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Emma Caulton shows us the sights of Winchester

PUBLISHED: 14:15 20 February 2014 | UPDATED: 14:15 20 February 2014

View from Joyce Garden, St John's Street

View from Joyce Garden, St John's Street

England’s ancient capital has the culture of a city and the community feel of a village – but where are the best places to buy? Emma Caulton shows us around her hometown

To live in Winchester is to feel blessed. There is nowhere quite like this ancient cathedral city with its quaint streets of tempting shops, cafes spilling onto pavements and countryside nudging right up to the city’s edge. Every time I cycle through the Cathedral grounds I want to pinch myself; I am so lucky to live here.

But it’s not just about the lifestyle. For London-bound workers there’s a decent commute of just over an hour (one or two fast trains shave a couple of minutes off the hour). For families (and Winchester seems to be a mecca for the yummy-mummy-with-buggy brigade) the attraction is the schooling. There’s a collection of top independent schools, including Pilgrims’ School (the Cathedral’s choir school), Winchester College with grounds alongside the River Itchen, and St Swithun’s for girls, as well as a selection of some of the best performing state schools in the country. At primary level there are the likes of St Bedes’s in Hyde and St Faith’s in St Cross, both rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, while at secondary level Kings School and Peter Symonds Sixth Form College have also been rated ‘outstanding’. There’s also a young, energetic vibe to the city with both the University of Winchester and Winchester School of Art based here.

So Winchester has it all - including steep house prices. St Cross has larger properties in good-sized gardens and is one of the most popular areas of Winchester despite occasional background noise from the M3, railway line and flights into Southampton airport (a very accessible 15-minute drive away). Other desirable pockets include Hyde, Fulflood and around the Cathedral with rows of period terraced cottages.

New development has been successfully fought for some years, keeping the city attractively compact. However Barton Farm, described as ‘a sustainable new suburb to the north of the city’, will be going ahead, with a smaller development of 200 homes at Pitt Manor having been approved to the southwest. Otherwise development in recent years has been largely confined to imaginative infill and closes of townhouses on what were once large plots on the likes of Chilbolton Avenue and Romsey Road.

Winchester’s nuisance factor is parking. If you want one of those pretty period terraced cottages in the centre with a hefty price tag, parking is usually on-road and a squeeze at that. It means those in search of big gardens and parking seek out smart roads outside the city centre, such as Northbrook Road to the east, Park Road to the north, Sleepers Hill and Sarum Road to the south-west. Others move out to surrounding villages like Sparsholt, a gem of a village with great country pub, cute village shop and a primary school with yet another ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted. To the south-west is Hursley, home of IBM, two pubs, primary school (rated ‘good’) and a terrific butcher.

To the south of Winchester is a cluster of villages, Compton, Otterbourne, Twyford and Shawford, which between them offer very good pubs (such as The Bugle at Twyford, and The Old Forge and White Horse at Otterbourne), village shops, Shawford’s mainline station, easy M3 access, and yet more impressive schools including independent Twyford School and two primaries at Otterbourne and Compton rated ‘good’.

To the east, the villages of Itchen Abbas and Easton, positioned on either side of the River Itchen and on the edge of the South Downs, are both lovely. Although you’re on the wrong side of Winchester for the station, you can head up the A33 to Micheldever Station, and you’re well placed for road access north and east via the M3 and A31. Yet more schools include acclaimed independent prep school Princes Mead and Itchen Abbas Primary (rated ‘good’), as well as several lovely pubs such as Easton’s The Chestnut Horse and The Bush at Ovington.

If it’s Winchester you want and funds are limited, Oliver’s Battery, on the southwest, developed from the 1950s onwards, is increasingly popular with lots of potential for development. Teg Down and Bereweeke to the west also offer good value especially with the recent addition of an Aldi, Costa and Waitrose in the parade of local shops – a combination that is a sure-fire indicator of a neighbourhood on the up.

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Agent Talk - Tom Woods - Knight Frank Winchester

“There are a number of reasons for moving to Winchester. Commutability is a huge draw. People moving out of London are attracted by having the best of both worlds, for those not ready to be wearing muddy wellies miles from anywhere. In Winchester you can pop into Costa for coffee and be strolling in the watermeadows minutes later.

The cultural climate is fantastic with lots going on, and the schools are another big, big draw.

In the city and surrounding villages the market is very strong with most homes achieving upwards of £400 per square foot and new builds achieving £450-500 per square foot, which is a fantastic price for new builds.

The bottom end of the city and St Giles Hill area do well even though they are on the other side of the city to the station; the Blue Boar Hill development [designed by local architect Huw Thomas] sold well. Overall the demand for Hyde [a city centre ‘village’] is huge, and Fulflood is strong, too. They both, with their lovely Victorian terraces, attract a very different buyer to St Cross with its larger houses and gardens.

Villages such as Sparsholt, Crawley, Twyford and Easton, right on top of Winchester, are holding their own. But you don’t have to go far out of Winchester to find a different market. The further out you go, the better value you will find, which is partly to do with communication links; people will pay a premium to be within easy access of Winchester station.”

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For Sale

Northbrook Avenue, St Giles Hill - £1,250,000

Light and spacious five-bedroom detached family house

Knight Frank, 01962 850333

***

St Cross Road, St Cross - £1,200,000

Six-bedroom Victorian townhouse with period features

Jackson, Stops & Staff, 01962 844299 & Hamptons, 01962 706385

***

Watercress Cottage, Headbourne Worthy - £895,000

Well-presented four-bedroom detached cottage

Through Belgarum, 01962 844460

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