in Haggerston, with their promo video showing a kayaker paddling to work along Regent’s Canal. One-bedroom flats start from £565,000 with a monthly service charge of £69 plus annual ground rent of £300. Call 0333 0033 780.
Homes near London’s lidos command a premium, says agent Simon Gerrard of Martyn Gerrard, who finds, however, that sales are brisker in winter when traffic congestion around busy lidos subsides.
Members of swimming group The Icicles have had Brockwell Lido in Herne Hill all to themselves throughout winter months, but May marks the start of the summer season at the unheated pool, which estate agent Pedder’s Nick Manley calls a “local institution”, with swimmers queuing around the block in summer.
Elm Park Gardens is a mile and a half away, where Hambridge Homes has built six freehold four-bedroom townhouses, priced from £799,000. Call Pedder on 020 7738 6839.
Dip into London Fields
Set to reopen in summer after a refurb, London Fields Lido in E8 overlooks the park’s 31 acres, as does Quadra, an “age exclusive” development which might hold special appeal for water babies who are over 55, due to its location. A joint venture between Hanover Housing Association and housebuilder Hill, 29 flats start from £625,000 for a one-bedroom home with annual service charges of £1,747 and £350 ground rent. Call Currell on 020 3826 4888.
Get the best of both worlds in Greenwich
Living near water where you can swim, surf or sail is an aspiration for 18 per cent of home owners surveyed by Strutt & Parker, while 47 per cent just wanted the views. Residents at Greenwich Millennium Village, on the tip of Greenwich Peninsula, can enjoy both at latest phase, Iverna Quay, which has views of the river, yet is tucked neatly behind Greenwich Yacht Club.
Two-bedroom apartments at the 10-storey building start from £529,995 with service charges from £2.75 per square metre and annual ground rent of £400. Call 020 8305 2712.