Why move to the Hart District
PUBLISHED: 12:22 19 February 2014 | UPDATED: 15:32 26 August 2015
Voted the UK's most desirable place to live by the Halifax, can the Hart district maintain its exclusive reputation? Emma Caulton finds out...
For those making a cautious exit from London, Hart district in the north-east corner of Hampshire has long been a popular choice. This is an area that combines countryside, community and communications. It has the gently rolling landscape of field and copse of the North Downs to the south and stretches of dense woodland in the north yet has a decent commute into London as both a fast railway line and the M3 motorway run through its centre. (Railway stations at Fleet, Hook and Winchfield, a village midway between Odiham and Hartley Wintney, have a journey time of around an hour, more or less, into Waterloo.)
Families are encouraged by Hart’s reputation for its community spirit, acclaimed schools and green lung of country parks and ponds, heathland and woodland - Fleet Pond is the largest freshwater lake in Hampshire and the Basingstoke canal meanders through the area. Stir into the mix a scattering of pretty manicured villages with thatched cottages (such as Crondall, Eversley and Rotherwick) and a country pub seemingly down every lane (Exchequer at Crookham Village and Leather Bottle at Mattingley among them) and it is perhaps not as surprising as some make out that in a study by the Halifax, Hart has held the title of the UK’s most desirable area to live for quality of life for two consecutive years. (At the time of going to press we’re waiting to hear if they’ve held the title for three years running).
In addition, employment is high and crime rates are low. Education is exceptional with a swathe of state schools at every level across the district rated Good or higher by Ofsted. There are impressive private schools, too, such as The Grey House in Hartley Wintney, St Nicholas in Fleet, and Lord Wandsworth College in Long Sutton.
But with the success of demand comes pressure and there has been considerable development around Hart’s main town, Fleet, although Elvetham Heath, a new development on the northern edge of Fleet, has been a success story and could surely be a template for how to create a new community, complete with pub, school and village green. Others have grown in a less cohesive, joined-up way; I’m thinking Hook (once just a village). Yateley has sprawled, too, but has a more established feel with mature, tree-lined roads. Historic Odiham with its fine period properties and Hartley Wintney with its browsable antiques shops and magnificent common of oaks have both been preserved. And yet development continues apace with increasing concern about loss of green space and over-subscribed schools.
Property-wise, there are lovely cottages in villages across Hart, but these areas are inevitably pricier than the conurbations of Church Crookham, Fleet, Hook and Yateley, which have mostly modern family homes built post-war onwards and can offer relatively good value. (If you’re commuting from Yateley the train journey is longer; it takes over an hour from Blackwater’s station depending on whether you change at Guildford or Reading for Waterloo or Paddington respectively.)
Overall, however, life is easy here, with London in one direction, coast in the other, and countryside inbetween. For those wanting the occasional liveliness of shops and theatres, Basingstoke, Guildford and Reading are all within easy reach. In my opinion Hart is about community and convenience, and there’s nothing wrong with that, and it is easy to head off for a country walk with a village pub never far away.
Chris Nicklin - Strutt & Parker, Odiham
“From our perspective there are three key elements that attract purchasers and they are, not necessarily in any particular order, culture, communications and countryside. In Odiham we have all three, and that’s the joy of this area.
This is the first real tranche of countryside outside the larger conurbations of Fleet and Church Crookham, which have grown quite a lot over recent years. Right on the doorstep are the loveliest villages on the northern edge of rolling Hampshire countryside and yet it is so accessible with the mainline railway line and M3 motorway.
On the cultural side, Odiham is increasingly popular with downsizers as there’s a very good social element in the village itself with the Cross Barn [16th century brick built barn which is now a community hub] and lots of clubs. For families there is an excellent mix of state schools and private schools right across the Hart region and within Odiham we have the complete school system, infants, primary and secondary, which is a big draw.”
Steve Tetlow - Mackenzie Smith, Hartley Wintney
“Having worked in Hartley Wintney for the last 10 years, a historic village in the Hart district, I have witnessed many changes, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the friendliness of the people and the great sense of community. Hart is a highly desirable area and, although you might not notice it at first, there is a quiet sense of calm and community across the towns and villages.
Excellent rail links provide the opportunity to work in London while enjoying a slower paced lifestyle.
Hartley Wintney is glorious on a summer day with its duck pond, cricket green and oak common providing some wonderful space to enjoy. Annual events in Hart include Hartley Wintney Festival, Fleet Carnival, Fleet Half Marathon and Hook Fun Run; bringing communities out in force.”