What it’s like to live in Emsworth
PUBLISHED: 16:21 10 June 2019
Emsworth offers a stunning harbourside location, good restaurants and a sense of escape… What’s not to like?
Butcher, baker (Hayling Island's Heidi's), fishmonger, greengrocer, deli, even a vinyl record shop (Harbour Records) and wine merchant… These somewhat old-fashioned independents found among Emsworth's hugger-mugger of quaint old streets are one of the charms of life in this small waterside town on the West Sussex border. Others are its picturesque coastal location: 'moored' beside the upper reaches of Chichester Harbour with tidal mill ponds on either side. Then there is its community spirit as well as an undercurrent of creativity. No wonder Emsworth attracts retirees, second home owners and families in retreat.
Once a fishing village known for oyster farming and boat building, Emsworth is still popular with sailors (yachtsman Sir Peter Blake lived here), its harbour protected by Hayling Island on one side and Thorney Island to the other. It also feels sheltered from the pressures of modern life - even though Portsmouth and Chichester lie within convenient reach; just a few miles west and east respectively.
This small town is big on pastimes with dozens of clubs, groups and organisations including sailing clubs, art groups, the local Maritime and Historical Trust (who run Emsworth Museum) and a very active Horticultural Society who support members with advice, buying in bulk and open garden events.
Locals and visitors can enjoy a mini-getaway by boat or on foot. Sail away on Solar Heritage, a solar-powered catamaran, or Terror, a restored oyster sailing boat. Or stroll along paths that wind their way along the shoreline and beside creeks. Both the Solent Way and the Wayfarers Way start (or finish) here, and shorter, breezy strolls can be taken along the foreshore and promenade and around the mill ponds and marinas.
Arty types will be inspired by this lovely landscape (the Harbour is an Area of Outstanding Beauty).
Foodies will also be happy. A selection of top notch restaurants, pubs and cafes includes: Michelin Guide-recommended 36 on the Quay and Fat Olives; Nicolino's, a neighbourhood trattoria; and The Blue Bell Inn, a popular pub.
Families will be pleased with the schooling. At primary level all schools are 'good' says Ofsted, including Emsworth, St James', Southbourne, and Thorney Island Primaries and Westbourne Junior. At secondary level both Warblington School and Bourne Community College are also 'good'. (Depending on where you buy, homeowners may also fall into the catchment area for Chichester's 'outstanding' and oversubscribed Bishop Luffa coeducational secondary.)
For somewhere with such an out of the way feel, access is pretty good, although it is probably a bit too far for a daily commute to London. Emsworth has a station with services to London Victoria or London Waterloo taking about 1 hour and 40 minutes (more or less), and the A27 connects to the A3 heading up past Petersfield and Guildford. Local journey times are far more reasonable with trains into Portsmouth taking about 20 minutes and around 45 minutes to Southampton.
The downside is that inevitably this lifestyle comes at a price. Property is not cheap, but ranges from a core of old buildings in the centre, including 17th century fisherman's cottages and Georgian townhouses, to avenues of Victorian and Edwardian villas leading out of town. Homes with waterside views, such as those along the foreshore and overlooking Slipper Pond and Emsworth Pond, come at a premium. South-west Emsworth is also sought-after and includes aptly named Beach Road, which runs up to the water's edge. Away from the town centre and the harbour front your money goes further. Head northwards for a selection of mid-century and modern family homes as well as a sprinkling of old farm cottages in semi-rural locations. This area has its own charms, lying at the foot of the South Downs with farmland and woodland, including Southleigh Forest, nearby.
Countryside to the north, coast to the south, cities either side and a sense of community at its heart. All in all Emsworth is a great place to settle. No wonder it was so loved by former resident PG Wodehouse (naming one much loved character Lord Emsworth). I wonder whether he would think it had changed that much in the past century or so?
"Taking a walk round Emsworth Mill Pond at the end of March it is easy to see why so many people choose to settle here. A low spring tide allowed the harbour hand to lay out fresh ground tackle for one of the many boats due back into the water at Easter, an annual event which heralds the start of another sailing season. Tucked out of the wind, one of Emsworth's artists was sketching the scene.
Identified as a property hotspot in the national press, Emsworth sits on the upper reaches of Chichester Harbour with the South Downs National Park at its back. The active community and range of independent businesses give the town and surrounding area a charm that has vanished from so many other places.
This uniqueness often attracts those people looking to retire, who move into the centre of Emsworth where there are mews style modern homes which have been sympathetically designed to blend with traditional properties. Families typically look for larger homes in the sought-after southwest corner.
Buyers from London have discovered the convenience of Emsworth's location, close to major road and rail networks. Our lettings office has introduced entire families to the quality of life that living in such an idyllic location brings. Over time second home owners become so captivated by the area they frequently upgrade their second home to a permanent residence.
Living in and working as an estate agent in Emsworth for 35 years I never tire of the harbour both on and off the water, and the country sports on offer in the South Downs. As an active member of our community I feel privileged to be part of this unique village."
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