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Best things about living in Andover

PUBLISHED: 10:56 14 October 2014 | UPDATED: 10:56 14 October 2014

Patches, Amport, £525,000 - Pretty Grade II listed thatched cottage with three bedrooms overlooking village green - Evans & Partridge, Stockbridge, 01264 810702

Patches, Amport, £525,000 - Pretty Grade II listed thatched cottage with three bedrooms overlooking village green - Evans & Partridge, Stockbridge, 01264 810702

Evans & Partridge

Emma Caulton explores a hidden corner of Hampshire... the pretty villages in the valleys surrounding Andover

Andover is an opportunity unrealised with an underwhelming ‘high street’ circled by a confusion of poorly signposted roundabouts. Every time I have suggested the town is on the brink of a renaissance nothing happens. This seems a shame for a town with a river running through it, a generously-proportioned market square, decent theatre complex, The Lights, and a few streets of appealingly wonky old buildings.

But maybe, just maybe, change is in the offing. This is partly due to an influx of families from London. No longer able to afford capital prices, they’re attracted by the reasonably-priced property, good schools and reasonable train service into Waterloo (about 70 minutes). And they come with expectations of a more vibrant street scene. (There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to Andover’s rejuvenation.)

However Andover is a tale of two extremes. This unexceptional town is surrounded by one of Hampshire’s best kept secrets – the loveliest countryside that’s an undulating patchwork of field and woodland. Photogenic villages of chocolate box thatch cottages, their gardens over-spilling with lavender and hollyhocks, are strung out along the lush valleys of the Anton, Bourne and Test. There are so many pretty villages you’re tripping over them. Many have village inns, such as the Hawk Inn in Amport, with views over water meadows; the George Inn at Vernham Dean, a pretty old-fashioned village pub with a warm welcome; and The Plough at Longparish, owned by Great British Menu winner James Durrant - diners have travelled from Essex just to eat there!

Yet this corner of Hampshire still feels off the beaten track, authentic and un-touristy. In St Mary Bourne house martins swoop low over a playing field hoovering up insects, children play, dogs are walked...it is a bucolic idyll that is a manageable commute from London. Andover station is one of three mainline stations with the others in the villages of Grateley, south-west of Andover, and Whitchurch, east of the town. Meanwhile narrow country lanes with high hedgerows give, surprisingly quickly, onto the A303 and A34.

A swathe of schools are rated ‘good’ by Ofsted with a substantial sprinkling of ‘outstandings’ (including Norman Gate and Anton Junior schools in Andover and Clatford and Longparish primary schools in the villages). Esteemed independents include Farleigh School and Rookwood.

All in all, this stunning area can provide a fabulous lifestyle for a fair price. But even if you’re not looking to move, it’s an area that is worth exploring; make sure you allow time to stop off at an inn or amble along riverside.

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Jamie Armstrong - Evans & Partridge, Stockbridge

“The countryside that surrounds Andover is dotted with some of the most picturesque villages in Hampshire, some of which are traversed by the world renowned River Test or the River Anton, winterbournes and rivulets. The attractive tapestry in each is made up of large country houses and estates, countless cottages, many with thatched roofs, each one different from the next, imaginative new builds, beautiful barn conversions and a mixture of more recent builds.

I travel these villages in all seasons, but during a sunny summer they are at the peak of their beauty. I must dip my hat to their owners who make such a special effort in their gardens - for it is not just they who benefit 
from the attractive atmosphere they create.

It is difficult to classify who buys into these villages. More recently I have noticed people downsizing or down-pricing to the area, but this is well mixed with very young, successful people and urban dwellers making the move for their children or for themselves and, of course, local people up- or down-grading for their own personal reasons. Villagers seem fixated on their style of living and are often wed to their own particular village.

I could not pick a favourite but in my opinion these are some of the best – to the north east of Andover: Hurstbourne Tarrant, St Mary Bourne, Hurstbourne Priors and Longparish. To the South East: Goodworth Clatford, Chilbolton and Wherwell. To the South west, Abbotts Ann, Monxton and Amport. To the North West: The Chutes, Appleshaw and Redenham.”

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