What it’s like to live in Hartley Wintney
- Credit: Emma Caulton
Is beautiful Hartley Wintney the jewel in the crown of the Hart District? After touring the village, a clearly smitten Emma Caulton states the case in favour
Back when I lived in Fleet, I coveted a home in Hartley Wintney. Fleet may be the administrative centre of the Hart district, but Hartley Wintney, at Hart’s heart (apologies for pun), is the jewel in its crown. Just take a look. This oversized village features five greens (including picturesque Cricket Green, Oaks Common, Hunts Common, Causeway Green and Phoenix Green), two delightful duck ponds, an attractive High Street lined with period buildings, mostly dating from the 18th and 19th centuries when Hartley Wintney grew as a coaching stop on the London Road (aka A30), plus a scattering of barns, cottages and farmhouses from the 17th century.
Over time, the High Street has developed into a highly browsable shopping destination with a seductive selection of fashion and interiors boutiques, galleries and antique shops. There’s pretty much everything homebuyers need to refurbish and style their Hartley Wintney home, from Lewis Alderson & Co’s bespoke handmade kitchens to And So To Bed’s luxurious boudoirs.
Off, behind and beyond the High Street, gentle attractions include the aforementioned Greens (the main Common with its gasp worthy rows of statuesque oaks is particularly striking), those pretty duck ponds (one tucked away at the far end of Cricket Green), plus Vaughan Millennium community orchard (with numerous apple, cherry, pear, plum and nut trees) and a good golf club. Hartley Wintney also makes the most of its rural setting with footpaths heading off into the surrounding expanses of woodland and heathland, including Hazeley Heath and Yateley Heath Wood. It is bordered to the north-east by the River Hart and to the south-west by the River Whitewater, and the Parish also encompasses the hamlets of Phoenix Green, Hartfordbridge, Dipley and Elvetham.
Culturally, Hartley Wintney offers unlikely musical experiences – ranging from the sublime to the ridiculously fun. The former is the highly regarded opera season at West Green House; an 18th century country house known worldwide for its gardens, created by garden designer Marylyn Abbott. The latter is Lowde Fest at Hazeley Bottom: 11 hours’ non-stop live music with new acts alongside this year’s headliners, ABC, food market and funfair. (For the more usual entertainments and facilities you need to head to nearby Basingstoke or Fleet.)
So, when Hart was named ‘Best Place to Live in the UK’ (according to a poll compiled by Halifax bank) for five consecutive years, I generally assumed this was due at least in part to Hartley Wintney’s charms. However, last year Hart was toppled from top spot by near neighbour Winchester. Actually, it was trounced, falling to number 26, its demise blamed on the introduction of two new categories – number of pubs and availability of leisure centres.
Yes, Hart ‘s offering of leisure centres has lagged behind. But watch this space. Frogmore Centre in Yateley has undergone a major £1.8m modernisation programme and April just gone saw the opening of the new state-of-the art Hart Leisure Centre on the edge of Fleet, following an investment of £23m. Facilities include three swimming pools, a 130-station gym, four exercise studios, eight court sports hall, climbing wall, sports pitches, sauna and steam room.
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As for pubs: shouldn’t quality trump quantity? Hart has a fair few decent pubs including a very pleasant clutch in Hartley Wintney: The Cricketers, in an idyllic location right on Cricket Green, award-winning gastropub Phoenix Inn in Phoenix Green, and Waggon & Horses on the High Street, a proper pub that’s a favourite with locals. There’s also a good choice of country pubs to be discovered down narrow, leafy lanes – the likes of The Shoulder of Mutton at Hazeley Heath and The Leather Bottle at Mattingley.
So, that’s the niceties sorted. What about the essentials, such as education and transport links?
For families, schooling gets a good report from Ofsted. In Hartley Wintney itself, Oakwood Infant School is rated ‘outstanding’, Greenfields Junior is ‘good’, and Grey House, a popular preparatory school, is considered ‘good’ with ‘outstanding’ features. Access to secondaries involves travelling to Calthorpe Park in Fleet or Robert Mays in Odiham (both ‘good’ according to Ofsted). Another option, Yateley School in Yateley ‘requires improvement’, but has ‘good’ aspects, and last year’s GCSE results were strong with 77% students achieving five or more grades at A*-C (including English and Maths).
Otherwise independents include St Nicholas’ School, Fleet (a day school for girls), which last year hit number one in Hampshire’s League Tables for GCSE results, and Sherfield School, Sherfield on Loddon (co-educational day and boarding school), which recorded its best ever A level results in 2016: 100% passes with 82% graded A*-B.
As for the workers? Hartley Wintney has good access to mainline train services at Winchfield village (under an hour to London Waterloo), and it is conveniently positioned between the M3, immediately to the south, and the M4 to the north.
All in all, Hartley Wintney offers a rather comfortable lifestyle: the very best of village life with both countryside and facilities on the doorstep. And as long as Hart remains off the UK’s property top spot, maybe Hartley Wintney will be overlooked and stay just the way it is (a good thing, too).
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