Homes in hidden places
House hunt over a fun weekend exploring gardens in the sky, on skips and barges and in private residential squares, says
THINK of a garden square in London and you’ll probably imagine terraces of lofty townhouses overlooking diligently tended landscaped gardens surrounded by decorative railings with firmly locked gates — entry barred to all except keyholders from the surrounding homes.
But for this week’s Open Garden Squares Weekend, gates to more than 230 of these private worlds across 27 boroughs will be thrown open to allow visitors and organised groups to wander through, discovering the part these gardens have played in London’s social history. These popular annual events also give house hunters the chance to explore new neighbourhoods.
THE HOUSEBOAT GARDENS
Garden Barge Square is the series of floating gardens connected by walkways and bridges at Downings Road, Tower Bridge Moorings. About 70 households live on the collection of houseboats near Tower Bridge, from artists to doctors, to entrepreneurs to architects, and with two gardeners they tend the organic plots developed over the last decade by residents and planted with fruit, flowers and vegetables. See towerbridgemoorings.org to enquire about vacancies at Tower Bridge Moorings.
ARLINGTON SQUARE COMMUNITY PROJECT
Back on dry land, Arlington Square, N1, shows community gardening at its best. The residents, rallied by the Arlington Association, work together to keep their gardens shipshape.
Over the last six years this volunteer army has dug in more than 50 tons of compost and manure, planted more than 45,000 bulbs, plants and shrubs, and 150 rosebushes. A neglected corner of the square is now a community garden with raised fruit and flowerbeds.
A mile up the road, Barnsbury Square residents also work together on their communal gardens. Both squares have elegant, part-stucco townhouses.
residents get stuck into the weeding and planting at Arlington Square in N1, far left, and also at Barnsbury Square, left, just a mile away A three-bedroom house in Arlington Square would cost about £1.6 million to £1.7 million, with a two-bedroom flat from £800,000 to £850,000. Prices for flats are similar in Barnsbury Square, but its houses are larger, and a five-bedroom townhouse would cost in excess of £2 million.
Because of their squares, these prices are higher than average for the area. Alex Hornby, branch manager of Fyfe Mcdade estate agents, says a similar home in a nearby street would be about 10 per cent cheaper. The “community vibe” attracts buyers he adds. “People know their neighbours and look after each other. It is what makes an area.”
Bonnington Square in Vauxhall is lined with pretty Victorian workers’ cottages. They were earmarked for demolition in the Eighties, then squatters moved in. “Over time they won the right to stay,” says Graham Walker, manager of Dexters estate agents.
By the early Nineties the square had gone respectable, and residents began to eye a patch of derelict land where six houses had stood before the war. In 1992 they won a campaign to lease the land, and got funding to build a garden square on it. They designed a modern spacewith sculptures, an arbour and archi-
Community gardening at its best:
Model for TV’s EastEnders: Fassett Square in Hackney resembles Albert Square