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Alton is a town of contrasts! Great potential but has always some how managed to fail to live up to expectations. Jane Austen country though! The railway is the beginning of the line which is an advantage, there is every likelihood of getting a seat even though it is the slow line. The arrival of Waitrose was heralded as a coup, but the truth is the town is still shabby and there is a community apathy when you walk up and down the High Street. This is why it is cheaper than the surrounding villages. The countryside around is lovely though and look at the schools, they are doing well and the 6th form college was very highly rated in the past. I think the problem is that it hasn’t founds its mojo and the council have never really grasped the economic well being and redevelopment. Its big employers in the past were the brewery (now closed) railway and army with a farming community on the edge. I have ex in laws who live in the area and they bought as it was where they can afford which is not the same as it is where everyone WANTS.
One suggestion for the cultural and grown up lifestyle is Winchester. There is a great mix, all within an environment best described as a village city. Employment maybe an issue, as the largest employers are the civil service and NHS, but there is a really interesting crowd who have been in the area for years or moved down from London. Hampshire is not very good at banging its drum, so I will oblige; we are between 2 National Parks (New Forest and South Downs) the Solent and all within 1 hour of London. Southampton airport has national and international destinations, so that opens things up further. And of course, being the south, it is always warm and sunny!
For years Grateley was overlooked by the commuters as it was on the wrong side of Andover and the hour journey time….until everyone woke up to the overall journey time including parking etc being about the same as it is on the faster services but with difficult parking. The car park has grown as a result of so many around the Test Valley now using it for convenience you will need to be there early. This will vary as some decide once moving out, they can work from home a couple of days a week so might help occasionally This means look at services before 7 am, as the lanes are narrow. Ludgershall is the same journey time to get to Andover.
Try Moundsmere Estates near Basingstoke and BCM near Winchester or The Country House Company at Hambledon
In new areas, children and the school gate are a great ice breaker. You will find the Forest quite insular, but only due to lots of small communities and there can be a reluctance to engage unless you get out there! By persevering, once on the inside, it is utterly appealing to be surrounded by a National Park, but only chose it if you are going to use what you are living in. i.e. walking, country pursuits, sailing and there are lots of budding artists drawn to the countryside, who have their own community. It is different from city living in every aspect, but don’t judge it on city living, you need to open a new chapter. I have always found people struggle for the first 18 months to 2 years, but if they embrace everything, will never go back. Also, make sure how strong the relationship is with your partner..has a big bearing. Sorry if that is stating the obvious, but it is people that make a home
Mary, your choice of Portsmouth and Southsea is an interesting one. I wouldn’t describe them as less frenetic than London, just different. Portsmouth is one of Hampshires largest city’s, so much so, it is treated as a unitary authority and has a lot of control over its budgets and issues and is treated separately by Hampshire County Council. It is a city that is resurrecting itself , with lots of redevelopment including around the docks and naval yards and general waterfront. It is one of the cheaper location’s in Hampshire, although Southsea in general is more expensive, at £200,000 you will need to chose areas very carefully. On the plus side, Gunwharf Quay is very successful as a location to visit and great waterside pubs and restaurants, easy to go for day trips to the Isle of Wight and of course there is the pebble beach at Southsea Common. For the dog walking, treat yourself to the small seasonal ferry that links with Hayling Island…great for dog walking as is Southsea Common.
The big plus is that so much of the city has a near relationship with the sea, with many locations close to a shoreline…more so that Southampton. Beware the traffic though on the M27 and A27…it is going to get a lot worse with mass new development and even 1 of the new garden towns that everyone is talking about. If Ben Ainslie wins the Americas Cup this year, his base is in Portsmouth which will bring the city international acclaim! Other dog walking but is a good car drive off is the South Downs National Park, Langstone and Chichester Harbour.
The areas mentioned definitely are worth researching, Hyde is affectionately renamed Winchester’s ‘Nappy Valley’ and Fulflood are both very close to the station. Hyde has St Bede’s School and has the advantage of being next to parkland and Winnall Moors and its watermeadows. The sports centre is another attraction but its future looks like it will be relocated to the edge of Winchester. Another area is St Cross, but that depends on budget as the majority are large town houses or otherwise apartments. The draw though is St Faith’s CoE junior school or St Peter’s Catholic school and ultimately feeding into Kings when they are senior school age, but their waiting lists are oversubscribed.
As far as community is concerned, the children will be a great icebreaker and ensure you are committed to a life of servitude as mum and dads taxi service…public transport is not like London. Lots of cafes and pubs and restaurants…some would say too many at the expense of a big range of shops, which always surprises bearing in mind that we are the county town. The city centre is about old or contemporary town houses, the edges are about larger housing estates and later architecture. Physically the city is small, but it is between 2 National Parks, the best sailing waters in the world, so for those who like the outdoors will never be disappointed
The times mentioned are about as heavily used as they could be. There are around 10,000 people who exit Winchester by train and car each day for work, so he will need to be on the front of the platform to make sure he stands a chance of getting a seat. Remember these services come up from Southampton and New Forest, so Winchester is mid way into the journey