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

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - Open Garden Squares Weekend -

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.”

COT­TAGE GAR­DENS

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

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