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Best things about living in Wickham

PUBLISHED: 10:56 20 April 2015 | UPDATED: 11:21 20 April 2015

There is a rich architectural mix down Bridge Street

There is a rich architectural mix down Bridge Street

Emma Caulton

Wickham is a picturesque village that offers great places to eat, drink and be entertained, but what is it like to live there? Emma Caulton finds out on a recent trip

It’s The Square that astonishes. Wickham is reported to have the second largest medieval village square in the country. It is a vast space lined with elegant period properties and so many old-fashioned independents that Wickham appears to have successfully resisted the 21st century.

Okay, nowadays The Square is mostly given over to car parking, but then that has helped to boost trade for the local shops; and they’re a useful mix: butcher, baker, bank, pharmacy, post office, an interiors shop offering craft workshops, and a scattering of those charming bric-a-brac shops, with an assortment of floral china and painted furniture, that are back in favour with those seeking something retro and kitsch.

Meanwhile there are almost too many tea rooms, pubs, wine bars and restaurants than is decent for a small village; and there’s more: wander off down Bridge Street to discover Chesapeake Mill – an old water mill that’s a monument to salvage. It was constructed with timbers from the US frigate Chesapeake, captured by the Royal Navy in 1812, and is now an emporium of antiques, collectables, home furnishings, jewellery, and yet another cafe. Wickham does seem to have a knack for mixing retail with heritage.

However Wickham is not all about a gently old-fashioned shopping experience circa 1957. For residents there’s a strong community vibe. This is a welcoming and sociable village. There’s a variety of activities and clubs at the village hall and a lively events calendar includes Wickham Horse Fair, which dates back to the 13th century, and Wickham Festival, a great family-friendly folksy experience.

On the southern-most edge of the Meon Valley, Wickham sits between two worlds: verdant farmland to the north, and the developing coastal towns, cities and ports to the south. Both are easily accessible. The River Meon skirts Wickham and the Meon Valley Trail, a 10-mile path along a stretch of disused railway track from Wickham to West Meon, is well used by families, walkers, riders and cyclists.

Close proximity to Portsmouth Harbour probably accounts for Wickham’s traditional popularity as a home for many of the Royal Navy’s admirals (check out the memorials in the parish church). This is a legacy which may have contributed to Wickham’s rich hotch-potch of architectural styles including quaint timber and brick cottages alongside classic Georgian facades.

In contrast many of the surrounding villages, such as Waltham Chase, Shirrell Heath and North Boarhunt, have grown as ribbon development and comprise Victorian and Edwardian villas strung out along the main road network with piecemeal infill and some more modern development. Between them they share a smattering of village stores, churches, inns and primary schools.

For families the schooling is sound. Wickham’s primary school is rated ‘good’ by Ofsted while St John the Baptist Primary School at Waltham Chase is rated ‘outstanding’. Secondary schools are found to the north and south of Wickham: Swanmore College of Technology and Henry Cort Community College respectively, both rated ‘good’. There are also a couple of successful prep schools in the area: Boundary Oak and Rookesbury Park.

All in all, this is the Meon Valley at its most affordable with reasonably priced period property in Wickham, while in surrounding villages you will find, typically, family homes on decent-sized plots sometimes with long distance country views. And with countryside, cafe culture and a bit of a hub for the local community, it feels like this is a place where there’s time and space for everyone.

By the way Billy Bragg and The Proclaimers are in this year’s line-up at Wickham Festival. Might see you there...

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Rona Thurston - Byrne Runciman, Wickham

“Wickham offers the best of all worlds. On the edge of the Meon Valley it is a very attractive village surrounded by beautiful countryside, but it’s easy to get to places such as Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester; and commuters can travel up to London from Petersfield, Southampton Airport Parkway and Winchester.

Wickham has everything you need on a daily basis. There’s a good doctor’s surgery, butchers, bakers, Co-operative store...you don’t have to leave the village for your day to day needs; and there are some great restaurants attracting people into Wickham. On a Saturday night the village is full of residents dining out!

A lot of other villages further along the Meon Valley are very picturesque, but have few or no facilities. Very few villages nowadays can offer what Wickham has, village life and lots of amenities.

I have lived in Wickham for 21 years or so and what I like most is that it is a very friendly place. Wickham has a complete cross-section of society which I think is what makes it work. It has a good community spirit and a wide variety of clubs and activities for people to enjoy.

We find that a lot of people who come to live in Wickham stay in Wickham. We have seen young couples move to the area, have a baby, buy a bigger home and stay in the same place. People really do love living here.”

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