Hot spot: Barnes, South West London

Common, but seldom cheap
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The Independent Online

A river, a large common and poor communications help Barnes maintain its character and its consistently buoyant property values.

A river, a large common and poor communications help Barnes maintain its character and its consistently buoyant property values. "It is monumentally popular, and the supply of houses always falls short of demand," Simon Banks, of estate agent Friend and Falcke, says.

"This area has traditionally been popular with media types, and starting about 10 years ago City buyers started appearing in large numbers. Our buyers now are mainly investment bankers, and the few who aren't tend to be owners of companies, and wealthy professionals."

City types have the motive as well as the means to live in pricey Barnes. "Transport is pretty bad," Mr Banks adds. "There are several bus lines, but buses are not reliable, and the mainline train goes only to Waterloo. Prices are stable during problem times and absolutely insane during booms. The buyer has to be someone very wealthy in the City."

Barnes is especially appealing to bankers with school-age children. "This area has fabulous schools and it's perfect for families who want something smaller and quieter than Wandsworth, Clapham, Battersea, and Fulham."

In fact, the area schools are among the best in the country, including St Pauls, Collet Court, Harrodian, Godolphin and Latymer, and one French and one Swedish school. The village pond and the area's many playing fields and tennis courts (Tim Henman lives there) are further family draws. The large Barnes Common has taken much of the area's available land out of residential circulation, although some properties are on the Common. Friend and Falcke are selling The Gate House, a detached single-storey three-bedroom Edwardian house commingled with a listed 18-century gatehouse, for £795,000.

Barnes, hemmed in by water and untouchable greenfield sites, has exploited its only large-scale redevelopment prospects. The Harrods Depository has luxury flats, and the four redundant reservoirs east of Castlenau are now a housing complex and a 105-acre wetlands centre. A disused police station facing the river on Lonsdale Road is also being redeveloped. Lonsdale Road is directly opposite the Thames for a short stretch near Barnes Village, but as the road curves toward Castlenau, it veers from the river. Properties then become separated from the river by woods, schools and playing fields. Proximity to Hammersmith Bridge and large gardens are among the compensations in this otherwise secluded section.

The low-down

Transport

Barnes station is on the Common and is served by the Waterloo-Richmond-Windsor line. Barnes Bridge station is near the river as well as the town centre and is on the Waterloo- Hounslow spur. Buses link with the underground at Putney and Hammersmith. At the latter, the Duck Bus shuttles to the highly popular Wetland Centre.

Prices

A few small or ex-council flats are available for less than £200,000. Chesterton is selling a top-floor, two-bed conversion on Lonsdale Road for £235,000, and a three-bed house in Boileau Road for £400,000.

Mind the gap

Friend and Falcke have a two-bed conversion flat on Lonsdale Road at the foot of Hammersmith Bridge, £325,000. A similar sized second-floor flat in Harrods Village is £680,000. The huge converted warehouse includes concierge service, security guards, 24 hour porterage, communal riverside gardens, leisure club and business centre.

Properties

Small Victorian terraces originally built for brewery workers in the Little Chelsea area of Barnes sell for about £350,000. At the top end of the price scale, the Chelsea office of Aylesford estate agents are selling a two-bed triple-garage house with library, conservatory and furniture on Trinity Church Road for £1.5m.

Sure thing

A double-fronted detached six- or seven-bed Victorian family house near Barnes Common has numerous period features and damage on the first floor caused by a recent storm. Repairs are covered by insurance. Price £1.75m, at Friend and Falcke.

Lets

Chesterton is letting a three-double-bed unfurnished house near Barnes Bridge station for £3,750 per calendar month, and another three-bedder, furnished contemporary terrace in Barnes Village for £3,800. A one-bed flat with pool and gym privileges in Harrods Village is letting for £1,516.

Wetlands

In addition to a growing water-vole population, Wetland Centre attractions include "squelching" through a mangrove swamp in the Discovery Centre, an observatory, educational films, an art gallery, shop and a café ( www.wetlandcentre.org.uk). For twitchers, Friend and Falcke are selling a 4,000sq ft house that overlooks it, with an observation turret in the roof space. Price on application.

Trouble in paradise

Some homeowners in the Ferry and Suffolk Roads area say they are worried about bus blight, and everyone in Barnes was upset when the pond suddenly went dry. Local news, including market sites and times, is available on the Barnes Community Association website: www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~barnesca/. Barnes is in the Borough of Richmond: you can find out more about local facilities online, at the website www.richmond.gov.uk.

Estate agents

Aylesford, 020-7351 3740; Barnard Marcus, 020-8748 2641; Chesterton 020-8748 7733; Friend and Falcke, 020-8878 4942.

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