Isleworth may not have the cachet of pricey Chiswick or Twickenham, but it's got the same waterfront charm
Don't blame yourself if you are unfamiliar with this small, late- blooming pocket of Georgian gorgeousness: "Old Isleworth started being regenerated in the mid-1980s," says Robert Leigh, of the estate agents Featherstone Leigh. "This part of the river had been commercial but, as industry died out, the buildings weren't replaced and much of it became derelict."

The area has little choice but to be obscure. Isleworth Ait, a long, narrow island, obstructs the view of Old Isle- worth from the busy towpath alongside Kew Botanical Gardens. And with public transport side-stepping the area, few people have any reason to go either to or through it. If not for drivers accidentally taking the wrong turning when exiting the grounds of Syon House, almost no one would be aware of its existence.

"Old Isleworth is a general area on the north bank of the Thames between Brentford and Twickenham which combines smart new developments and the classically old. But when most people think of Old Isleworth, they are referring to the Victorian and Georgian properties on Church Road leading to Syon House," says Mr Leigh.

"It's a very pretty spot, with an old riverside atmosphere and a new community starting to mature," he says. Two old pubs, the Town Wharf and, especially, the London Apprentice, provide a solid social foundation.

Old Isleworth has much of the appeal of Chiswick's Strand-on-the-Green - minus the tourists and for considerably less money. It's compact, with every property either on, above or near the river - a handful of houses on Church Road have gardens that extend to the river's edge. But don't hold your breath: "Properties come on to the market in dribs and drabs, which keeps prices high; the nicest properties tend not to come on the market at all," says Mr Leigh.

And there are few alternatives. Immediately to the east are the expansive but untouchable grounds of Syon House. To the west are rock-star-expensive St Margaret's Trust Grounds and Richmond Hill.

However, in nearby Brentford waterside developments will emerge on redundant British Gas and Thames Water sites on the Thames, the Grand Union Canal and the River Brent. Many residential units are included in ambitious mixed-use schemes that will profoundly transform this pleasantly shabby district.

At the Chiswick end of Kew Bridge, Barratt is rapidly completing 62 luxury flats in the former office eyesore known as the Parsons Building. The upper floors overlook the river - and if Berkeley or St James have their way, they will also overlook major new developments in Kew, on redundant sewage works adjacent to the Public Records Office. In addition, two stunning apartment blocks further east at Mortlake on the very edge of the towpath will soon be ready for occupation.

The Low-Down

Transport: From Old Isleworth, it is a bit of a hike to Isleworth rail station, but Barratt's Kew Bridge House is just across from Kew Bridge station, and Mortlake developments are near Barnes Bridge station. Excellent access to the A3/M3, M4, North and South Circulars and Heathrow airport.

Prices: In Old Isleworth, modern three-to-five bedroom townhouses cost from pounds 300,000 to pounds 450,000 and period homes from pounds 400,000 to pounds 1m. Featherstone Leigh has a period Church Street property backing on to the river for pounds 399,950. The year-old Regatta Point is sold out, but Winkworth has a flat with balcony that has apparently never been lived in for pounds 260,000.

From office blue to luxury white: Barratt's pounds 14m Kew Bridge House, the former Parsons office block, has one-, two- and three-bedroom flats - including three penthouses - from pounds 230,000 to pounds 850,000.

Brentford gentrified: The Ferry Lane development, which has already received planning permission, will include about 350 residential units along with social housing, a business hotel and retail and commercial units. When the large British Gas site situated to the east and the British Waterways site to the west have been developed, a large swathe of Brentford will have been smartened up, and about time, too.

On the waterfront, Mortlake style: Crown Dilmun's Mortlake Riverside has 14 one- and two-bedroom apartments, four of which are duplexes. Five two-bedroom flats remain, from pounds 345,000. Literally inches from Mortlake Riverside is the "wharf style" four-storey Michael Shanly development containing nine two-bedroom flats, only one of which remains, at pounds 265,000 and no balcony. Still to be released are refurbished flats which do not face the river, from pounds 128,000. Adjacent to Mortlake Riverside is a plot which Berkeley Homes is developing.

Sociability: The two Mortlake developments are located at the finish line of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. Popular riverside pubs are just a short walk along the footpath in either direction, and nearby Barnes boasts excellent restaurants, cafes and shops.

Estate agents: Featherstone Leigh: 0181-940 1575; Capatus: Alan Briegel 0181-392 1635 or Michael Gregory 0181-392 2217; Mortlake Riverside: Boileau Braxton in Barnes 0181-741 7400; Winkworth: 0181-994 7096.