More For Your Money: Ham, Surrey

Along the pricier reaches of the Thames, Ham offers a bargain slice of the good life. By Robert Liebman
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The Independent Online

In common with Richmond and Kingston, its pricey and better-known neighbours, Ham borders the river Thames and Richmond Park. But Ham is considerably cheaper, largely because it lacks one feature possessed by Richmond and Kingston: a train service. But even this shortcoming is a blessing as well as a nuisance, as the area retains a bucolic ambience while benefiting from first-rate shopping and communications at its doorstep.

Ham's oldest property is a one-off, the 1610 Ham House, which is now run by the National Trust. A fair smattering of Georgian cottages are adjacent to Ham Common, but this area was developed mostly in the last century. It has large estates of Tudor-style houses that came along before the war. The Wates Estate was built after the war, and an even newer estate was built on a former aerospace facility a decade ago. Many council and ex-council flats and houses add to the mix.

"We attract young families who own a flat elsewhere in London and need larger accommodation," says Julie Hannah of Mervyn Smith estate agents. "Ham has good primary schools and is cheaper than Richmond. The German School is here, and that has attracted German families in particular. The school added a primary so we are now getting families with younger children."

Large detached houses adjacent to Richmond Park and near Petersham boast seven-digit price-tags, but many homes cost well under £500,000.

"In Ham, a pocket of expensive pretty properties can be just across from council and ex-council houses at a fraction of the price," adds Hannah . "A lovely two-bed period cottage on one side of the common can be the same price as an ex-council four-bed house on the other side."

Eleven years ago Nigel Byrne and his partner, Sue, bought a three-bed interwar semi which they now share with their nine-year-old daughter Catherine. "We'd been living in West Drayton, and we moved to be near Ham House," explains Nigel, a steward at the house. "I was using public transport more than three hours a day."

Ham's train-free tranquility was a bonus. "Ham does not merge with either Kingston and Richmond," Nigel adds. "It has a rural feel, with lots of open spaces where we walk the dog. It is still villagey, gossipy but in a nice way. Ham is small so you get to know a lot of people quickly."

How much do flats cost?

A ground-floor 335-square-foot studio in a modern low-rise block is £132,950, and a slightly larger studio also on the ground floor and with a more attractive layout in a nearby block is £139,950, available at Lords. A two-bedroom modern duplex near the river is £235,000 at Mervyn Smith.

What about houses?

A three-bed extended end-of-terrace with a two-room garden studio is £295,000 at Mann. A former police station converted into an unusual detached house has a first floor consisting of a two-bed unit accessed via a separate entrance: £330,000 at Mervyn Smith. A three-bed modern town house with a large reception and gated courtyard, is £475,000 at Lords.

Is the transport good?

Richmond is rail-rich with the District Line underground, fast national rail service to Clapham Junction and Waterloo, and Silverlink's North London Line to Stratford and North Woolwich. But getting to and from Richmond on the narrow Petersham Road can be a slog, especially in winter, when Richmond Park opens late and closes early, forcing all traffic onto local roads. But two bus routes (65 and 371) provide a good service within Ham and linking it with the outside world, and the A3, M3, M4 and Heathrow are near.

And the shopping?

Ham is well served by an Italian deli, Ham Pantry, on the high road, and a German bakery and Tesco Express in the hinterlands. A major shopping precinct, Kingston has the Bentall Centre, John Lewis, M&S, Heals, an Argos Superstore and many other shops as well as a daily outdoor market and a multiplex cinema. Richmond's retail offerings include Dickins and Jones and Waitrose.

What about outdoors?

In addition to Richmond Park, locals cherish the riverside path and the nature reserve at Ham Lands - former gravel pits.

How good are the schools?

Russell Primary scored comfortably above the national average for English and science but scored only average in maths. On the other hand,St Richard's with St Andrew's Primary had a perfect 100 per cent in science and excellent results for maths, but was below average in English.

Lords, 020-8546 6688; Mann, 020-8546 9498; Mervyn Smith, 020-8549 5099