Here's what it's like to live in Fareham
PUBLISHED: 15:51 12 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:51 12 November 2018
A town that is conventional and convenient yet with secrets and surprises
Dwarfed by the two port cities of Portsmouth and Southampton on either side, Fareham gets overlooked, seeming unremarkable in comparison. Yet this old market town surprises.
For starters there’s the substantial cache of period properties. In the 18th century Fareham was a favoured property hot spot for naval officers – hence its wide High Street lined with Georgian townhouses (although behind the elegant facades some have medieval origins).
Next there’s the pedestrianised shopping precinct of West Street which doubles as a sculpture park. The imaginative ironwork constructions commemorate 18th century inventor Henry Cort – a local pioneer who revolutionised the iron industry – and creates a lively street scene.
Then beyond the dual carriageway (Gosport Road) there’s a hidden waterside recreation ground plus quayside, marina and sailing club on Fareham Lake, at the northwest end of Portsmouth Harbour. On the opposite bank is Cams Hall Estate Golf Course along with a decent Fuller’s pub, Cams Mill, a re-creation of the tidal mill that stood here over 100 years ago.
Then there’s Fareham College – recently named FE College of the Year in the prestigious Times Educational Supplement Awards. That’s a siren call to parents about the standard of education in the area. In its last Ofsted inspection Fareham College was rated ‘outstanding’. At secondary level Cams Hill College is also ‘outstanding’, and Crofton School, Fareham Academy, Henry Cort Community College and Portchester Community School (among others) are ‘good’. At Primary level Harrison Primary and Redlands Primary are both ‘outstanding’, while Uplands Primary, St Jude’s Catholic Primary, Orchard Lea Junior, Northern Junior and Ranvilles Junior are ‘good’.
That’s not all. Family-friendly facilities include award-winning Fareham Leisure Centre. This is the sort of amenity most of us would be delighted to have on our doorsteps: big gym full of state-of-the-art kit, two pools with activities from antenatal aqua to adult ‘Be Water Confident’ lessons, exercise studio including on-trend classes such as HIIT and tai chi, sports hall, health suite, dance school, creche and café. You’ll find the Centre off Park Lane in a leafy recreation ground with good play area, outdoor gym, skate park and tennis courts.
There’s more. Ashcroft Arts Centre with gallery, art studio, dance studio and café bar is described as one of Fareham’s best kept secrets. It has a Youth Theatre Company, various arts and crafts classes, plus performances from magicians, musicians and comedians.
Another secret is Westbury Manor Museum in one of Fareham’s finest buildings and former home to no less than six admirals. Recently refurbished it is a smashing social and industrial history museum with café, gift shop and three permanent galleries, each telling part of Fareham’s life story, such as its emergence as a world leader in brick production with fashionable Fareham Reds used to build the Royal Albert Hall.
Back to the present and plans have recently been revealed for a multimillion-pound redevelopment of Ferneham Hall. This theatre located right behind the shopping centre and library (a vibrant and valued community space revitalised last year) has a programme dominated by tribute acts and musicals. These plans would give the venue a new lease of life – although it would have to close for a couple of years (from 2019). This is part of a programme to turn round Fareham’s fortunes. The town centre is useful with a weekly street market, monthly farmers’ market and good covered shopping mall, home to the likes of Boots and Debenhams, however it suffers from close proximity to Whiteley’s shopping ‘village’. Just north of Fareham, glossy Whiteley attracts with its fashion stores, nine-screen cinema, places to eat (Wagamama to Wildwood) plus Rock Up – introducing adventure and climbing into the shopping experience.
Where Fareham scores is the impressive choice of independent restaurants and cafes – although these are often below the foodie radar. Among there are Cackleberry’s, The Garden Shed Café, the original Three Joes (sourdough pizza) and Antonio’s (Spanish restaurant and tapas bar) all on West Street. On the High Street is well-established Villa Romana (authentic Italian served in a converted coach house), Lauro’s (fusion of Mediterranean and Oriental) and Truffles (a surprising take on Modern European).
Then there’s location. With the Forest of Bere to the north and Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve and Hill Head’s shingle beach to the south, locals can easily enjoy an outdoorsy life. Meanwhile for workday needs the M27, running north of Fareham, provides access to the road network while stations at Fareham and Portchester offer a decent commute to Portsmouth, Southampton and London.
Finally, there’s property. Fareham itself offers good value and a broad range of housing stock encompassing Georgian townhouses, Victorian villas, well-proportioned 1930s homes, smart modern executive homes and architect-designed new(ish) builds. Meanwhile Fareham Borough has grown to incorporate Wallington Village (a footbridge stroll yet time lapse away from Fareham town centre), historic Portchester with waterfront castle, picturesque Titchfield, Stubbington and Hill Head. Between them they offer quaint 16th cottages, 17th century country houses and remodelled mid-century chalet bungalows with water views.
In short, family-focused Fareham is worth exploring even though it seems ever on the cusp of change and further development. The latest plans to create a garden village of 6,000 homes (named Welborne) north of the town and the M27 are gathering momentum. Here’s hoping it will enhance Fareham and not impact on those hidden villages and country and waterside escapes.
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