Best things about living in Fareham
PUBLISHED: 16:21 07 March 2016 | UPDATED: 16:35 07 March 2016
Fareham is in the middle of everywhere, but is it going anywhere? Emma Caulton visits
Convenient. That is how one friend describes living in the Fareham area. And it is. There’s quick access to the M27 while both the London to Portsmouth service and the Southampton to Brighton line run through the station.
You’re surrounded by everything you need! There’s lush countryside to the north with the Meon valley and the South Downs National Park within easy reach. There’s a busy coastline to the south, including Hill Head and Lee on Solent, which attracts watersports enthusiasts, as well as families. Meanwhile on either side, to the east and west respectively, are the south coast cities of Portsmouth and Southampton, with all their shops, eateries and entertainments.
The result, however, is that Fareham can suffer in comparison and struggles to be a destination in its own right. The town centre can’t compete with the shopping ‘villages’ and malls of Whiteley, Southampton’s West Quay and Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quay even though the retail offering is good. The town centre is compact. A pedestrianised area is scattered with wrought iron sculptures in homage to Fareham’s historic trades and Henry Cort’s ironworks at Funtley. It can be argued that the processes Cort evolved, for the production of cheap wrought iron, much needed by the navy, were crucial to Britain’s victory at Trafalgar. Perhaps Fareham should shout a little louder about its contribution to Britain’s naval success.
The town’s past lingers on corners and down alleys and particularly along the delightful old High Street with its impressive Georgian townhouses, once homes to naval commanders and now needing a hefty dollop of TLC. But there is a sense of promise, of regeneration and possibility. The award-winning leisure centre has recently undergone a major refurbishment with a new pool and a gym full of new kit. A relatively recent addition to the centre, Slug and Lettuce, is in a strikingly converted old church.
Facilities include a cinema and two entertainment venues: Ferneham Hall with old favourites like Chas and Dave, and Ashcroft Arts Centre providing a more eclectic programme with stand-ups, folk music, and events including ale festivals and fabric exhibitions. And there are several recommended independent eateries, for example Villa Romana, Antonio’s, Lauro’s and Cackleberry’s cafe.
Although the town centre is cut off from its port past by a busy dual carriage, Fareham’s waterfront still holds charm. There’s an attractive quayside that has been tidied up over recent years, a marina, waterside recreation park and, across the water, Cams Hall Estate Golf Course with water on three sides and views across Portsmouth Harbour. It’s a location everyone can enjoy as it has been edged by a footpath that’s suitable for wheelchair users. Fareham sits at the top of a creek and the estuary is the only stretch of Portsmouth Harbour not built over. Here locals can enjoy wooded and grassy banks and spot the shorebirds and seabirds that visit the tidal creek. Making the most of this lovely spot is another relatively new addition: a good pub, Cams Mill, a re-creation of the original tidal mill that stood here 100 years ago.
For home hunters, property in the area can be a bit of a find. You can get a lot for your money and whatever you’re looking for you’ll probably find it...whether it is period charm or a modern family home. In the town is a conservation area of Georgian and Victorian villas all character and elegance. In what first appears to be suburban sprawl are some treasures - quaint old lodges with arched diagonal leaded windows are juxtaposed against mid-century minimalist homes, smart 1980s executive houses and New England style weather-boarded new builds.
Turn off a busy roundabout and unexpectedly you discover lovely waterside Wallington Village, just a footbridge stroll into town and yet it feels tucked away and forgotten with its old colour washed terraced cottages, pubs, leafy banks and undisturbed air.
Then there’s the significant appeal of the local schools. Harrison Primary School is ‘outstanding’ according to Ofsted while Uplands and Redlands primaries are both ‘good’. Henry Cort Community College and Fareham Academy are both ‘good’, while Cams Hill School is rated ‘outstanding’ and Fareham college is ‘good with outstanding features’. All this as well as esteemed independents in the area including Meoncross, Wykeham House and Boundary Oak.
You could describe Fareham as a diamond in the rough. In hindsight, it was overdeveloped without sufficient forethought in the sixties. The Borough sprawls, covering much of the semi-urban area between Southampton and Portsmouth, from Portchester in the east to Warsash in the west and from Hiil Head and Stubbington in the south to Whiteley in the north. As more development seems inevitable, it’s hoped that lessons have been learned and that it can enhance the area and that those delightful period buildings and the last gasp of green on Portsmouth Harbour will be kept.
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