A few weeks ago we brought you our foolproof guide to the best places to live in Surrey. Continuing our march into middle England we are this time looking to Hampshire for a slice of the countryside. Famed for its quaint villages and pretty market towns, with a lovely coastline that offers jumping off points to the Isle of White, the Channel Islands and France – Hampshire has it all.
We’ve included towns, villages and cities for you to think about. Many are highly commutable from London. Others are a bit further out of the way, for those planning a proper retreat. All have great houses to buy, charm and good schools.
Once named the best place to live in Britain by The Sunday Times, we love Winchester too, along with anyone else who’s ever been there. Keats was inspired to write his Ode to Autumn here in 1819. Today, it is still every bit as awe inspiring, with a big stock of beautiful houses that come close to London prices, but are well worth it. There’s plenty to do in town, with a vast selection of museums for its size and a planetarium. King’s School and Thornden are excellent state secondary schools and there’s also a great selection of state primaries too. Winchester College is one of the best independents in the country, after the likes of Eton and Harrow. For eating out, there’s the Michelin-starred Black Rat.
Close to Petersfield in East Hampshire, this is one that’s off the beaten track, but all the better for it. It’s got quaint village charm by the shed load and makes for a total escape to the countryside. There’s a village shop and a post office, two great pubs: The Olde George Inn and the Izaak Walton Modern, which is named after the famous fly fisherman. Modern fly fishing was invented in Hampshire and the picturesque River Meon, which flows through the village is a great place to do it, if that’s your thing. Meon Springs is a good spot if you’re after a stocked lake.
Just outside Basingstoke, Odiham is a good place to travel to London if you want to keep that job in the city. This is another one that frequently makes it onto the Times’s best places to live list. Halifax have said it’s the most desirable place to live in Britain for over a decade. Odiham has a great number of character properties to choose from. In fact, the wider Hart district, of which is Oidham is a part, is not to be sniffed at either, so take a look at some of the surrounding towns and villages too. There are plenty of quaint, off the beaten path places, but the area is also great for commuting to London. Do be wary though, there is talk of a ‘new town’ rising out of the countryside in the not too distant future.
Another one in the Meon Valley, although this time a town, for those seeking a less rural way of life than East Meon. Bishop’s Waltham is close to two nature reserves and boasts a long and rich history, centred around Bishop’s Waltham Palace ruins. In the centre, there are plenty of independent shops, restaurants and places to eat and drink. The South Pond, was dug by the bishops from the palace and today plays host to the parish fishing club. As for properties, there are plenty of Georgian buildings, some medieval houses too. On the outskirts of the town you can find character properties and farmhouses. The coast, South Downs and London are all easily accessible and the surrounding area is known for making wine.
Southampton has plenty to offer for the more urbane Hampshire dweller. Its city centre is nothing to write home about, but its once industrial waterfront is rapidly being regenerated and is surprisingly pleasant. It has a good selection of schools. St Anne’s Catholic state school is outstanding and the local private school, King Edward VI School also has a very good reputation. The New Forest is a short drive out of town. A train to London takes just one hour and being on the Solent, it provides plenty of opportunities for sailing. Keen sailors should try Hamble: its postcard-perfect cobbled streets are set apart from the bustle of Southampton right on the edge of the estuary. No wonder it’s a hub for sailors heading to and from the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight ferry leaves for Cowes several times a day just down the road – perfect for weekend trips.
Fleet boasts Victorian character properties by the dozen. It’s a traditional town, with a bustling weekly market and country parks and lakes just outside which are great for walking, cycling or riding. Fleet is considered great for families with plenty of outstanding primaries. Fleet Infants, Heatherside Infants and Juniors are great choices. St Nicholas school in nearby Church Crookham, is the local private school. The Heron on the Lake built on the edge of Fleet Pond is a great family pub. The commute to London is fairly straight forward too.