Oars in: go­ing for gold with a home on the river banks

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Hav­ing a home near the water has al­ways been im­por­tant to Ben Hun­tDavis. The Olympic row­ing cham­pion, who won gold at Syd­ney in 2000, cur­rently lives in a five-bed­room apart­ment mo­ments from the Thames in Barnes, south-west Lon­don, with his wife, Is­abella, teenage daugh­ters, Sofia and Ju­lia, and younger son, Luca.

He is plan­ning to up­grade to a house and stresses that it will, once again, be near the river. “I love be­ing close to the water, hav­ing spent a lot of time on it,” says Hunt-Davis, who co-founded the per­for­mance con­sul­tancy Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? and works as a mo­ti­va­tional speaker. “You get an amaz­ing sense of space.”

Liv­ing in this cor­ner of Barnes has given Hunt-Davis year-round ac­cess to the Thames from nearby Ham­mer­smith Bridge. “I have a kayak in my gar­den and can take it down to the river when­ever I want. My daugh­ters cur­rently row and I often go out with them.” The fam­ily’s top-floor apart­ment, which has a vast open-plan kitchen/liv­ing room with a high vaulted ceil­ing, a roof ter­race and a com­mu­nal gar­den, is on the mar­ket for £1.65mil­lion with Carter Jonas.

You don’t need to be an Olympic row­ing cham­pion to en­joy an ac­tive river­side life­style. Liv­ing by the water’s edge, or at least near it, al­lows res­i­dents to dip their toes into all sorts of wa­ter­based ac­tiv­i­ties that can be en­joyed year-round.

“There is an ab­so­lute at­trac­tion to be­ing by the water and buy­ers have al­ways loved liv­ing next to a river or the sea,” says Ed Heaton, founder of Heaton & Part­ners, a buy­ing agency based in Lon­don and New­bury. He reg­u­larly re­ceives in­quiries from buy­ers look­ing for homes with a moor­ing. Fish­ing rights are also “much cov­eted”, he adds. “The op­por­tu­nity to step out of your back door and cast a fly over a rest­ing trout is one most fish­er­men can only dream about.”

A niche but grow­ing area is wild water swim­ming – what­ever the weather. “I’ve come across a few homes where the own­ers like to swim in their lake ev­ery day,” says Heaton. Such water ba­bies might be tempted by How­ells Barn, a five-bed­room con­verted Cotswold stone barn within the 550-acre Lower Mill Es­tate Na­ture Re­serve near the Glouces­ter­shire vil­lage of Somer­ford Keynes. The house (one of just two on the es­tate that can be bought as a prin­ci­pal pri­vate res­i­dence) comes with a swim­ming pool as well as ac­cess to a large la­goon – per­fect for that early morn­ing dip. There is also an airy lake­side cabin, should you need a rest af­ter- wards. It’s on the mar­ket with Knight Frank for £1.95mil­lion.

Splash­ing out to splash about doesn’t come cheap. Pre­mium homes – those with a price tag of £2mil­lion or more – on the water­front tend to be 81 per cent more ex­pen­sive than a neigh­bour­ing prop­erty with­out a river or sea view, ac­cord­ing to Knight Frank.

Even the risk of flood­ing, which would de­ter most buy­ers, is over­looked in par­tic­u­larly de­sir­able ar­eas such as Hen­ley-on-Thames in Ox­ford­shire and Mar­low in Buck­ing­hamshire, where “a buyer will still pay a pre­mium,” says Heaton.

Such is the de­mand that in Lon­don, tens of thou­sands of homes have been cre­ated along the 27-mile stretch of the Thames. “The river was a very un­de­vel­oped area and there was a lot of land avail­able to build on,” says Cas­par Har­vard-Walls, a part­ner at Black Brick buy­ing agency. “And there is some­thing iconic about liv­ing over the Thames.”

Not that river­side liv­ing is one big re­gatta. Over­build­ing and a lack of trans­port have led prices to dip on some water­front de­vel­op­ments, while some schemes “can feel quite soul­less if the de­vel­oper has not al­lowed for com­mer­cial space such as cafés and restau­rants,” says Har­vard-Walls.

One de­vel­op­ment that will ben­e­fit from both trans­port fa­cil­i­ties and social ameni­ties is Royal Docks West, a new apart­ment block from Mount Anvil in east Lon­don, be­tween the O2 Arena and Ex­CeL Lon­don. The 19-floor tower – one of many re­gen­er­a­tion projects in the area – has 105 homes rang­ing from stu­dios to three-bed­room flats. It is mo­ments from Royal Vic­to­ria DLR sta­tion and not much fur­ther from Cus­tom House sta­tion, where Cross­rail is due to be­gin next De­cem­ber.

And, of course, Royal Docks West is next to an in­let of the Thames, where lo­cals can en­joy a small beach as well as row­ing, kayak­ing, open­wa­ter swim­ming and even wake­board­ing. Se­ri­ous water en­thu­si­asts can catch the Emi­rates Air Line cable car over the river and then jump on the river bus to work.

“Rather than sit on a hot, stuffy Tube,” Heaton says, “it is so much nicer to go up the river.”

Ben and Is­abella Hunt-Davis’ home, main and be­low, is on the mar­ket for £1.65m with Carter Jonas; How­ells Barn in Glouces­ter­shire, bot­tom, is £1.95m with Knight Frank

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