Hampshire area guide
Area size: 3,769 km2
Average house price (based on 3-bed semi): £269,774 (Source: Zoopla)
Key towns: Winchester, Portsmouth, Southampton, Havant, Basingstoke, Gosport, Eastleigh
Hampshire is the single largest county in the South East of England and sits on the coast. Its county town, Winchester, was once England’s capital and the county has lost more land than any other in contemporary boundary changes.
Thanks to the proximity of the sea, Hampshire has a longstanding maritime history and is home to two of Europe’s largest ports, Southampton and Portsmouth. It also has a thriving tourist industry based around its seaside towns and two national parks, the New Forest and the South Downs, which together cover 45% of the county.
The county has exceptional road, rail, air and shipping links, and London is easily accessible from anywhere in the county, which makes it popular with commuters to London, Southampton, Portsmouth andWinchester.
Hampshire’s top five
- Quality of life: In the 2014 Halifax Quality of Life survey, Hart in Hampshire was found to be the best place to life in the UK; Winchester ranked in third place. Quality of life in the region is high with residents reporting a high level of health and wellbeing, higher than average salaries, a longer than average life expectancy and even better weather!
- Transport links: Wherever you live in Hampshire, you’re within easy commute of London, Southampton, Portsmouth, Winchester and Basingstoke. The county has excellent road, rail, air and sea links.
- Employment: More than 60,000 businesses are based in Hampshire. Of the 646,700 people who work in the region, 80,000 work from home, 188,900 work part-time and 97,900 are self-employed. Hampshire has lower levels of unemployment than the national average and higher than average employment in high-tech industries.
- Education opportunities: Hampshire has a particularly large number of highly regarded independent and prep schools, as well as many outstanding state primary and secondary schools. The rural lifestyle, excellent schools and proximity to a number of cities all attract families to the region.
- Outdoor activities: Forty-five percent of Hampshire is made up of two National Parks – the New Forest and the South Downs – while the south of the county sits on the South East coast of England. Leisure activities such as walking, cycling, horse riding, sailing and gliding are all well catered for across the region.
Hampshire is extremely popular with commuters to London, Southampton, Portsmouth and Winchester.
According to Hampshire County Council, the county has 5,300 miles of road and 193 miles of railway track, incorporating 49 stations. There are more than 30 commercial bus operators providing around 300 bus services across the region. Figures from the 2011 Census show that Hampshire has more cars than any other county and two-thirds of its commuters travel by car.
Many of the trains running between Hampshire and London terminate at London Waterloo. The main stations are Basingstoke and Winchester, which take 45 minutes and just under an hour to London respectively. Another popular commuter route is Overton to London Waterloo (55 minutes and two trains per hour at peak times).
Living or working in Hampshire will give you access to some of the UK’s biggest motorways, including the M3 and M27.
Major Hampshire A roads include the A3, A34, A303 and A31.
As well as being within easy travelling distance of Heathrow and Gatwick, Hampshire has its very own airport. Flights from Southampton International Airport head to 15 destinations within the British Isles as well as 28 European cities. There are small airports at Farnborough and Blackbush, which cater for executive jets, private flights and helicopters.
Regular cross channel ferries run from Portsmouth to destinations in northern France, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Wight.
Points of interest
When the Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD, Hampshire was incorporated into the Roman province of Britannia and Winchester was established in 70 AD. Generally speaking, this heralded three centuries of relative peace for southern Britain.
By the sixth or seventh century AD, Hampshire emerged as the most powerful kingdom in Britain – it was known as the Kingdom of Wessex and largely English-speaking. The name ‘Hampshire’ first began to appear in records as an administrative centre for the kingdom in 755 AD.
By the time of the Norman conquest, London had begun to overtake Winchester as the largest city in England but the area was still popular, especially the New Forest, which made for a prized royal hunting ground. The growth of shipping trade also meant that Southampton began to gain importance over Winchester.
Over several centuries, a number of major castles and forts were built in Hampshire to protect Southampton and Portsmouth.
These two cities have continued to play a crucial role in Hampshire’s history and fortunes. Southampton, for example, has been host to many famous ships, including the Mayflower and the Titanic, while Portsmouth’s large Royal Navy harbour was crucial during World War 2. In fact, Hampshire as a whole played a major part in the war effort, thanks to the army camp at Aldershot, army training ranges on Salisbury Plain and the Isle of Purbeck; Netley Military Hospital on Southampton Water was also well used. Supermarine, the designers of the Spitfire, were based in Southampton, which unfortunately made the city even more of a target for bombing.
These days, Aldershot is one of the British army’s main permanent camps and Farnborough is a centre for the Aviation industry.
There are many famous, past and present, people connected with Hampshire, including authors Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Ian McEwan and David Nicholls; actors Colin Firth, Martin Freeman, Miranda Hart, Amanda Holden, Elizabeth Hurley, Nicholas Lyndhurst; and notable figures such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, James Callaghan and Geoffrey de Havilland.
