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Moving to Emsworth - what you need to know

PUBLISHED: 10:16 16 February 2015

Looking across Slipper Mill Pond, east of Emsworth's town centre

Looking across Slipper Mill Pond, east of Emsworth's town centre

Emma Caulton

Emsworth appears to drift, a waterside town, poised somewhere between the past and an imagined idyll of what a market town should be, Emma Caulton took a wander

You’re never far from the water in Emsworth. This market town is flanked by two tidal mill ponds while the High Street leads onto South Street, which runs down to the hard and a causeway (dubbed The Promenade) for a waterside stroll. The shingle foreshore is lined by what were once fishermen’s cottages and more modern development, while some of the leafy residential roads amble down to the water’s edge.

Positioned at the top of Chichester Harbour, close to the Sussex border, Emsworth is sheltered by two ‘islands’: Thorney to the east and Hayling to the west. One hundred years ago most of the locals made their living from these calm waters with half the population involved in the boat-building and fishing industries. Emsworth was particularly famed for its oysters with 100,000 being sent to market in London every week. This foodie heritage has lingered on for today Emsworth has an impressive array of restaurants, cafes and food shops for what is really a rather small market town.

There are two restaurants recommended by the reputable food guides: 36 On The Quay with menus that promise to have been foraged from land and sea, and Fat Olives, in an old fisherman’s cottage (its old cellars allegedly once used by smugglers). There’s a selection of popular cafes and pubs including Flintstones Tea Rooms, Driftwood Cafe and the Lord Raglan pub with a fire in winter and a garden overlooking one of the mill ponds that’s perfect in summer. There’s also a branch of Hayling Island’s Heidi’s Bakery, Cheese and Chutney Deli, greengrocer and grocery store, two butchers, one incorporating a fishmonger, and regular monthly farmers’ markets. Last autumn also saw a celebration of British and local food during Emsworth Food Fortnight.

Other (non-food-related) independents are appealingly quirky and include an old-fashioned record shop, second-hand bookshop, and Mungo Brooks Emporium for antiques and collectables.

For families, schooling is impressive. All schools are rated ‘good’ by Ofsted (including Southbourne Infant and Junior Schools, Emsworth Primary School, St Paul’s Primary School, Westbourne Primary School, Thorney Island Primary School, and Bourne Community College), while St James Primary School and Glenwood secondary school are both rated ‘outstanding’. Not a dud among them.

For commuters, there’s a station on the Brighton to Southampton line with services to London Waterloo taking about one hour and 40 minutes or direct to London Victoria taking five to ten minutes longer.

Housing is a good mix. There’s a core of old buildings in the centre including Georgian townhouses and some sympathetic modern in-fill. Along the main roads are grand Victorian and Edwardian villas, while overlooking the mill ponds are terraces of Victorian, 1930s and 1970s houses with the occasional contemporary glass and timber structure. Spreading out away from the town are quiet cul-de-sacs of mid-century and later development including bungalows and family detacheds. Redland Grange, linking Emsworth to neighbouring Westbourne village, is a fairly extensive, well-considered new development with a mix of terraced cottages, townhouses and family houses featuring vernacular flint-knapping detailing here and there.

I wonder what old Emsworth resident, PG Wodehouse, would think of 21st century Emsworth? He was so inspired by the town that he called a character in his much-loved Blandings Castle series Lord Emsworth. I think he would probably consider Emsworth as having weathered the decades well... especially as it still attracts writers as well as artists and sailors in search of a gentler lifestyle.

Steven Borland at Borland & Borland

“The property market in Emsworth is a hot spot in terms of demand. Nestled between the upper reaches of Chichester Harbour and the South Downs National Park, the active community and a range of independent businesses, gives the village a charm that has vanished from so many other places.

This uniqueness often attracts people retiring to the centre of the town, where there is a range of smaller mews-style modern houses, sympathetically designed to sit alongside the older homes found surrounding the square, mill pond and foreshore.

Families typically head across to the larger properties in the much sought after south-west corner where a three-bedroom detached house is likely to sell in excess of £600,000. We often see four-bedroom detached houses demanding £650,000 and above.

London buyers have discovered the convenience of Emsworth’s location close to major road and rail networks. It is interesting to watch second home buyers become captivated by the village, frequently upgrading their second home to permanent residence and introducing entire families to the quality of life that living in such an idyllic location brings.

I have worked in Emsworth for over 30 years, am a keen member of the Sailing Club and involved in both the water and country sporting pursuits that the area offers, whilst also being an active member of our community. I feel privileged to be a part of our unique village.”

***

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