Best things about living in Basingstoke
PUBLISHED: 16:37 04 December 2014 | UPDATED: 16:37 04 December 2014
Ignore the old Boringstoke nickname, this is a town which is grasping opportunity, taking its chances, investing and growing, says Emma Caulton
It seems to me that we keep pushing onto Basingstoke the development the rest of us would rather not have. It started back in the early 1960s when London’s so-called ‘overspill’ was poured across what had actually been a rather attractive old market town. It has continued every decade since, including development at Hatch Warren to the south-west, Chineham to the north-east and Sherfield-on-Loddon to the east with Sherfield Park, a development of about 1,000 homes, completed this year.
Lessons have been learned and the latest communities are so much more appealing, with attractive streetscapes influenced by different architectural periods and homes reflecting a greater appreciation of contemporary lifestyle needs.
Basingstoke’s fight back started a long time ago. Not so much in terms of resisting change, but rather in accepting development on its own terms. Today’s Basingstoke is rejuvenated. It has been transformed into a thriving economic hub with prime businesses linked to IT, communications, insurance and electronics, including the likes of the AA, Fujitsu, Sony and Motorola.
Accessibility is perhaps its key, with good rail (45 minutes to London, 20 minutes to Reading) and motorway (M3 one side, not too far to M4 the other) links. A popular town centre has evolved: Festival Place has over 160 shops, from Apple to Zara, more than 20 restaurants and cafes, and a multi-screen cinema. There are two good theatres (Anvil and Haymarket), and a selection of leisure facilities including Basingstoke Aquadrome, one of the largest flume attractions in the country, Airkix and Skiplex (indoor skydiving and ski slopes respectively) bowling alleys, Hampshire’s living history museum and more. With no shortage of things to do, Basingstoke has become a lively, family-orientated town.
In terms of schooling, the bulk of primary and junior schools are considered ‘good’ by Ofsted, but parents will need to head off into the surrounding villages to find schools rated ‘outstanding’ (Preston Candover, Oakley, Old Basing and Overton). At secondary level the pattern is more evenly balanced between those considered ‘good’ and others needing to pull their socks up (Ofsted calls it ‘requires improvement’).
As for the finer things in life...Basingstoke has those, too. Particular favourites of mine include Berry Bros & Rudd’s excellent Warehouse Store for bin ends and tastings, and two pubs in the area have made it into the Good Food Guide’s first ever listing of the UK’s Top 50 Pubs. That’s The Crown at Old Basing and The Wellington Arms at Baughurst. Although in my opinion, The Purefoy Arms at Preston Candover should also have been included, but it is Michelin recommended.
On all sides Basingstoke is surrounded by lovely countryside. To the south the countryside is untouched, perfect for walks; to the east there are pretty little villages such as Rotherwick, popular with commuters. To the west is Jane Austen country – traditional villages like North Waltham and Oakley. To the north are the grand estates of Stratfield Saye, National Trust’s The Vyne and beyond that Silchester, which includes the remains of a Roman town and amphitheatre.
On the whole, it’s that old cliché of something for everyone. The same is true with the property. In town it ranges from contemporary apartments to family houses on new estates and offers good value for money, while in the surrounding villages there are character cottages, farmhouses and country mansions.
It might still be a market town in name (with a regular market, too), but it is a town with its heart in the future rather than the past.
Estate agent Anthony Hamilton says: “Basingstoke is a successful, independent town where lots of people live, work and enjoy their social lives. It is home to many businesses and has extensive recreational facilities. It is attractive to London commuters due to the 45-minute travel time from Basingstoke to London Waterloo, and we tend to find that 30 per cent of our buyers are from London and the Home Counties; with the remainder being from around the local area who are looking for a change.
We are situated in Old Basing and specialise in property in Old Basing and Sherfield-on-Loddon, including the new development at Sherfield Park. Old Basing and Sherfield are the most sought after areas of Basingstoke; so far this year we have seen prices increase by about 10 per cent.
The schools are excellent. Sherfield School is a very well regarded independent, which is predominantly a day school; and in Old Basing the infants and junior schools are both rated ’outstanding’ by Ofsted and are a major draw for families.
People living in the area benefit from village life, excellent schooling and are surrounded by lovely countryside, and yet you are only five minutes away from junction six of the M3.”