Give up the commute, live in a park

Rent a newly refurbished lodge in one of London's Royal Parks and you can forget the rush hour
£2,500 a week: for a lodge next to the Serpentine - and close to Harrods
© Rex features
£2,500 a week: for a lodge next to the Serpentine - and close to Harrods
A collection of lodges and cottages are becoming available to rent as part of the Royal Parks' Better Buildings Programme, which aims to generate revenue in these tough economic times by making more effective use of historic architecture.

For Londoners who love the rustic but not the rush-hour, these homes and their verdant settings could be an alternative to a commute from the Shires.

There are eight Royal Parks in London, all owned by the Crown Estate, covering 5,500 acres (14 square kilometres). With more than 35,000 monuments to admire and wildlife that includes deer, bats and tawny owls, tenants can enjoy the landscape their rent helps maintain.

The homes were used as accommodation for gardeners and rangers, but now they are having serious makeovers and are becoming "quite magical", according to Nicky Malden of lettings agent Cluttons.

"In their little piece of countryside in the heart of the city, tenants have rare access to some of London's finest green spaces," he says.

"The park becomes an extension of their living space. They once again become very attuned to the changing seasons, from daffodils in spring to autumn leaves and mists."

£480 a week: The Old Gate Lodge is a small but very quaint stucco-fronted building on the edge of Richmond Park
£480 a week: The Old Gate Lodge is a small but very quaint stucco-fronted building on the edge of Richmond Park
Once the tourists, office workers and strollers have gone, the city's parks become leafy havens and virtually private. Some people may find it spooky. At night the parks are dark and quiet, but despite the nocturnal wildlife these homes are safer than many as the parks are patrolled by police.

Rents range from £450 to £3,400 a week for a large house, and are ideal for singles, couples and families who baulk at commuter fares. One lodge is next to the Serpentine in Hyde Park, handy for Harrods and Harvey Nicks. It has three bedrooms and 2,300 sq ft of space and has been let for £2,500 a week.

"Rarely do you find a detached house with garden and parking in Knightsbridge at this price," adds Malden.

What's available and what are the rules of renting in a Royal Park?


* Tenants must have a licence rather than a tenancy agreement. Rentals can be for longer or shorter periods, subject to negotiation.
* Buckhill Lodge in Kensington Gardens and delightful Queen's Gate Lodge are available from next year, while Prince of Wales Lodge, a 480sq ft gem in Hyde Park, is up for re-letting next February.
Buckhill Lodge is a delightful and well-proportioned Victorian house in Kensington Gardens, available to rent in autumn 2012
Buckhill Lodge is a delightful and well-proportioned Victorian house in Kensington Gardens, available to rent in autumn 2012
* Not all homes are prized listed buildings: some lodges were built between the 1930s and the 1970s, but often it is all about the setting and the location. Vanburgh Gate Lodge, soon to be refurbished, in majestic Greenwich Park, would suit a Canary Wharf or City banker. Blackheath Gate Lodge, also in Greenwich Park, dates from 1840. It is built in classical Georgian style, backs on to the deer enclosure and has a private garden.
* A fresh generation of new-build park lodges seems unlikely but architect Alan Power has won planning consent for a spectacular modern family house to replace the former 1960s porter's lodge on a plot near the Commonwealth Institute in Holland Park. Call 020 7229 9375.
* The Royal Parks are: Bushy Park, Green Park, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regent's Park, Richmond Park, St James's Park, Brompton Cemetery.
* Contact Cluttons on 020 7647 7224 or visit cluttons.com. Find more information at about Royal Parks at royalparks.gov.uk

'We feel we have entered a hidden world - and even our visitors cannot find us'


Stephanie and Jim Heynderickx can hear the lions and baboons at London Zoo from the Regent's Park lodge they moved to a year ago. The couple work at the American School in St John's Wood, attended by their two children, Doug and Eve.

"The first thing that struck us was the beautiful front and back gardens, which the Royal Park staff plant and maintain," says Stephanie. "The back garden leads down to the Regent's Canal and, being ardent boat lovers, we enjoy the lively purr of barge boats passing by.

Stephanie, with children Eve and Doug, in their garden by Regent's Canal
© Graham Hussey
Stephanie, with children Eve and Doug, in their garden by Regent's Canal
"The property is surrounded by a wrought-iron fence and a thick hedge. You feel you have entered a hidden world. Crowds of people pass by on their way to the zoo or while walking in the park, but very few seem to know we are here behind the hedges.

"Our sanctuary can be a challenge for visitors or anyone trying to make a delivery. We have laughed about the number of people who can't find our small driveway.

"The park is on our doorstep with fields to run around in, and the rose gardens are just a short walk away. We can safely ride our bikes on the Inner and Outer Circles, or go for a jog on the paths or track in all seasons.

"We hope to stay in this beautiful and unique place for as long as possible."


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