Country-style living in London: modern family homes set in acres of parkland for commuters looking for best of both worlds
The search for country homes has quadrupled since coronavirus struck but as with all panic attacks, once initial fears fade of the dangers of too much urban density, Londoners start to have second thoughts about being too far from the bright lights.
For home searchers who cringe at the prospect of a long commute, there is a “halfway house” — the semi-rural area offering village life and local charm, away from the heart of London yet still within easy reach of it.
One way to find such a haven without leaving the capital behind is to search for a country house conversion on an old estate with grounds and distant fields.
And with Covid-19 hovering around, a new, sparkling-clean home becomes even more attractive.
Such country-in-the-city schemes offer the rural-style living that Londoners like, with low maintenance, no cracking walls or leaking roof, all set in ready-manicured gardens and often including on-site luxuries, such as a gym, that you’d have to drive a long way to find if you bought out in the sticks.
A boutique development in Wimbledon
At Copse Hill south of Wimbledon Common, a former country estate built almost 300 years ago combines historic and modern.
Wimbledon Hill Park is now a boutique development of houses and grand apartments.
The homes are on the site of a “country” villa built by a wealthy London goldsmith in 1757.
The house survived as a private home for more than 100 years, with residents including the second Duke of Wellington, before it was demolished in 1869 and replaced by the Atkinson Morley Hospital, a Victorian convalescent home.
During the Second World War the hospital, by then a neurological facility, pioneered the world’s first CT scans.
The hospital closed in 2003 and in 2008 Berkeley Homes bought the site. The old hospital building has been converted into apartments, with another 140 new homes being built around it.
Build quality is high, which is reflected in the prices. Flats in the current, final phase, The Mansions, start at £599,950 for a one-bedroom home and £875,000 for a two-bedroom property, completing by the end of the year.
This site scores strongly on open space, with just over 25 acres to explore including the adjacent park, with the expanses of Wimbledon and Putney Commons and Richmond Park just north of the site.
The private grounds have been imaginatively landscaped with naturalistic meadows, parkland and a central garden square planted with flowers, herbs and mature trees.
There’s an on-site gym and cinema, and trains to Waterloo from the nearest station, Raynes Park, take just over 20 minutes. An annual season ticket costs from £1,400.
A Bromley makeover
Another mansion getting a modern makeover is Grade I-listed Sundridge Park in Bromley.
Designed by John Nash, architect of Regency London, it was built in 1797 as a private country estate for a wealthy corn merchant.
Prices from £950,000: two-bedroom apartments at The Mansion at Sundridge Park in Bromley, a period property with a modern makeover
It stayed in private hands until 1901, before being converted first into a hotel, then a management training centre. More recently it was a conference centre and wedding venue.
Now it has become 22 flats overlooking private parkland laid out by great 18th-century landscape designer Humphry Repton, with sculptured gardens, woodland walks and Sundridge Park Golf Club, totalling 300 acres.
Two-bedroom flats at The Mansion at Sundridge Park start at £950,000.
Trains from Sundridge Park to Charing Cross take 44 minutes. An annual season ticket costs from £1,484.
Harefield Place in Ickenham, Uxbridge, a classic red-brick Georgian country house, was built in 1785 for Sir Roger Newdigate, the lord of the manor. It was later a hospital and offices, then became very dilapidated.
From £1 million: grand apartments at Harefield Place in Ickenham, west London, in travel Zone 5, come with residents’ swimming pool, inset, plus a gym and tennis courts
Now the house, on a private road in eight acres of landscaped grounds with views of Colne Valley Regional Park, is being extended and converted into 25 homes, priced from £1 million for a two-bedroom flat and £1.6 million for a three-bedroom flat.
The conversion, with a gym, swimming pool and tennis courts, will be completed later this year.
The nearest Tube, a mile-and-a-half away, is Ickenham, in Zone 5 on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines.
“Harefield Place is the perfect mix of old world charm in a tranquil setting, yet perfectly accessible for commuters,” says Charlotte Moxon, head of new homes south at Strutt & Parker.
“This is exactly what our buyers want from a development like this — convenience with a charming village feel.”
Homes for sale in Mill Hill
In deepest north London, Mill Hill is as close as the capital gets to “real” countryside.
It’s surrounded by lush green belt, with farmland and footpaths, riding stables, golf clubs and spectacular open views, all within an easy commute of the city.
Blackfriars is 31 minutes away and an annual season ticket starts at £1,400. There are useful shops, cafés, and restaurants at Mill Hill Broadway about a mile away.
Rosary Manor is a Grade II-listed former convent, built in the late 17th century on the site of a much older country estate.
It was later used as a school, which closed in 2007 and Bellis Homes took on its conversion into 11 flats.
These apartments, as large as a modest house, range from 1,800sq ft to 4,000sq ft, some with private terraces, and overlook more than 150 acres of open land.
Prices start at £1.35 million for a two-bedroom flat. There is also a detached house within the original convent gatehouse, priced at £875,000.
Prices from £669,500: flats and houses at Ridgeway Views, on the former National Institute for Medical Research site in Mill Hill, NW7
Nearby and on a much larger scale, Ridgeway Views is a 47-acre scheme of 460 homes being built on the old National Institute for Medical Research site by Barratt London.
The developer has encouraged wildlife with bird boxes and a special passageway for hedgehogs to cross the site, while communal terraces overlook the 240-acre Totteridge Valley.
All homes have private outdoor space plus floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the greenery outside. The site also includes a play area, a fitness trail and landscaped gardens featuring more than 4,000 trees.
Prices start from £669,500 for a two-bedroom flat and £2.1 million for a five-bedroom house. The first residents moved in last year and the development will be completed by the end of next year.