There's no place like... Eastleigh

The Hampshire railway town of Eastleigh has fast links to London and is surrounded by some of the area's loveliest villages, says Jill Belcher

The town of Eastleigh owes its rapid growth to the coming of the railway in the mid 19th century and its name to a local children’s author.Although a village by the name of ‘East Leah’ was recorded here before the end of the first millennium, the Eastleigh we know today came into being after 1839, when the London and South Western Railway Company built a station close to the village of Barton and called it Bishopstoke Junction.When the villages of Barton and Eastley were combined into one parish, author Charlotte Yonge gave a hefty donation towards the cost of a new church. As a ‘thank you’ she was asked to choose a name for the new parish and she decided to perpetuate the name of one of the villages, but to give it a modern spelling – Eastleigh.The town went down in railway history when the company’s carriage and wagon works were transferred from London in 1891.

Centre for business Since then Eastleigh has grown enormously and it is now a major industrial centre for Hampshire. Its airport, from which the Spitfire first flew, is now Southampton International Airport, and in 2006 the Eastleigh borough was named as the ‘9th best place to live in the UK’ by Channel 4. The town itself is a magnet for shoppers, with the modern Swan shopping centre as well as a range of stores, from local independent retailers to national chains, while travellers can get to London Waterloo in only 80 minutes from the busy station.

The surroundsVillages within the Eastleigh borough are popular both with commuters and those seeking a quiet life. Bishopstoke is a delightful village with a vibrant community life, including an annual carnival, revived when a parish council was formed in 1996.At nearby Fair Oak, which has a population of more than 8,000, you can find a wide range of residential development.Chandlers Ford grew up along the main road between Southampton and Winchester and the bridge built over the ford in the 18th century took stagecoaches from Southampton to London. Its local industry was bricks, but now it’s a very popular village for commuters, thanks to the re-instatement of the railway service. Nestling to the south is the village of Chilworth, now a much sought-after address. The older part of the village, which still has thatched cottages, saw growth in the 1950s and the old village was designated a conservation area in 1989.So whether you are seeking town life, the chance to become part of a thriving village community or the peace and seclusion of a home tucked away down a country lane, Eastleigh and its villages could be the place for you.

SchoolsThere’s a wide range of both independent and state schools in and around Eastleigh. Woodhill School at Chandlers Ford is an independent co-educational preparatory for children from three to 11 years. Sherborne House School, also at Chandlers Ford, takes boys and girls from two to 11 years. The co-educational King’s School at Fair Oak offers a Christian education for pupils aged from three to 16 years. There is a variety of good state schools in and around Eastleigh and its villages.

Your commuteTrains from Eastleigh can get you to London Waterloo in an hour and 20 minutes, while it is just 11 minutes to Southampton Central. The rail journey from Chandlers Ford takes 22 minutes to Southampton and just over 30 minutes to Winchester. Eastleigh, Chandlers Ford, Bishopstoke, Fair Oak and Chilworth are within easy reach of either the M3 or the M27.

Why I love life in Bishopstoke Anne Winstanley and MP Chris Huhne has been chair of Bishopstoke Parish Council for more than 10 years. She has lived in Bishopstoke for 20 years and is an Eastleigh Borough Councillor for Bishopstoke West. She is involved in many community organisations and events and came to know the area when she first moved to Hampshire.She says: “I’ve brought up three children in Bishopstoke – my step son and daughter and my own daughter – and it is a great place to bring up a family as it is a very friendly community. There are lots of community groups and events, as well as a May Fete and a carnival every September, which has a great reputation in Hampshire and beyond.“There are several local pubs, with good beer and food, two post offices, a range of local shops, including our own butcher with award-winning sausages, two doctors’ surgeries, a vet, a dentist and two pharmacies.”“It has an enviable position, being so close to Eastleigh and the easy access from there to many other places, as well as a variety of countryside with woods, rivers and meadows.”

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