Garden towns and villages have made a surprising comeback of late, largely as a by-product of our desperate search for a solution to the housing crisis. The government announced at the start of the year that it intended to build three new towns of 10,000 houses each, in a bid to reach a target of 200,000 new homes.
So it’s only right that we should pay homage to Queen’s Park in north west London, which began life as a precursor to the garden city movement that would follow 50 years later. “Built by a Victorian philanthropist, it was the first time that social housing was built as a suburb instead of a housing estate,” says David Fell, research analyst at Hamptons International estate agent.
“Nearly all of the homes were rented, priced according to the occupation of the tenant. These chocolate box cottages still line both sides of the railway line with homes to the north in NW6 going for 20 per cent more than those on the other side of the tracks in W10.”
To this day, the village vibe persists, with a high street dominated by small shops that attract independent retailers, large open green spaces and there’s even a farmers market on Sundays in a local primary school. Estate agent Dexters, which has an office in nearby Maida Vale, says it’s “one of the trendiest high streets in the area.” In the last decade, cool pubs like The Alice House and The Salusbury, Italian restaurant Ostuni, organic cafe Hugo’s and Japanese eatery Michiko Sushino have all cropped up, giving the area a distinctive feel from its neighbours.
“Queen’s Park is very well looked after,” says sales manager at Foxtons’ closest office, Oliver Browne. “You will find botanical gardens, a specially developed jogging track, state-of-the-art children’s playgrounds and outdoor table tennis. There’s also a great petting zoo, with goats, rabbits, sheep and even a bird atrium.”
With all this on offer, it’s no wonder Queen’s Park’s popularity has sky-rocketd with families upsizing from nearby Hampstead and Notting Hill. In addition to local amenities, many of the period houses have large lawn gardens, and schools such as Salusbury Primary School, Manor School and Ark Brunel Primary Academy prove a draw. And with good transport links via the Bakerloo Line and the London Overground, it’s very commutable for mum and dad, too.
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“The most popular roads are those leading to the park itself, such as Windermere Avenue and Summerfield Avenue, plus Kingswood Avenue where properties actually overlook the park,” explains Jo Eccles, from independent property advisor Sourcing Property. She also highlights the relative savings that can be made if you’re moving from more upmarket postcodes.
“Flats in the area sell for approximately £850 to £1,000psqft, depending on the street and whether it’s been fully extended. Compare this to areas such as Notting Hill and Holland Park – where prices are approximately £1,500psqft as a minimum starting price, up to around £2,500psqft for the better properties – and for many buyers, it’s a no brainer to choose Queen’s Park instead.”
Families tend to be attracted to bigger period homes, but recently a number of small scale developments – notably eight apartments at Lime Tree Apartments on Willesden Lane and 19 homes at Canterbury Lofts on Canterbury Lane – have given first time buyers and investors more reasons to consider the area. And with house prices increasing by 14.6 per cent in the last two years, according to Hamptons data, now is the time to move in before the big developers do.
House prices Source: Zoopla
Transport Source: TfL
Time to Canary Wharf: 31 mins
Time to Liverpool Street: 30 mins
Nearest train station: Queen’s Park
Best roads Source: Hamptons International
Most Expensive: Kingswood Ave: £3,196,750
Best Value: Malvern Road: £413,689
As Cameron Diaz wisely observes in There’s Something About Mary, everything tastes better on sticks. That’s why a visit to Pop Bakery on Kilburn Lane is a must because it’s basically a shop full of chocolate cake on sticks – top stuff. Next on the list is The Alice House pub, a now familiar mixture of vintage chic decor, inventive cocktails and craft beers. The Queens Park Design District – a number of independent artisans based around Londsdale Road, Salusbury Road and Kimberly Road – has grown to be part of the London Design Festival. And Queens Park itself is very much central to community life, with a miniature golf course, a petanque pitch and an ornamental garden. It also hosts Queens Park Day every September – part village fete, part music festival – with the local residents’ association.