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Article by Ruth Bloomfield

The pandemic has focused our minds on what is really important in life, and one theme that has come shining through over the past two years is the restorative value of nature.

Top-notch outdoor space has moved up home buyers’ wish lists all over the world – and it is a hallmark of a community designed to flourish.

A new waterfront village

This emphasis on the outdoors is at the heart of one of London’s biggest regeneration projects:  the £350 million Abbey Quay development by Weston Homes in Barking, east London.

Overlooking the River Roding, this contemporary waterfront village is rising on what used to be industrial wasteland. Abbey Quay will ultimately include just over 1,000 new homes served by shops, offices, cafes and restaurants, a gym and an athletics centre.

There will be extensive green spaces throughout the site, while the waterfront is being opened up so that people will be able to stroll beside the River Roding for the first time in decades.

A major new landscaped public plaza overlooking the water will be the heart and soul of Abbey Quay. And the scheme’s award-winning international architect, Broadway Malyan, has designed the site with tree-lined walking routes, providing safe and pleasant pedestrian links to the town centre and station.

The first residents will move into Abbey Quay in spring next year. Prices start from £327,000 for a one-bedroom flat, although those already living or working in the borough of Barking & Dagenham can take advantage of the Weston Homes Discount Market Sale scheme, to buy into this new neighbourhood from £257,000.

The call of the coast

Another key motif of the pandemic has been a mad rush to buy homes at the seaside. If you dream of salty air in your lungs and weekends spent sunbathing and swimming, the Victorian coastal town of Southend-on-Sea, with its seven miles of sandy beaches and great transport links, could be perfect.

Beaches aside, there’s lots going on in this Essex town, from outstanding senior schools to plentiful bars, restaurants and cafés, plus an exceptionally pretty conservation area, independent shops, an art gallery, several sailing clubs and a cinema.

For those who need to get into London there are three stations in the town, offering a commute to Fenchurch Street in about  40 minutes or Liverpool Street  in less than an hour.

The new Victoria Central development by Weston Homes is only a few minutes’ walk from Southend Victoria railway station and less than a mile from the town’s pier.

With its upmarket lobby and boutique collection of just over 200 flats, Victoria Central’s future residents – the first of whom will move in next year – could be forgiven for feeling as if they are enjoying a year-round hotel stay.

As well as the beach, they will have a landscaped courtyard garden and a series of courtyard roof terraces with fantastic views.

Unsurprisingly, nearly all of these homes have already been snapped up. Those that remain start from £185,000 for a one-bedroom flat.

Into the woods

“LOSE YOURSELF IN THE GLORIES OF THIS AREA OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY.”

The Kent Downs boast ancient bluebell woodlands and if your idea of heaven would be weekends losing yourself in the glories of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, then Springfield Park, by Weston Homes, could be the perfect option.

Blooming bluebells in Kent, England

These 502 apartments are set alongside the River Medway in Maidstone, with the Downs only a mile away. Alternatively, you could keep things local by hanging out on one of the development’s network of landscaped roof terraces, featuring walkways and seating areas.

Or have a wander across the footbridge with your lockdown puppy and enjoy a walk around Whatman Park.

Prices start at £199,000. Help to Buy is available on some of the flats, meaning you may only need to put down a five per cent deposit, while the Weston Homes First-Time SecureBuy initiative is in place to help novice buyers on to the ladder.

Maidstone itself has everything you need, with an attractive old town to explore, a choice of modern shopping centres, a cinema, a theatre and a leisure centre.

You can grab a pint at one of the town’s traditional pubs, or get to know the local restaurant scene.

For getting into London, trains from Maidstone to St Pancras International or Blackfriars take about an hour. And if you have a yearning to be beside the sea,  you could drive to pretty Whitstable  in around 45 minutes.

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