The name Basingstoke doesn’t conjure up many wonderful images. It’s a post war new town full of ideally placed shops, facilities, ring roads and roundabouts. To be fair, it has everything you need or could possibly want from a large town from indoor skydiving to good takeaways, an ice rink to the main high street shops, athletics, rugby, football, gymnastics, parks and good schools… in fact the list is endless. It’s only 45 minutes to London, Reading, Guildford and Southampton, half an hour from two airports and sits right on the M3. It’s not the prettiest town in the world but it’s ideally placed. It’s also quite affluent. With only 1% unemployment and lots of big businesses it’s prosperous, and the house prices reflect it.
All that aside, I live in a village just outside Basingstoke, just one of the many truly lovely places that surround the town. The town centre is a ten minute car journey and yet you wouldn’t know I lived anywhere near. We have no mains gas or drainage, no school and no street lights. But we do have a beautiful village duck pond, a pub, a shop, village hall and Post Office and they are set in glorious rolling chalk hills covered in farmland and woods. We also have a thriving community. Each year we have two village flower shows, a church fete, two evenings of entertainment in the village hall and a hog roast and that’s all I can think of at the moment. We have a fantastic children’s play area, a tennis court, footpaths, countryside all around, a famous garden and even a folly.
For me this area has a perfect balance of rural idyll and up to date facilities, which is probably why so many people live here and commute to London for work.
Nearby Odiham has a charming high street with wide pavements and there is even a little cafe culture! Restaurants and good food and a few small shops for gifts and essentials. Hook is not so pretty but also has all you need. This year sees the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta and King John set out from his hunting lodge near Odiham for the historic event… the whole place id going mad about it and has a whole four days of celebrations planned. The ‘ castle’ is right beside the Basingstoke Canal, one of the most beautiful stretches of water I know and which is fed from chalk springs at the end of my road. The River Whitewater also starts there and provides a ford in a nearby village which serves as a place for kids, dogs and horses to play. In the summer it resembles the seaside with sunbathing mums and water madness!
At the tender age of 18 Marks and Spencer sent me to Basingstoke as a trainee store manager and when I left I vowed I would never come back. In 1988 I married someone in the RAF stationed at Odiham and came back…. I have been here ever since!