Hampshire acts as the backdrop to a huge number of films and television programmes. In 2014 alone, 11 feature films were shot in the county including Mission: Impossible 5, The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Criminal. A number of Bond films have been shot in Hampshire over the years and, most recently, Highclere Castle has seen a resurgence in popularity as home to Downton Abbey.
Living in Hampshire
For many, Hampshire offers a perfect blend of beautiful properties, good schools, picturesque landscapes and the amenities of London just a short commute away.
According to statistics available through Hampshire County Council, Hampshire is the third most populous county in England and home to one in seven people in the South East region, excluding London. Hampshire’s population is ageing faster than the national average, the proportion of residents age 65 or over increasing by 21% between 2001 and 2011, compared to 11% nationwide.
In the 2014 Halifax Quality of Life survey, the tranquil district of Hart in Hampshire was crowned the place with best quality of life in the UK for the fourth year in a row. Winchester came third in the same survey. Both Hart and Winchester scored highly for residents’ health and wellbeing, employment levels, low crime rates, good weather and good broadband access, among a number of other measures.
Looking at Hart in more detail, the survey revealed that 97% of Hart’s residents report being in good health. The average weekly wage in Hart is £839 compared to the UK average of £629. Apparently, people living in Hart enjoy 32.5 hours of sunshine per week compared to the national average of 29.5 hours. The region also has high employment rates with four out of five 16- to 64-year-olds in work.
Hart has the joint highest life expectancy in the UK with the male population typically living to the age of 83.
One thing to note is that house prices in Hart reflect its desirability with the average house costing seven and a half times the typical local annual income.
Country Life says that Overton, Winchester and Kingsclere are the best places for commuters to live in Hampshire.
Shopping in Hampshire
Hampshire is known for its wonderful mix of shops. The superb shopping facilities in Basingstoke, Southampton, Portsmouth and Winchester are among the best in the UK and offer an appealing blend of high street names, independent shops, top quality restaurants and popular farmers’ markets.
Some of the shopping centres and independent shops in Hampshire that score rave reviews on Trip Advisor include Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, WestQuay in Southampton, Festival Place Shopping Centre in Basingstoke, The Burley Fudge Shop in Burley, Molly’s Den in Winchester (‘a treasure hunt of a shop’) and The Old Apothecary in Lyndhurst.
Working in Hampshire
Hampshire’s proximity to London and excellent transport links make it popular with commuters. Its economy is estimated to be worth approximately £39 billion, with Portsmouth and Southampton contributing a massive £10 billion to this total.
Currently, Portsmouth and Winchester have the greatest job densities in the whole county and attract last numbers of commuters from neighbouring towns and villages. Southampton has the highest number of total jobs and commuter-packed trains run in and out of the city throughout the week.
More than 60,000 businesses are based in Hampshire. Of the 646,700 people who work in the region, 80,000 work from home, 188,900 work part-time and 97,900 are self-employed. Hampshire has lower levels of unemployment than the national average and higher than average employment in high-tech industries.
Agricultural has always been an important part of Hampshire’s economy, although its prevalence has declined over the last century. Currently 1.32% of the rural population work in agriculture, particularly dairy farming.
Hampshire is a popular tourist destination, with many people working in the area to support the tourism industry (worth £3 billion annually) around the New Forest, South Downs, Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester. Events such as the Southampton Boat Show attract people on day trips from neighbouring counties; in fact, 48 million day visitors come to Hampshire every year.
Historically, companies involved with the maritime docks have been major employers in Hampshire but this has seen some decline in recent years.
The excellent private schools in the region (see below) tend to attract lawyers, financiers, technology and telecoms experts to settle in the county. A large number of army personnel also live and work in the area, thanks to the proximity of army and naval bases.
Major private-sector employers in the area include Arquiva, Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering, DP World Southampton, Eaton Aerospace, Fat Face Ltd., Fluor, GE Aviation Systems, Global Crossing, Lockheed Martin UK INSYS Ltd., Motorola, and R Twining & Co Ltd.
Education in Hampshire
Hampshire has a comprehensive school system, which features a large number of independent and state schools. Comparatively few Hampshire schools have sixth forms, which may explain why there are 14 further education colleges within the Hampshire LEA.
Many of Hampshire’s villages have popular primary schools with good Ofsted reports. In Winchester, there are three excellent state schools which lead into the highly regarded Peter Symonds sixth form college. In addition, children from the Falklands or with parents in the British Forces board at the college, which sends a significant number of students to Oxbridge each year (53 students in 2013).
The county has a number of private prep schools, including Pilgrims School, Princes Mead and Twyford School in Winchester, Farleigh School near Andover, Danes Hill in Hook and Cheam near Newbury.
