We find out what it’s like to live in Romsey
- Credit: Emma Caulton
Community, character, charm, and concerns about overdevelopment, we reflect on Romsey
Bias alert: I am very fond Romsey. Here is a proper old-fashioned market town with charming twisty narrow streets lined with period buildings. It is a treasure trove of independents including Bradbeers department store, stylish boutiques on Bell Street, and a liberal scattering of good cafes and tea rooms, delis, pubs and restaurants. (Just four examples are The Three Tuns, a Hampshire Life Food & Drink Awards winner, The White Horse, which has been an inn since medieval times, Dish, described as a deli and kitchen, and La Parisienne, a local institution that’s regularly jammed full.) There are weekly street markets (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday) in the Cornmarket and a monthly farmers’ market (near Waitrose). Plus, there are hidden gardens and parks and riverside walks as the Test runs through the town - one favourite walk leads through Memorial Park and along the River Test to Sadler’s Mill.
With good facilities, picturesque surroundings and a strong sense of community, Romsey has long appealed to retirees, families and young couples. And it often attracts those priced out of the Winchester market (particularly as Winchester is about 20 minutes’ drive away). I always think Romsey has everything Winchester has, except on a slightly smaller scale. There’s a Norman Abbey instead of a cathedral, the Beggars Fair (a lively musical mash-up in the streets and venues around town) instead of Winchester’s Hat Fair, and King John’s House, an insight into 13th century life, instead of the Great Hall. Property prices are more reasonable than Winchester’s probably as it is not really commutable to London. However, the station provides a good service to Southampton (ten to 14 minutes) in one direction and to Salisbury (20 minutes more or less) in the other. Also, access to the major road networks is available at junction 3 of the M27 - about three miles away - near enough to be easily accessible and far enough away to avoid motorway drone.
Both town and country types will be pleased with the choice of properties. The historic town centre has quaint old cottages, terraces, town houses and apartments converted from Strong’s Brewery. There are some later, much favoured, family homes found on The Meads and The Harrage.
If it is quiet and space you’re after, round and about Romsey are a selection of villages. Those to the east of Romsey often appeal to people needing access to Winchester. Villages to the north are hidden in the lush landscape of the Test Valley, while villages to the west attract people looking for an away-from-it-all location with the New Forest on the doorstep.
Schooling is another draw with an excellent selection of independent and state schools. Halterworth Community Primary and Knightwood Primary are both ‘outstanding’ says Ofsted. Meanwhile Ampfield, Awbridge, Braishfield, Lockerley and Romsey Primaries and Cupernham, North Baddesley and Wellow Juniors are all ‘good’. At secondary level both The Romsey School and The Mountbatten School are also ‘good’.
Independents include Stroud, the preparatory school for Southampton’s King Edward VI School, and Hampshire Collegiate School at Embley Park, once the home of Florence Nightingale. All in all, Romsey is a comfortable place to settle. The quality that is often used to describe Romsey is timeless. Strolling around I usually feel that Romsey’s residents have successfully fought off the worst of modern life and intrusive developments. I confess, I don’t want Romsey to change. Yet nothing stays the same. Major developments, particularly on the north-eastern outskirts of Romsey, include 800-home Abbotswood ‘village’ and smaller schemes, such as Oxlease Meadows, off Cupernham Lane. A particular shock has been the controversial development of Ganger Farm on Jermyns Lane. This is where we used to pick strawberries. It’s now Kings Chase, a development of about 275 homes, sited opposite one of Hampshire’s gems - award-winning Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, a national asset known worldwide. Jermyns Lane was always a favourite with its springtime showstopper of azaleas and rhododendrons in bloom. Does this new development spoil the character of the area? Heck, yes. I’ve always viewed Romsey and its surrounding villages as an enclave bypassed by the modern world. If it can’t stay that way, then at least build with consideration for the location. For all our sakes.
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