Best things about living in Bitterne, Bitterne Park and Highfield
PUBLISHED: 10:21 15 November 2016
Bitterne, Bitterne Park and Highfield are explored by Emma Caulton
This is Southampton – but not necessarily as you know it. I am east of the city, high up, standing in an area of grassland where families picnic at tables. Further along a hidden old road, there is a scrubland wilderness crossed by footpaths looking out across Southampton’s cityscape. There’s the Itchen bridge, Ocean Village, St Michael’s spire, St Mary’s church, Saints’ football stadium and the clock tower in the distance. I can even see the bulk of a cruise ship.
This is Peartree Green, on the other side of the Itchen from the city’s centre. There is indeed a tree-fringed green with a playground overlooked by a brief terrace of Victorian cottages – a reminder of a lost built landscape. Along with neighbouring Woolston, this area was home to the Supermarine factory, manufacturing sea planes and spitfires, and was heavily bombed in World War II.
Today Woolston is an area in regeneration, along with Southampton central. Glossy waterside and city centre housing and leisure developments are springing up, the likes of Admirals Quay, Centenary Quay and WestQuay Watermark. Southampton is on the up and that is reflected in house prices with Southampton seeing the fourth biggest increase among UK cities this year.
Highfield, north-east of the centre, an elegant enclave bounded by Southampton Common to the west and home to the University of Southampton, is highly desirable with robust pricing. It has what must surely be some of the most attractive ‘crescents’ and ‘ways’ of houses in the city. Here are substantial Victorian, Edwardian and between-the-wars villas, some tucked quietly beside the thick woodland of the Common - so close to the city centre yet seemingly a world away. There’s a very good theatre and concert hall on the University campus, a couple of decent pubs – the Brewhouse & Kitchen is a favourite - and a Waitrose in neighbouring lively Portswood. And the local primaries, Highfield and Portswood, are both rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
Continue east, crossing over the Itchen, and you may discover a Southampton that may not be familiar, yet still ticks the boxes for family living. Bitterne and Bitterne Park, like Highfield, have excellent schooling. Bitterne Manor Primary, Bittterne Park Primary and Beechwood Junior are rated ‘outstanding’. Bitterne Park secondary and sixth form is ‘good’ with ‘outstanding’ aspects, and Itchen College is ‘good’.
Property may not be as impressive as Highfield, but offers good value and there are pleasant leafy, grass-verged avenues, groves and lanes of mostly between-the-wars and post-war homes (some mock tudor, others tile hung, plus a dollop of pebble dash). Convenience comes in the form of stations at both Bitterne and Woolston and parades of useful if unexciting shops. Bitterne has a pedestrianised shopping centre with basics covered from banks to Boots and a big Sainsbury’s. Bitterne Park feels more villagey. There is a focus on the ‘Triangle’ with a mix of traditional shops and hip eateries, including hardware store, bakery, butcher with deli, trendy Butcher’s Hook alehouse and a good collection of cafes: Miss Ellie’s for hearty breakfasts, Songbrid Ice Cream Cafe and Creative Space to indulge in millionaire’s shortbread ice cream, and Il Picchio caffe for authentic foccacia and antipasti.
Best of all are Southampton’s trademark stretches of green with parks and recreation grounds. There is the aforementioned Peartree Green as well as heavily treed Freemantle Common bordered by good family houses - with some enjoying those far reaching views mentioned earlier. A particular highlight, however, is Riverside Park. This is nearly 80 acres of parkland alongside the Itchen with footpaths and cycle routes, popular, noisy bits, such as a skate park, tennis court, miniature railway, cricket pitches and football pitches, and quieter bits with picnic tables overlooking a shingle beach where you can sit and watch the river flow. And there are dogs. Many dogs. Which is fine, but just beware of dog poo. (Come on, folks, this park is a fabulous amenity, don’t forget to bin it!) There are also opportunities to take to the water, kayaking and canoeing at clubs and centres such as Woodmill Outdoor Activities Centre. On a weekend the park and the river are a joy, showing that Southampton is not just about its busy centre, but about family lifestyle, too.
Agent talk - Lee Turner, Pearsons
“People moving to Highfield do so because of one or all of the key positives of the local infrastructure. For some it is the excellent schooling, for others it may be the proximity to the University or the convenience of access to many day to day facilities and the city, while still benefiting from a village community feel.
With such a broad range of reasons to move to the area, Highfield is considered one of the most popular areas in the city and demand always exceeds supply.
Situated just across the river from the city centre, Bitterne and Bitterne Park attracts the entire demographic of buyers. Bitterne Park is particularly popular with families - the superb schooling in the area plays a huge part in that, helping to propel prices. Bitterne has also faired well and offers excellent value for money and a diverse range of housing stock.
All areas offer anything from a contemporary apartment to a substantial period home and everything in between. The profile of a buyer can range from a first time buyer looking for a studio apartment through to a family or overseas buyer being relocated and needing a substantial home, to someone retiring and looking to downsize to an apartment or bungalow.”
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