Is London’s spring market in bloom?

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If you talk to selling agents in prime central London, they’ll say that there is a lot more activity in the market but I’d hesitate and take stock before getting too excited. Yes, transaction numbers have increased but they are still nothing like the levels that we witnessed when the market was really flying. I’d argue it’s more a case that if the greyhound that was running at full pelt has been stationary for some time, it’s now up and walking around—but that’s it.

What few agents will raise is the unknown question of Brexit. Many say that it hasn’t had an impact but I’d argue that’s not the case. The surprise result on June 24 last year has forced many buyers to re-think their plans. Since that time, I’ve had one or two clients who’ve asked to put their search on hold as they want clarity on the outcome and there’s no telling how long it’s going to take before we have a clear idea on our future relationship. But it’s also impacted on the number of potential buyers who might have been coming from Europe—and the rest of the world—to live in London. Europeans, and let’s not forget that London is France’s “6th biggest city” in terms of population, don’t know if they are going to be allowed to stay and that’s a concern.

Another factor compressing the market is the shortage of property. Prices have come off since their peak in 2014 and that creates a degree of reluctance to sell. According to figures from Knight Frank, the average price of a house in prime central London has fallen 6.6% in the past year–although it varies from the worst hit area which was Bayswater, where prices fell 14.7%, to South Kensington and Knightsbridge where average prices fell 7.4%. Their analysis blames the huge rise in Stamp Duty (SDLT) introduced by the former Chancellor George Osborne and that’s certainly the case when I talk to clients. Only recently I was with one who was discussing plans to sell up and move but when they calculated the costs with SDLT, they’ve thought better of it. There’s no question that it’s really limiting people’s ability and desire to move.

The result is a catch 22 situation. The flow of property is reduced because prices being achieved aren’t encouraging vendors to put their properties on the market and when potential buyers can’t see where their next home might be, they become reluctant to sell. Factor in the increased costs of buying and it’s more important than ever to seek professional advice in order to make sure one doesn’t make what could be a very expensive mistake!

London farmers markets attracting buyers

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The old saying used to go that if you spotted an unusual number of skips lining a London street, it was a sure-fire sign that the area was on the up. Today, it’s more a case that when a new farmers market establishes itself, that area isn’t just on the up, it’s arrived!

The chef and food writer Jamie Oliver is largely credited with putting Borough Market, London’s oldest fruit and veg market, on the map and today the area underneath the railway lines and arches in SE1 buzzes with life every Friday and Saturday. Since then, the number of upmarket farmers markets have mushroomed all over London and recent research carried out by an online property search company found out that buyers pay a premium of £87,000 (on figures nationwide) to live near an organic or locally-sourced food market. Those price increases are most likely driven by other factors but the presence of a market definitely points towards community vibrancy and a trendy, foodie destination.

Marylebone Farmers Market is one such example. It was established in June 2003 just as the Howard de Walden Estate was nearing the end of a 10-year programme to revitalise the high street.  Since that time a number of other family-owned estates have followed suit, with the Grosvenor Estate’s Pimlico Road farmers market and the Cadogan Estate’s Duke of York Square market. Northcote Road in Battersea has a food market which dates back to the 1860s. While it suffered decline in the 1990s, it has grown in popularity during the last decade thanks to the renewed interest in food provenance and some of the most recently established markets include the Wendell Park Farmers Market near Askew Road, in Shepherd’s Bush, and Black Lion Lane, just by the river in Chiswick.

Alongside other elements such as an organic butcher—the Ginger Pig chain, for example, are alert to spotting new trendy areas (Wanstead, E11 is their latest opening)—markets help develop a community spirit in an area and as well as that increasingly important village feel which is a key consideration for some of our buyers in London. But their popularity is also driven by an increasing awareness of the younger generation to pay attention to what you eat. Not so long ago, it was frowned upon for a man to eat a salad at lunch. Now it’s all about healthy eating and working out!

This is our round-up of the best London farmers markets:

Marylebone Farmers Market

Where: Cramer Street Car Park

When: Saturday & Sunday

Pimlico Road Farmers Market

Where: Orange Square

When: Saturday & Sunday

South Kensington Farmers Market

Where: Bute Street

When: Saturdays

Chelsea Fine Food Market

Where: Duke of York Square

When: Saturdays

Bloomsbury Farmers Market

Where: Torrington Square/Byng Place

When: Thursdays

Earls Court Farmers Market

Where: St Cuthbert with St Matthias School

When: Sundays

Notting Hill Farmers Market

Where: Kensington Church Street (behind Waterstones)

When: Saturdays

Parsons Green

Where: Thomas’s Academy, New King’s Road

When: Sundays

Chiswick

Where: Black Lion Lane

When: Saturdays

Brook Green Market & Kitchen

Where: Addison Primary School

When: Saturdays

Wimbledon Park Farmers Market

Where: Wimbledon Park Primary School

When: Saturdays

Barnes Farmers Market

Where: Essex House, Station Lane

When: Saturdays

Northcote Road, Battersea

Where: Northcote Road, SW11

When: every day

Covent Garden Farmers Market

Where: Indoors and outdoors depending on season

When: Thursdays and Saturdays

Queen’s Park Farmers Market

Where: Salusbury Primary School

When: Sundays

Favourite spring gardens to visit

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LONDON GARDENS

Kew Gardens, Richmond

Why go: Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, it’s spectacular at all times of the year but in spring, don’t miss the flowering cherry tree avenue leading to the Temperate House, as well as the woodland garden which is filled with violets and trilliums.

