What it's like to live in Farnborough
PUBLISHED: 11:31 17 July 2018 | UPDATED: 11:38 17 July 2018
You don't have to like planes to live in Farnborough, but it helps
Farnborough is busy and built up and given the charms of Hampshire’s picturesque villages, unspoiled market towns and vibrant port cities, it is probably not top of many people’s lists as the most desirable place to live. However, for those moving out of London and/or needing to work in London, but concerned about a lengthy commute, Farnborough provides an excellent halfway house. Positioned in Hampshire’s north-eastern corner, jostling right up against posh Surrey, Farnborough succeeds in achieving a good lifestyle balance with great access to both urban amenities and green space.
London escapees certainly get far more property for their pound. It is possible to swap an apartment in south west London for a whole family house (possibly detached) in Farnborough. Meanwhile the commute back into the smoke is manageable: around 38-43 minutes from Farnborough Main to London Waterloo in peak times.
Good transport links are one of Farnborough’s assets with easy access to the M3 (at two junctions - 4 and 4a), that mainline station, as well as a second station, Farnborough North, on another line with services taking less than half an hour to Reading and just 17 minutes to Guildford. In addition, Farnborough has its own business dedicated airport, TAG Farnborough, host to the biennial Farnborough International Airshow, held in 2018 from 21-22 July, with exhilarating displays attracting an estimated 100,000 visitors.
Farnborough is best known for its contribution to aeronautical science. The very first powered flight in 1908 by Samuel Cody took off from here and Frank Whittle conducted much of his research into jet aircraft when Farnborough was home to the Royal Aircraft Establishment. Since then the town has developed into a leading destination for the aerospace sector with impressive science and business parks attracting the likes of QinetiQ. This means there are opportunities to work locally for major national and multinational organisations and have a commute of just a few minutes’ walk or cycle.
So where to live? Farnborough sprawls. Development, particularly from the latter part of the 20th century, has subsumed adjacent villages, including Cove, and farmland, such as that at Southwood, into suburbs. Despite the proliferation of roundabouts, this is no new town. Farnborough dates back to Saxon times. There is still evidence of its past with the occasional 17th century timber-framed cottage – slightly incongruous adrift a tide of more recent development. Farnborough’s most famous resident was the exiled Empress Eugenie, widow of Emperor Napoleon III of France, who lived at Farnborough Hill (built in 1860 for the publisher Thomas Longman and now an independent school) until her death in 1920.
The town grew following the arrival of the railway and if period is your thing, Victorian and Edwardian properties can be found. There are also between-the-wars and post-war houses in sought-after parts of town such as South Farnborough. However, newer estates dominate. The pay-off are the numerous open spaces. Play areas, parks, playing fields and sports grounds are liberally scattered around. Just a gist of what’s available: King George V Playing Fields is a large popular park that’s often used for community events. Rectory Road Recreation Ground has football pitches and hard tennis courts. Moor Road Recreation Ground next to Farnborough Football Club borders wildlife-rich Cove Brook Greenway. Oak Farm Playing Fields is home to Farnborough Rugby Club and Farnborough Lawn Tennis Club, both emphasising their friendly credentials. Southwood Playing Fields is home to Rushmoor Community Football Club, with footie for all ages from nursery to adult. There’s well-established Cove Cricket Club, Farnborough Youth Football Club, Farnborough Weight Training Club, Farnborough Skate Park next to Farnborough Leisure Centre, Southwood Golf Club and more. In short something to keep all sorts busy.
For those who want a retreat there are hidden pockets of tamed wilderness. One such is Hollybush Hill a former gravel pit transformed into flower-rich grassland. Another is Queen Elizabeth Park, once part of Farnborough Hill estate this 24-acre woodland park is popular with cyclists, dog walkers, families and joggers. Plus there’s beautiful Blackwater Valley, east of Farnborough with river, lakes and ponds attracting water-loving wildlife.
That’s leisure sorted. What about study? Many of the area’s state schools are ‘good’ says Ofsted, including The Wavell at secondary level – described as having “principled and aspirational leadership”. But an impressive number are judged ‘outstanding’, among them five infants schools, and Grange Community Junior, St Mark’s Primary, South Farnborough Junior and Tower Hill Primary. Farnborough Sixth Form College, whose A level results last year were their best yet with students achieving a 99.2% pass rate, is also ‘oustanding’. Ditto Farnborough College of Technology, with a range of further and education programmes. Good local independents include aforementioned Farnborough Hill, Catholic day school for girls from 11 to 18, and Salesian College, Catholic grammar for boys from 11 to 18 with girls admitted in the sixth form.
Farnborough’s main downside is a dull town centre with modern malls and an occasional market. Redevelopment is ongoing, but it will always have to compete with the close proximity (although over the border) of Farnham and Guildford. Foodies, too, may be disappointed, although swish Aviator delivers a tip-top dining experience in its Brasserie. Other recommendations include The Crab & Anchor in Southwood (behind Morrisons) and The Gallery at Farnborough College of Technology (its expertly executed dishes prepared by catering students). There are also authentic Nepalese restaurants due to Gurkhas settling in the Aldershot area. My preferred hang-out is the Kingfisher on the Quay. With its lakeside location and relaxed vibe you simply wouldn’t guess you were somewhere built up and busy.
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