Best things about living in Hedge End and West End
- Credit: Emma Caulton
Suburbia and the living is easy, says Emma Caulton on a visit to Hedge End and West End
The dream is meant to be a chic city centre pad or a quaint country cottage, however the reality for most of us is that we live somewhere betwixt and between: otherwise called suburbia. The description is frequently used somewhat disparagingly. Yet it is often a comfortable environment: quiet closes and leafy drives of family homes, parks at the end of the road and local shops round the corner. Such are the neighbouring ‘town’ of Hedge End and ‘village’ of West End, lying within the administrative borough of Eastleigh and the urban area of Southampton – on its north-eastern outskirts.
Hedge End has become synonymous with its profusion of ‘out of town’ supersized retail stores where you can buy pretty much anything, from beds, computers and dresses to tvs, tiles and teacakes. Meanwhile West End is dominated by the Ageas Bowl, events venue and home of Hampshire County Cricket Club, plus Hilton hotel, spa and, opening next year, 18-hole golf course.
But these areas offer more than the obvious. Away from the roundabouts and mega stores, Hedge End has modern estates of attractive executive homes, tree-lined and grass-verged, interspersed with green spaces, parks and recreation grounds, and linked by a network of family-friendly footpaths and cycle ways. Facilities continue the family focus. There’s a leisure centre with pools, gym, sports hall and courses such as archery, its own theatre, The Berry, with youth theatre, story-telling and writing initiatives, library, and community groups, such as the d.@rt centre at Wildern School with community choir, arts and crafts workshops for adults and street dance classes for kids. There’s a plain, but useful centre with four (yes, four) banks, post office, greengrocer, small scale supermarkets, chemists, takeaways, traditional pub and basketball court.
Accessibility is good. You may be aware that there’s a choice of junctions on to the M27 and Southampton International Airport is just down the road (almost literally). However did you know the station at Hedge End (small, but only a walk or bike ride away) is on the London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour line - trains take 30 minutes or less to Southampton, 40 minutes or more to Portsmouth and around 90 minutes to London.
Although suited to modern day living, the area’s antecedents are farms and hamlets, and away from the main roads the past lingers. In West End the grounds of an old manor house (Hatch Grange) have been turned into a park: 38 acres of woodland and grassy swards where kids play footie and dogs are walked against a backdrop of far reaching views west to Itchen Valley Country Park. There’s also a playground for little ones, library and cafe, all right in the heart of the village. Or there’s Telegraph Woods, on a ridge high above the village, site of an Iron Age hilltop fort and where a beacon was lit in 1588 to warn of the approaching Armada. West End’s old fire station is now a museum and heritage centre (managed by the local history society), and the old workhouse is earmarked to be sensitively refurbished as a redevelopment of part of the old Moorgreen Hospital – past co-existing with present.
The centre of the village itself has an interesting cluster of facilities comprising both the needed and the occasional surprise. There’s a small Asda, post office, chemist, takeaways, and pub, as well as garage services, nursery rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, shop selling printed music , new beauty and hair salon, and dental health practice.
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Like Hedge End, there’s a strong sense of community – not only an active parish council, but the likes of Hilldene Community Centre which has a great range of activities from bobbin lace making to scrabble club and jujitsu to pilates, and let’s not forget the masterclasses and skills challenges available at the Ageas Bowl for those interested in cricket.
So that’s everyone in the family kept busy, but what about schools? Pretty much top marks! There’s a whole tranche of primary schools in the area rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted, including Kings Copse, Freegrounds, Moorlands, St James, Shamblehurst, Thornhill and Townhill, while Harefield, Kanes Hills and Wellstead are deemed ‘Outstanding’. And even though Berrywood is described as ‘Requires Improvement’ it is properly popular and oversubscribed. Secondaries: Wildern is ‘Outstanding’, Wyvern College is ‘Good’ and Itchen Sixth Form College is ‘Good’. As for local independents – take your pick from Woodhill Prep School in Botley (‘Good’ according to Ofsted), The Gregg (judged ‘Excellent’ by the Independent Schools Inspectorate), and The Kings School and St Mary’s College (both ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ features says Ofsted).
All in all, this is a family-friendly zone whatever your age or interest. And if you really need a city centre vibe or a village moment, that’s sorted, with Southampton on one side and Botley village and Manor Farm Country Park on the other. What more do you want?
Agent talk - Ben Hibberd: Pearsons Estate Agent
“I am often asked by people what this area has to offer. I can see in their eyes they expect me to say an out-of-town retail park of overcrowded car parks at retail giants with never-ending half price sales. But there really is more to the West End and Hedge End area then this. If you venture into the village of West End and town of Hedge End there is a real sense of community, and both are surrounded in part by some wonderful countryside with country parks like Manor Farm with its walks along the River Hamble, woods and historic farm, and Itchen Valley where your little monkeys can Go Ape. Why move to this area? Well, if life was simply a box ticking exercise, then you can tick off good transport links, excellent schools, good leisure facilities, international airport, railway stations and, of course, that out of town retail park. In the eight years I have worked within West End it has become clear that although there is a strong internal market with people remaining in the area, there is also demand from people moving to the area because of everything it has to offer. On a more personal note, walking from my office to the Ageas Bowl on a warm summer’s evening to enjoy a cricket match with friends and cold drinks, I do think to myself, it doesn’t get any better than this!”
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