Why you should move to Odiham
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 February 2020
Castles, canals, character and countryside; Odiham offers much to tempt the homeowner, says Emma Caulton
A wintry early evening in Odiham. Before curtains are drawn, warm light spills out from windows framing elegant drawing rooms in handsome Georgian townhouses and cosily beamed kitchens in colour-washed cottages. This old market town in the north-east corner of the county is perfect for those charmed by a picturesque street scene, for it has one of the most outstanding collections of historic buildings in Hampshire with some 167 listed buildings in the parish. Character period properties currently on the market include a quaint cottage with 14th century origins on Farnham Road and an individual home with stunning vaulted reception room, converted from what were Odiham's Assembly Rooms, on King Street. Both are on the market with McCarthy Holden estate agents - the former for £525,000 and the latter for £585,000.
The sense of the past is almost tangible. Slip down medieval Stoney Alley into The Bury and discover a quiet, hidden old square that feels as though you've wandered onto the set of a period drama. There are timber-framed cottages with jettied upper storeys, a rare example of a 17th century Pest House, and original stocks. Close to the early 13th century parish church a former house of correction, opened in 1742, is now the library. On the other side of the High Street what was a medieval royal deer park is criss-crossed by footpaths leading to the Basingstoke Canal. This restored waterway is a favourite with locals who cycle and stroll along the towpath year-round and take to the water, by canoe or rowing boat, during warmer months. The canal winds east through countryside to Dogmersfield and west to Greywell - previous winner of Best Kept Village in Hampshire. On its way it crosses over the River Whitewater and passes the tranquil remains of Odiham Castle - built for King John and at the start of the Magna Carta Trail, as it was from here that the King rode to Runnymede.
Odiham feels beyond time, well away from the pressures and stresses of modern life. Yet junction 5 of the M3 is conveniently close and train services into London Waterloo take just an hour, more or less, from nearby Hook and Winchfield. Those in search of a semi-rural lifestyle with easy access to city life will be delighted. Odiham is surrounded by gentle rolling countryside of farmland and woodland. Country lanes wend their way to scattered hamlets and villages of wonky timber-framed farmhouses, converted barns and occasional modish new builds. More often than not these settlements are home to traditional country inns, such as the Fox and Goose at Greywell, and gastropubs like the Hoddington Arms at Upton Grey.
Foodie types will find plenty to relish locally. Odiham, along with its neighbour North Warnborough - home to Newlyns farm shop, café and cookery school - is a gastro-destination. A bottle of something delicious from Caviste, wine merchant and gin emporium? A wedge of award-winning Barkham Blue from the cheese shop in Newlyns? Olive oil made from the olive groves beside the Greek holiday home of the owners of The Pickled Pepper - the new deli on the High Street? Yes, please. This is the sort of old-fashioned, quality food shopping experience many of us crave, but rarely find.
There are also numerous inviting places to eat and drink. On Odiham's High Street are cosy inns with rustic charm, exposed beams and open fires, including The Red Lion and Bel & The Dragon at The George, which was recorded as an inn back in the 16th century. Try a world of flavours at the likes of popular El Castello Mediterranean restaurant, Pan Y Vino tapas bar, Le Creperie French café and Odiham Spice.
Alongside this is a retail experience for those who appreciate the finer things in life. Interior stores range from Allsorts, for an eclectic mix of antiques and vintage, to Walker and Walker for smart interior and architectural design. There's Moutan, a contemporary florist with statement displays, The Frame art gallery, and Libelula, the welcoming pocket-sized boutique of fashion designer Sophie Cranston. Upmarket beauty and hair salons and wellbeing clinics include Hadley Simmons, Let's Face It and The Odiham Clinic. At Newlyns' barn complex the style theme continues with the Travelling Bazaar boutique, featuring fashion labels that are that little bit different, and Zara Christie for stylish country interiors. Meanwhile the necessities of life are covered with P&K Electrical and Hardware store, a Post Office and a Southern Co-op.
Families will be pleased that local schools also get a good report. Buryfields infant school, Mayhill junior and Robert May's secondary are all Good says Ofsted, while nearby Hook infant and junior schools are both judged Outstanding.
Leisure facilities are varied for a relatively small market town. They include a swimming pool available to the community at RAF Odiham (home of the RAF's heavy lift helicopter, the Chinook), tennis courts, cricket club, bowling green and art group. There is a sense of community cohesion involving events such as a raft race (a fairly new fundraiser for The Basingstoke Canal Society) and local hubs based at North Warnborough Village Hall and The Cross Barn. The latter is one of the finest Tudor barns in Hampshire and now hosts film nights and Odiham Society talks. Like the library, this is yet another example of Odiham adapting its architectural inheritance to meet the needs of the present. Something it does so well.
Shaun Hobbs, partner, Knight Frank, Basingstoke
"It is rare to find a location that can aspire to tick all of the must-have boxes, Odiham is one of these. As soon as you drive into the pretty Georgian High Street you can't help but feel you have gone back in time, this is reinforced by the myriad small walkways bordered by period cottages and houses. Add to this a splendid choice of restaurants, bistro pubs, country markets and designer independents, and it is no wonder Odiham has become a choice destination to live for young and old, making it a property hotspot for period cottages, fine Georgian houses and new homes.
"Those who live locally in a rural setting like the convenience of everything being within walking distance. For London buyers it is a good choice for a first step into country living - especially when you add an easy commute. Nearby, the M3 provides fast road access to London. There are also mainline train stations at Hook and Winchfield with regular services to London Waterloo.
"There is much for those who like the fresh air and a bit of history, including Odiham Castle built during the years 1207 to 1214 for King John. He may have chosen Odiham because it is halfway between Windsor and Winchester.
"There are lovely walks along the Basingstoke Canal which can incorporate a visit to the entrance of the Greywell Tunnel. This extends for 1,230 yards (getting on for a mile) and is the largest known bat roost in Britain, giving it significant ecological importance. Up to 12,500 bats hibernate here and the tunnel enjoys status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
"In the beautiful surrounding countryside there are numerous footpaths and bridleways many leading to pretty villages where more often than not you will find a traditional pub.
"For me living in Odiham is hard to beat."