At secondary level, Winchester College, St. Swithun’s School for girls, Bedales School, and Lord Wandsworth School are highly regarded.
Outstanding state primary schools in the region include St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Sinclair Primary and Nursery School, Elvetham Heath Primary School, Whiteley Primary School, Wellstead Primary School, and Rogate CofE Primary School.
Wildern School, The Arnewood School Academy, Bohunt School, Cams Hill School and Testbourne Community School are just a few of the many outstanding secondary schools in the region.
The Good Schools Guide and Ofsted reports provide excellent starting points for more information.
Higher education in Hampshire is well represented with four universities: the University of Southampton, Southampton Solent University, the University of Portsmouth, and the University of Winchester. Farnborough College of Technology awards University of Surrey-accredited degrees.
Sports and leisure in Hampshire
With two National Parks within its borders, Hampshire’s countryside is largely unspoilt and people in the region enjoy a wide range of outdoor sports and leisure pursuits. Camping, walking and cycling in the New Forest and across the South Downs way are incredibly popular pastimes.
Hampshire is known for its chalk stream fishing, as well as sailing and other water sports around the Solent, Hayling Island and the Isle of Wight (although the latter is no longer part of Hampshire).
Lasham Airfield in Alton is the place to go to learn gliding and caters to everyone from beginners to glider pilots wanting to tackle advanced aerobatics.
Sport is well represented in Hampshire. Premiership team, Southampton FC (‘The Saints’) has been attracting crowds to its current home, St. Mary’s Stadium, since 2001, while a host of international cricket matches, as well as cricket coaching, take place at the Ageas Bowl, also in Southampton.
Places to visit
Hampshire is a county that offers quintessential seaside towns and stunning coastlines, alongside beautiful countryside. Its proximity to London makes it a popular destination for day trips, short breaks and family holidays.
Southampton offers lots to see and do, from the busy docks to thriving theatres, comedy venues, galleries and museums. The SeaCity Museum, and Tudor House and Garden are particularly popular with visitors. There are also a number of self-guided walks through the city, including the Titanic Walk and QE2 Mile.
Visitors to Portsmouth tend to flock to the mighty ships at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Famous vessels include the Mary Rose, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and HMS Alliance.
Winchester’s rich history is evident throughout the vibrant, bustling city, and popular attractions include the stunning Winchester Cathedral, Great Hall, Queen Eleanor’s medieval garden, Wolvesey Castle and Winchester College. Other places to visit nearby include Marwell Zoo, Beaulieu, and the Mid-Hants Railway ‘Watercress Line’.
Country Life recently listed five hidden gems of Hampshire that are well worth a visit. These are Whitchurch Silk Mill; chocolate-making classes with The Alresford Chocolate Company; JSW Restaurant (one of the county’s ‘best kept culinary secrets’); Gilbert White’s House and The Oates Collection; and West Street Potters in Farnham.
Hampshire is the perfect place to live or work if you want a taste of country life. There are a variety of stunning green spaces, many of which have a rich history. An added bonus is that Hampshire has a milder climate than most of the British Isles, thanks to the climate-stabilising effect of the sea and the surrounding Downs.
There are many stunning country parks in the area including Staunton Country Park, Manor Farm Country Park, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Royal Victoria Country Park, and Lepe Country Park.
Forty-five percent of the county falls within Hampshire two National Parks – the New Forest and the South Downs – which means that there is an abundance of green space and stunning walks to enjoy. Hampshire is well-known for its wildlife, especially the ponies of the New Forest, the otters of the River Test and the county’s large, free-roaming herd of red deer, which includes more than 6,500 stags during mating seasons.
Watership Down near Kingsclere is best known as the setting for Richard Adams’ 1972 novel of the same name. The beautiful hill attracts cyclists and walkers, and is close to Ladle Hill which has a partially completed Iron Age hill fort at its summit.
Southampton’s award-winning parks make it the greenest city in Southern England, and Southampton Common is worth a visit to enjoy over 300 acres of flora and fauna.
Property in Hampshire offers a strong mix of rural and urban designs, from picture-book Queen Anne houses and whitewashed thatched cottages to seafront apartments. There is also a demand for new country houses because there simply aren’t enough old ones for the number of would-be buyers. Executive developments close to transport links are popular too.
Zoopla puts the average price of a three-bed semi-detached property in Hampshire at £269,774, a value that has risen by £18,254 over the past 12 months. Rent for a similar sized property currently averages £1,065 pcm.
Commercial properties to rent and buy in Hampshire tend to offer a mix of retail spaces in period properties, modern serviced offices, warehouse spaces, city centre developments, and premises on prime business parks in the region.
According to Zoopla, the highest value towns in Hampshire for property are Petersfield, Alton, Basingstoke, Brockenhurst and Hook.
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