Contact: 020 8332 5655; www.kew.org


Isabella Plantation, Richmond

Why go: Set in Richmond Park, this pretty enclosure has a lovely collection of rhododendrons and azaleas which are at their best in late spring and early summer.

Contact: 020 8948 3209; www.royalparks.org.uk


Fenton House, Hampstead

Why go: A little-known National Trust property with gardens that remain almost unaltered since they were first laid out. In the early spring, the fruit trees in the orchards come into blossom setting off this pretty, 17th century merchants house.

Contact: 020 7435 3471; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fenton-house


Kyoto Garden, Holland Park

Why go: Created for the Japan Festival of 1922, this small garden comes to life in spring with colourful blossom trees. Additionally, it has a good play area for children and is close to the recently-opened Design Museum.

Contact: 020 7602 2228


SOUTHERN REGION GARDENS

Stourhead, Wiltshire

Why go: A world-famous garden with a central lake which is stunning throughout the year but especially in the spring when the succession of azaleas, magnolias and rhododendrons come into flower. ‘It’s a vast 2,650 estate set in a special and unspoiled location,’ adds Mark Lawson.

Contact: 01747 841152; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead


Bowood, Calne, Wiltshire

Why go: The rhododendron woodland garden at Bowood House is one of the finest spring displays in Britain. There are great walks around the lakes surrounded by lovely spring flowers. ‘And there’s fantastic entertainment for the kids, with an amazing adventure playground and good café,’ says Bobby Hall.

Contact: 01249 812102; www.bowood.org


Exbury Gardens, Hampshire

Why go: It’s generally acknowledged to be on of Hampshire’s most spectacular privately-owned gardens. Owned by a branch of the Rothschild family and bordering the New Forest, this 200-acre woodland has millions of rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. In early spring, the scenery is filled with flowering cherry trees and daffodils.

Contact: 02380 891203; www.exbury.co.uk


Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Hampshire

Why go: to see the fiery orange azaleas, pink magnolias and pink and purple rhododendrons set among rare trees with willow sculptures.

Contact: 01794 369317; www.hants.gov.uk/hilliergardens


Welford Park, West Berkshire

Why go:  Stunning carpet of snowdrops providing a scent of honey as you walk around the beech woods during spring.  The snowdrop garden is open from beginning of February to beginning of March.

Contact:  01488 608691; www.welfordpark.co.uk


HOME COUNTIES GARDENS


Cliveden, Berkshire

Why go: ‘It’s a fantastic hotel with a most impressive long drive and formal gardens which lead down to the River Thames,’ says Mark Lawson. Cliveden’s spring piece de resistance is its 200m Long Garden where 20,000 tulips are planted in four beds. Later on, the 10-acre water garden has magnolias and cherry trees.

Contact: 01628 605069; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cliveden


Ashridge Estate, Buckinghamshire

Why go: It’s ideal for bluebells, so best for a late-spring visit, and there’s a 1.5 mile woodland trail that displays stunning clusters. It’s also home to a huge variety of wildlife.

Contact: 01442 851227; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashbridge-estate


Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey

Why go: This hillside arboretum includes more than 1,000 different shrubs and trees and is known for its display of bluebells, magnolias and azaleas in spring.

Contact: 01483 208477; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winkworth-arboretum


Ramster Gardens

Why go: Another garden famous for its collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, there are 20 acres also taking in daffodils, camellias and bluebells–the latter are lovely in May.

Contact: 01428 654167; www.gardenvisit.com/gardens/ramster_garden


Savill Garden, Berkshire

Why go: Part of the Windsor Great Park, the garden consists of a series of woodland where camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and flowering dogwoods.

Contact: 01753 860222; www.theroyallandscapes.co.uk


COTSWOLDS REGION GARDENS


Hidcote, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

Why go: It’s divided into a series of outdoor rooms, each with their own character, which, at this time of year, awaken from their winter sleep.

Contact: 01386 438333; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote


Cerney House, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Why go: A romantic spot boasting walled gardens and woodland paths which weave through acres of wild garlic and bluebells in late spring. There’s also an excellent tea room selling jams and local cheese.

Contact: 01285 831044; www.cerneygardens.com


Batsford Arboretum, Gloucestershire

Why go: With its national collection of Japanese cherries bringing a touch of Asia to the Cotswolds, blossom time at Batsford is famously spectacular. It also has some notable magnolias and Japanese acres.

Contact: 01386 701441; www.batsarb.co.uk


Rousham Garden, Oxfordshire

Why go: Designed by William Kent—and largely unaltered since then, there are large walled gardens with a long double herbaceous borders as well as a stunning rose garden. Other delights include parterres and espalier apple trees.

Contact: 01869 347110; www.rousham.org


Barnsley House Gardens, Gloucestershire

Why go: Today a hotel rather than private garden but nevertheless a delightful place to visit—if you’re not a guest of the hotel, a £10 ticket will include tea or coffee and biscuits as well as a walk around.

Contact: 01285 740000; www.barnsleyhouse.com