What it's like to live in New Milton
PUBLISHED: 15:07 15 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:03 16 May 2017
As the ‘Lymington effect’ spreads along the coast, is it boom time for New Milton and nearby Barton on Sea? Emma Caulton paid a visit to find out what’s on offer to buyers
You may smile (and people do), but I believe New Milton is up and coming. I have been watching the ripple effects from the smart money buying into Lymington move westwards along the coast. First it reached Milford on Sea. Next is Barton on Sea (New Milton’s coastal suburb) and New Milton itself.
A sea change is due, although the area has long been popular with Home Counties’ retirees looking for one level living on the coast. They’re attracted by bungalows in sunny gardens along wide, grass-verged and tree-edged avenues within easy walk of Barton on Sea’s clifftop, with its spectacular views sweeping from Hurst Castle in the east to Dorset’s Isle of Purbeck in the west – a smudge on the horizon. In response to this demographic the likes of Pebble Beach and Chewton Glen – respectively top notch clifftop restaurant with rooms in Barton on Sea and internationally acclaimed country house hotel and spa on the fringes of New Milton – have flourished, stacking up awards and accolades.
More recently families have cottoned on to the area, attracted by impressive schooling. New Milton boasts that desirable rarity – a secondary school rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted: Arnewood (11-19 Academy). This is supported by two junior schools (Ashley and New Milton) both rated ‘good’. There’s a choice of independents: non-selective Ballard School, where pupils achieve well above expectations (check out their GCSE results for 2016), and Durlston Court School, ranked number one in Hampshire and Dorset in The Sunday Times Top 100 Preparatory Schools’ List 2016.
Quality of life scores highly, too. Location is a draw with coast to the south, New Forest to the north, yachtie capital Lymington to the east and the delights of Mudeford and Christchurch to the west. Facilities aren’t bad either. New Milton even has a mainline station, making it suitable for the London commuter with a journey time of less than two hours to Waterloo – probably not something you’d want to tackle every weekday. Bournemouth is about 16 minutes by train and Southampton between 20-30 minutes.
In terms of leisure and pleasure, there’s not only the beach, popular with families for paddling and geologists for fossil hunting, but a clifftop golf course, leisure centre, sports fields and recreation grounds – such as War Memorial Recreation Ground with skate park and performance pavilion in the centre of town. As for culture, the New Forest Arts Centre is a former drill hall converted into a leading arts venue with a gutsy programme of comedy, exhibitions, music and workshops.
The downside? New Milton feels a bit out of the way. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but may account for a town centre that is unprepossessing and scruffy in parts. Despite Milton being mentioned in the Domesday Book (back when it was little more than a farmstead), there is little period architecture. Even the railway’s arrival in the second half of the 19th century failed to kick-start any significant development – apart from a good Victorian water tower.
A consequence of much development being post war is a nondescript, unimaginative town centre. It has merit, however, in being useful. There is a weekly market, a supermarket (Morrison’s), banks and various independents including electrical, lighting and hardware stores, bakeries, pharmacies, florists, jewellers and, best of all (in my view), Bradbeers department store. This family-owned business has invested in a major update – taking down a wall, installing new flooring, staircases and lighting, attracting new concessions, such as Phase Eight and Jones the Bootmaker, and new customers. A browse reveals quality names including Barbour, Crew, Esprit, Joe Browns, Joules, Superdry, Smashed Lemons, Radley and White Stuff.
Similarly, local eateries are ratcheting up the offering. Chewton Glen has opened The Kitchen – a new relaxed dining experience and a cookery school overseen by James Martin. Pebble Beach has refurbished its bedrooms (each named after a view). Stylish Cliff House hotel and restaurant recently had a facelift. So, too, has The House Martin pub. Otherwise a good selection of cafes includes popular Beachcomber Café (another with clifftop views) and The Potting Shed tearoom at Redcliffe Garden Centre.
As for property, compared to New Forest and Milford on Sea, New Milton and Barton on Sea offer good value. There is the occasional thatched cottage and country house, but the selection is mostly modern family homes in generous plots on quiet drives. Sought after addresses include Barton Common Road, Becton Lane and Chestnut Avenue.
Slowly, however, with a mews-style development here and a house undergoing refurbishment there, change is coming. And with it prices could rise.