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Best things about living in the Hamble Valley

PUBLISHED: 11:29 03 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:29 03 June 2015

View across the River Hamble from the bridge at Swanwick

View across the River Hamble from the bridge at Swanwick

Emma Caulton

From sailing along the strawberry coast to shopping on cobbled streets, the Hamble Valley offers an idyllic lifestyle as Emma Caulton discovered on a recent visit

The Hamble Valley is a breathing space between Hampshire’s two coastal cities. This is largely due to Hampshire County Council purchasing swathes of farmland, some 50 plus years ago, to maintain a strategic gap between Portsmouth and Southampton and scupper plans to create a vast Solent city.

The result is a lush valley with a number of charming waterside villages, an unexpected enclave of quiet lanes and the wide expanses of two impressive country parks (Manor Farm and Royal Victoria Country Park) not that far from the madding crowd.

The main draw for many is messing about on the river. With its deep water and double tides, the River Hamble is internationally recognised as a mecca for sailing enthusiasts with marinas, sailing clubs and boatyards clustered around Old Bursledon, Hamble (shortened from Hamble-le-Rice), Swanwick and Warsash. The sense of a lively waterside community is perhaps best exemplified by the spectacle of the annual regatta - born out of the camaraderie and rivalry among fishermen, watermen and yachtsmen over the decades.

Each of the villages has its own character. Hamble, where river meets Southampton Water, is a sociable village with numerous pubs, bistros and restaurants where crew can gather. Old Bursledon is a quiet, hidden, almost rural retreat best known for its Jolly Sailor riverside pub. Warsash, on the opposite bank to Hamble and linked by a lipstick pink passenger ferry, feels more spread out with big smart family houses. It is also home to Warsash Maritime Academy and Warsash Superyacht Academy. Swanwick is buzzing: a workaday hub of boating activity with an accompanying plethora of pubs, bistros and cafes including The Navigator and Boat House Cafe. It is also the location of Swanwick Air Traffic Control Centre, providing services to 15 UK airports, handling 2.2 million flights and 220 million passengers in UK airspace.

This makes you appreciate that there is more than one Hamble. The familiar Hamble is a throng of yacht masts and promise of waterside pubs, glimpsed from the M27. Another is the Hamble of technology and innovation encompassing the aviation industry. Yet another Hamble is the market garden of Hampshire with a history of strawberry growing. The area’s strawberry fields may not have been forever, but there are still a number of pick-your-own farms and roadside farm shops. You can amble along the Strawberry Trail: a 15-mile footpath circling through Hamble and Royal Victoria Country Park before picking its way from Bursledon to Botley via Manor Farm Country Park. Here is another Hamble, north of the motorway, with calm vistas of wide water and wooded banks. (Spot the yellow stake which marks the wreckage of Grace Dieu, Henry V’s flagship.) This Country Park includes picnicking and play areas and an appealing 600-year-old working farm which starred in the BBC TV series Wartime Farm. At the end of the Trail, Botley is an attractive village with a focus on stylish independent shops with everything from beauty salons to designer children’s wear.

So what about commutability? With the M27 and A27 bisecting the Valley, access is reasonable unless you live in Hamble at the tip of the peninsula; there is only one main road which frequently becomes congested. But the village of Hamble is more about lifestyle than easy accessibility. There is a good scattering of railway stations at Old Bursledon, Hamble, Netley and Swanwick serving Southampton and Portsmouth, while mainline services to London are available at Botley.

Schools have a mixed report. Most are rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, two or three are rated ‘outstanding’ including Botley Primary School and Wildern Secondary School. Hamble Community Sports College, however, ‘requires improvement’ and is under new leadership. But alumni include world champion cyclist Dani King so reports do not necessarily offer a complete picture.

Overall Hamble Valley is worth an amble, mixing pockets of hidden countryside, quiet lanes, river views and the hustle and bustle of activity with busy routes into nearby Portsmouth and Southampton – those two cities still separate and distinct, as they should be.

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Vanessa Wrixon - Penyards, Titchfield

“The Hamble Valley is a highly prestigious and sought-after area, and considered one of the top places to live in the UK with its award-winning coastline and attractive harbours. The villages local to the River Hamble, such as Bursledon, Hamble, Swanwick and Warsash, have active communities and attractive lifestyles with a variety of restaurants and cafes, as well as the superb Solent Way coastal walk, Royal Victoria and Manor Farm Country Parks and nature reserves.

The area is a popular retreat for sailing enthusiasts with world-renowned sailing facilities on the doorstep and a plethora of marinas. All of this attracts a variety of home owners from the retired, upsizers, downsizers, families and the second home market. The vast variety of properties, from the pretty fishermen’s cottages to period and modern homes, gives plenty of choice.

I have worked for Penyards for nearly 20 years, 14 of those at the Titchfield office. I feel privileged to have always lived within the locality. I particularly love my Sunday family walks along the tow path from Warsash to Swanwick, catching the pink ferry across to Hamble and enjoying the activity on the river.”

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READ ON

Things to do in Hamble - places to eat, where to stay and more - Five miles south east of Southampton lies the chocolate-box village of Hamble. Not just a top haunt for sailors, it’s also the perfect place to soak up shorefront views, cosy up in ancient pubs or ponder seaside-inspired artwork in cool galleries

Meeting Portsmouth artist Karl Rudziak - With his bold portraits, Portsmouth artist Karl Rudziak has the potential to dilute prejudices and re-evaluate attitudes in a city that doesn’t need culture

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