What it’s like to live in Wickham
PUBLISHED: 15:08 23 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:08 23 April 2018
Combining old-fashioned character and contemporary cool, Wickham mixes up lifestyle expectations
Wickham is a time-slip into Hampshire past. At its heart is one of the largest market squares in England lined with picturesque period properties. However, every street reveals architectural gems: among them 16th century timber-framed cottages with jettied upper floors, elegant Georgian townhouses with impressive column framed entrances and a row of curving 17th century cottages, making this historic village a hot spot for those looking for a character home.
Wickham is also a destination for those keen on vintage style as there’s an abundance of places selling retro pieces and antiques. Many head for Chesapeake Mill on Bridge Street – itself a fine specimen of industrial architecture constructed with timbers taken from its namesake the USS Chesapeake, captured by the Royal Navy in 1812. It’s now an antiques and collectables market with pottery, kitchenalia, country furniture and fine antiques. Back on The Square, browsers can discover Warwick Lane and Bay Tree Walk - mini-shopping centres that provide small businesses with an opportunity to showcase a variety of goods including bric-a-brac and Nordic-inspired interiors. On the road out of Wickham an Edwardian pumping station has been reinvented as Pump House Antiques, with fortnightly auctions and lots including brass school bells, milk churns and wood crates.
This sizeable village offers something of an old-fashioned shopping experience and has enough in the way of essentials to make it self-sufficient – the likes of bank, butcher, chemist, co-op, post office and proper hardware store - its air thick with that familiar whiff of wood and WD40.
It also has what amounts to a surprising number of eateries for a village. Foodies and coffee-and-cakers will be gloriously happy. Traditional coffee shops include Wickham Coffeehouse, Bay Tree Tea House and Lilly’s – the latter cosy with real fire and serving afternoon tea with all the accoutrements. And don’t miss a tearoom that’s part of Westlands Farm Shop found just outside Wickham.
Then there is a delicious collection of restaurants and pubs, among them Wild Gastro at Lilly’s (the tearoom is undergoing a transformation prime evenings), established Greens Restaurant and Bar, La Bocca (some may remember it as The Old House), Kuti’s, Verandah and The King’s Head (a good Fuller’s pub). Newcomer The Square Cow, replacing Wickham Wine Bar, was not yet open when I visited, while a favourite, OffBeet, a clean, eating, vegan hang-out in Chesapeake Mill, has become so popular since it was reviewed (glowingly) in the Daily Telegraph that it can be difficult to get a table. Another relatively new addition, Clifford Brown’s Brasserie at nearby Knowle Village, is also wowing with a focus on local ingredients, big flavours and foraging.
Altogether, this lively, eclectic mix shows that Wickham delivers both cool and comfortingly old-fashioned, and seemingly without even trying. Hence an events calendar that includes Morris Dancers greeting the dawn in The Square on May Day and, in a field that is walking distance from the village, chilled, delightful, family-friendly boutique Wickham Festival held early August – which I hope will never get too big for its own good or Wickham’s.
Other local amenities include more conventional treats: tranquil water meadows with picnic area, Wickham Park Golf Club with 18-hole course, and Meon Valley Trail, an 11 mile-long footpath and cycleway running along the disused railway line from West Meon to Knowle; just one of many footpaths rambling off into the surrounding countryside and woodland.
Property hunters in search of period homes will find them in Wickham’s centre, although there’s a variety of modern on the outskirts – ranging from mews style to splendid executive piles on Cold Harbour Close. Otherwise old farmhouses, quaint cottages, converted chapels and the like can be found in the villages scattered round and about Wickham. These include semi-rural Shedfield with its smattering of old cottages and country houses and lanes of big family homes, Shirrell Heath, an example of ribbon development of Victorian and later properties, including Lutyens-built New Place Hotel. A margin note - those looking for local fitness facilities could consider membership here or at Marriott Hotel & Country Club in Shedfield. Then there’s Knowle Village, a relatively recent development built on the site of an old Victorian hospital, all tidy and manicured with neat closes, village green and hall with family-orientated activities.
All in all, this is very much an area that is popular with families. Village schools, including St John the Baptist Primary at Waltham Chase, and Wickham Church of England Primary, are rated ‘good’ by Ofsted; ditto the secondaries – Swanmore College and Henry Cort Community College. The only downside is the lack of a train station – although it is well served by buses. But the fact that Wickham is not on a train line nor within sound of the M27 (although easily accessible via the A32) has kept this village largely unspoiled and encircled by river valley and woodland, field and vineyard. And that is, without doubt, part of its attraction.
Agent talk - Ian Taylor, Taylor Garnier, Wickham
“We really do see a cross-section of people looking to move to Wickham, from families and young professionals to retirees, all attracted by the village’s range of facilities which includes a number of eating establishments, two lively pubs, post office, bank, parish church and Wickham Park Golf Club.
The selection of good local schools appeals to families, while a variety of groups and societies cater particularly well for the retired population – altogether making for a very friendly village with a strong sense of community.
We find professionals moving to Wickham tend to be looking for access to one of three places: Portsmouth, Southampton or Winchester, which can be reached via three different routes – A32, the road through Bishop’s Waltham or M27.
We cover Wickham and surrounding villages in the Meon Valley, including Shedfield, Shirrell Heath, Soberton and Waltham Chase, altogether offering a range of properties from smaller homes to high-end family houses, equestrian type homes and a few individual properties. In terms of the current market – we have seen smaller properties continue to increase in value while the top end of the market I would describe as stable.”
• What it’s like to live in Waterlooville - Emma Caulton considers the changing fortunes of Waterlooville