Hampshire villages, Twyford, Sparsholt, Otterbourne

The picturesque Hampshire villages of Twyford, Sparsholt and Otterbourne offer the joys of country living close to the historic city of Winchester, says Jill Belcher

The picturesque Hampshire villages of Twyford, Sparsholt and Otterbourne offer the joys of country living close to the historic city of Winchester, says Jill Belcher

Winchester is a gem among cities and deservedly attracts many residents who want to live among its glories, but close by are several delightful villages which combine the pleasures of living in the countryside with fast access to the city and the M3.

TwyfordDrivers heading into Winchester from the south east often get just a passing glimpse of Twyford, but this is certainly a place which deserves a second glance.Much is a Conservation Area and the active parish council is considering a current Conservation Area appraisal project as part of its continuing work to safeguard the best of this often overlooked village.In fact Twyford is one of Hampshire’s most venerable villages, its land granted in 964 by King Edgar to Winchester cathedral until the mid 16th century when it was surrendered to the crown. Edward VI gave it to his uncle Sir Henry Seymour and the manor of Twyford was sold to the Mildmay family in 1857.Benjamin Franklin is thought to have written his autobiography while staying at Twyford House in 1771 and Alexander Pope was educated in the village.Running through the parish is the River Itchen, which over the years has provided power for corn mills and the opportunity for trout fishing.The church of St Mary the Virgin is the centre of much of village life while the parish hall is used regularly by 25 organisations and as a venue for parties and local events.To outsiders, Twyford is probably best known for its Edwardian waterworks. Southern Water Services still extract five million gallons from the original boreholes, but the redundant parts of the site are now in the care of the Twyford Waterworks Trust, a registered charity which received a �63,300 grant from Heritage Lottery Funding last summer to evaluate the work needed on the site. Enthusiasts can visit for guided tours on Sunday, January 2 and at various dates, including Easter Sunday this year, to see how work is progressing.

SparsholtJust to the west of Winchester, Sparsholt is best known for its College, the UK’s leading college for land-based industries (and home to the BBC Radio Four Gardeners’ Question Time ‘potting shed’). In fact the college is just outside the village, but 500 of its students boost the local population to around 1,000 souls.Inhabited since the bronze age, it has very good services, including a shop and post office in the centre of the village on the main road in the Well House. Bought by the community in 2009 with a grant from Hampshire County Council’s Village Community Grant Scheme and donations from local people, it is now thriving and the post office is thought to be one of the smallest in the country.The parish includes Farley Mount Country Park and Crab Wood as well as the 17th century Lainston House Hotel, which is set in 63 acres of parkland. Close by you can also find Avington Park, a Palladian mansion open to the public in the summer months.

OtterbourneSouth of Winchester, just to the east of the M3, lies Otterbourne, which was mentioned in the Domesday Book. It has had many famous residents over the years, including Sir Isaac Newton, who lodged at Cranbury House for seven years, Victorian historian and novelist Charlotte M. Yonge, religious reformer John Keble and social reformer William Cobbett.Today it is the home of international cricketer Chris Tremlett and continues to be a thriving community with pubs, a post office and school, and a population of about 1,500.Much of the traffic which used to travel through the village is now taken by the M3, and development in the 1980s meant that Otterbourne almost doubled in size and has a good range of modern homes.This trio of villages offer all the pleasures of life in a small community with closeness to Winchester and easy commuting.

SchoolsTwyford School is an independent day and boarding school for boys and girls aged from three to 13. St Mary’s Church of  England primary school in Twyford was rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted in 2009; in the same year Otterbourne primary school achieved the same rating. Sparsholt Church of England primary school was rated ‘outstanding’ last September.

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Your commuteTwyford, Otterbourne and Sparsholt are all within a few minutes’ drive of the centre of Winchester and the M3. Trains from Shawford station, less than a mile from Twyford and a couple of miles from Otterbourne, can get you to London Waterloo in under 75 minutes, while it takes as little as 62 minutes from Winchester station.

Close byThe glories of the cathedral town of Winchester, with its historic cathedral and architecture, excellent shopping and entertainment and all around you the Hampshire countryside, including wonderful Farley Mount Country Park, with its famous bluebells in Crab Wood, ancient woodland and the Clarendon Way.

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