Why you should move to Overton
PUBLISHED: 12:09 23 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:13 23 October 2020
Photograph by Emma Caulton
With cool cafés and chic high street shopping, village living doesn’t get much better than Overton
Near the source of the River Test and Jane Austen’s birthplace (at Steventon), Overton combines agricultural, industrial and literary heritage, yet doesn’t shout about any of it.
Time seems to pass gently in a village that is a forever afternoon tea type of place. I am not sure whether, on a Saturday in early autumn, I’d ever seen Overton looking so lovely.
The village centre is a charming hotch potch of period property. 18th century converted mill house here. Old wonky buildings with 17th century timber-framing there. Thatched cottages. Painted brickwork. Overall the street scene is poetically picturesque.
I stopped for very good coffee and cake in stylish Honesty café-deli with olive green walls, squashy sofas and refectory table displaying local produce.
Down Winchester Street a woman in a vintage floral dress, bridal veil flying, ran, hurrying to get to the church on time. I was reminded of Four Weddings & A Funeral (although in the film it was the guests doing the running). Overton could certainly be the backdrop to a film set.
It is surrounded by an undulating landscape of field and woodland. Not quite how you would imagine an area known for banknote manufacture.
However Portals, the descendent of the original papermill established over 300 years ago, hunkers down beside the station and out of sight of the village centre.
Instead my approach took me past the Test Valley Golf Club and Laverstoke Park Farm, the organic and biodynamic farm owned by ex-racing driver and Formula One World Champion Jody Scheckter.
This was the setting for ITV’s Sugar Free Farm and, in ‘normal’ years, the venue for CarFest South. When I went by the only activity was two collies herding a flock of sheep.
Overton is a tranquil spot; despite sitting where B roads cross, there is no major road running through or near Overton. Yet, the fingerpost signs at the central crossroads indicate you can access cities and towns with ease.
Basingstoke is eight miles one way, Winchester and Newbury both 13 miles (although in opposite directions), and Whitchurch four miles in the other. It is also one of those villages with the extraordinary convenience of a mainline station providing a service to Basingstoke of just eight or nine minutes and London Waterloo in 55 minutes or so.
Such connectedness may be unexpected, but Overton is actually a very practical village. Most everyday needs are met with essential facilities including surgery, pharmacy, vets, library , Co-op and Post Office.
Exceptional recreational facilities, run by and for the community, include over 30 acres of green open space and more than 20 clubs and societies.
Local businesses are thriving. Overton Business Association had some 50 members at the last count.
Wessex Business Services, ostensibly business insurance brokers, also provide business support services, such as printing and mail drop, gallery space for local artists and office space to rent by the hour, day or month. Owner John Mitchell says they were popular in lockdown with local residents not able to work from home.
There’s a baker’s, butcher’s, greengrocer and dry cleaner (that doubles up as a haberdashery), hairdresser, barber (The Dude Lab), plus wine merchant, two highly rated restaurants, and four cafes within strolling distance of each other.
These include Overton Gallery which is more tearoom than art space, serving the range from sarni sausages to prosecco and cake.
There are four pubs – each one different: The Greyhound is a proper local; The Red Lion is known for its pub food; The Old House at Home has a highly recommended Thai restaurant, and The White Hart is a recently refurbished historic inn with rooms.
Added into the mix are independent lifestyle and fashion boutiques such as The Artizans with great homeware buys, and Blueberri for fashion and gifts.
The very latest is No1 George Street (because that is what they were called in Kingsclere), despite actually being positioned on the corner of London Road and Winchester Street. This style emporium is a great new addition for not ‘on the high street’ fashion finds, skincare and jewellery.
I wonder if Overton is becoming more country chic in response to families moving to the area attracted by the schooling. If education is high on your location must-haves, then Overton hits the spot with educational establishments judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted at primary, secondary and tertiary level.
These are, respectively, Overton Church of England Primary, Testbourne Community School at Whitchuch, and Peter Symonds Sixth Form College in Winchester (there’s a bus service in the morning running through Overton and Whitchurch to Winchester, picking up both students and the general public).
As for houses, they encompass farmhouses and country cottages in surrounding hamlets and in Overton a mix of the very old and the brand new with pockets of development here and there.
However, developers are encouraged to reflect the village’s built character in their designs – some successfully, others less so.
Hence a mix of quaint character and functional modern – a growing community among the folds of field and wood, near the source of the Test and away, it appears, from sources of stress.
Incidentally, the running bride was later seen outside the church porch, posing with husband and friends for photos. So, she made it!
And on the cricket pitch opposite a match was in slow swing; whites on lush green. The sun came out highlighting the fields of gold rolling away behind the church.
And all seemed well with the world. In Overton anyway.
What the Agent says
Martin Fielder, Parnell, Jordy & Harvey Estate Agents, Overton
“The market is crazy at the moment. We have lots of people identifying Overton as a place to come, feel safe, have a life and access to countryside.
“Overton has a fast service into London Waterloo from its mainline station for people who need to go to London, even if it’s only once a week. You get on at Overton, it stops at Basingstoke, and doesn’t stop again until it gets to Clapham Junction or Waterloo.
“The schools here are all outstanding. You also have, a bit further up the road, Cheam School and St Gabriel’s - so there are amazing private schools nearby as well. We’ve a Montessori playgroup, the Overton playgroup… Why wouldn’t you bring your family here?
“Then there’s always something going on. Something that makes the village special is Overton Recreation Centre which is a charity run by and for Overton.
“It owns and manages a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, cricket pitches, and football pitches together with cricket pavilion and sports building where they operate lots of fitness clubs, like the running club, Pilates, yoga and weight-lifting. I challenge people, I say, give me a thing that you do and I almost guarantee that there will be a group already doing it in the village.
“I encourage people to come and talk to me because we know the village so well. My Mum opened this office in 1978, and I spent my summer holidays down on Bridge Street playing Pooh Sticks. I joined the business in 1987 as the Saturday boy and took over in 2007.
“I’m a great advocate of us being the first port of call. If people talk to us and say, this is what I’m looking for or this is what I’d like to achieve, we can give them a really good steer on where to look for it.
“People also move to Overton to retire, because they can walk to the greengrocer, the butcher, the baker, the cafes, chemist, restaurants, pubs and local groups. There’s everything everybody wants on a day-to-day basis. We’ve even got banking facilities inside the Post Office, which is part of the Co-op.
“We’ve possibly one of the best independent wine merchants in the country, Caviste, and probably the best bathroom retailers in the country as well – they work for country estates and the very best houses. There isn’t anything that we haven’t got the best of... Am I biased?”