More For Your Money: Merton Park, London SW19

Pleasures of park life
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The Independent Online

Paradise for pub quizmasters, Merton Park is home to St Mary's Church (1147), whose parishioners included Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton. William Morris had a factory here, and John Major attended Rutlish Grammar.

John Innes' horticultural institute was founded in Merton Park and property he developed later became the John Innes Merton Park and Wilton Crescent conservation areas.

Developed over more than a century, the area contains bay-fronted Victorian terraces, 1930s semis, and various styles in the two conservation areas: architect Henry Quartermain favoured Queen Anne and Domestic Revival, and John Brocklesby was an Arts and Crafts man. The area is solidly suburban, but a large chunk with narrow roads and the picturesque old church with graveyard has a rustic ambience.

Judith Goodman is a local historian. Her house was new when she moved to Merton Park 21 years ago, but "our house is surrounded by a listed wall, with parts dating to the 16th century. Moving to Merton was pure serendipity. It is friendly and quiet but convenient, and it has interesting townscapes. Many roads are a pleasure to look at. There is variety: you can tell one road from another."

Independent councillor John Nelson-Jones has lived here for 40 years, and has only owned two houses in that time. "Not much has changed. This is a pleasant part of the world. People come from nearby areas to walk around here."

What do properties cost?

If you want to live in the conservation area, you'll pay for the privilege, although Howard Lowe of Ellisons does have buyers who can't afford Wimbledon. And if they can't afford the conservation area, they can look elsewhere in Merton Park. Lowe estimates that the conservation area adds £100,000 to the price of a house, whose equivalent outside the conservation area would sell for £250,000 to £270,000.

What about flats?

Very scarce, especially in the conservation areas, although the converted Old School House opposite St Mary's is a stunning exception. Ludlow Thompson is selling two-bedroom flats on Merton Hall Road starting at £240,000.

What is available outside the conservation areas?

On Circle Gardens, a three-bedroom 1930s semi with garage and 50-foot garden but needing a lick of paint is for sale at £340,000; further south, on Poplar Road South, a five-bedroom semi with attached garage is £459,950; both at Ellisons.

And inside?

Three-bedders near Church Lane can sell for as much as £550,000. A spacious six-bedroom, three-reception (two have been conjoined) linked detached house on Church Lane with conservatory, south-facing garden and garage is £925,000 at Quinton Scott.

How's the transport?

Skirting Merton Park to the west is a national rail suburban line with stops at Wimbledon Chase and South Merton. To the east is the new tram line, with stations at Merton Park and Morden Road. Both lines converge at Wimbledon station, which has a mainline service and is on the District Line.

How's the green space?

In addition to Wimbledon Common and Mitcham Common, other notable open spaces include Morden Hall Park, which has a swimming pool, playing fields and tennis courts, Abbey Recreation Ground and Mostyn Gardens. Within Merton Park itself is the well-tended (despite the spray-painted hedges) John Innes Recreation Ground. Local recreation grounds offer football, cricket, rugby, tennis and bowling.

And the shopping?

Wimbledon is a major shopping centre, offering a wide range of food and clothing stores, and independent shops and boutiques. Frequent sightings of Ocado and other delivery vans in Merton Park suggest that many residents are virtual shoppers.

How do the local schools perform?

The state and nearby fee-paying schools are a major draw to the area. Although Rutlish School secondary only scores close to the national average for GCSEs, Wimbledon Chase primary on Merton Hall Road is well above the national averages in English, maths and science.

And one for the pub quiz

The Merton Parkas were:

a) colourful overcoats popular in the Sixties

b) a notorious motorcycle gang

c) a rock band

d) a school group formed to rival the Old Rutlishians

The Merton-based Parkas were a 1970s Mod revival band best known for "You Need Wheels," "Plastic Smile" and the LP, "Face in the Crowd."

C James, 020 8542 3232; Ellisons, 020 8543 1166; Ludlow Thompson, 020 8405 5454; Quinton Scott, 020 8971 3800