Meeting some of the people doing business in Botley
- Credit: Archant
With its imposing market hall, the village of Botley has long been one of Hampshire’s trading hotspots. Viv Micklefield stops off to meet some of those currently doing business here
When one of its former residents, the 18th century radical journalist William Cobbett describes Botley as “The most delightful village in the world,” this does little to douse the visitor’s expectations. Yet over 200 years later with a population of around 5,100 and an enthusiastic traders association hosting a busy calendar of activities, the streets continue to bustle.
While Botley’s heartbeat has long rested within its historic High Street, which today boasts a surprising number of independent retailers and tempting eateries, don’t miss the opportunity to explore further afield.
Nearby Botley Mills now sees the daily grind of flour replaced by small businesses offering everything from designer interiors and dress wear, to country supplies and cappuccinos. Or, take time out to explore one of the local walking trails that recall Botley’s strawberry growing heritage and its role as a thriving inland port on the Hamble’s banks when timber was an important export between the 17th and 19th centuries.
Botley’s much earlier origins as a Roman settlement has left its legacy in the column of motorised traffic that must still be negotiated. Although, according to some locals, this is a price worth paying to keep such a vibrant village community alive for centuries to come.
Teresa Robertson, Abode
Seeing her wares spilling out on to the pavement outside, Teresa Robertson’s gift and homeware emporium (www.abodeofbotley.co.uk) certainly stops you in your tracks. “Having looked at a lot of places, I really liked it here as the road through Botley was always going to be busy with passing trade, particularly from the Meon Valley and from Whiteley”, says Teresa who converted a former shoe shop three and a half years ago. “As an artist and sculptor, I suppose you could call this my ‘installation’. I also love shopping myself and am always on the look-out for new suppliers.”
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It’s just one of the reasons why her annual Christmas launch attracts hundreds of eager customers, and Teresa undoubtedly knows what they want. “We shall soon be having more clocks, which are always a best-seller and make great wedding presents. I shall also be stocking illuminated letters which are the latest big thing in home accessories.” she says.
• Eating out in Botley: “Vineys is good for breakfast, while Regginas Italian does great food and has a lunchtime special.”
Anita Dunn, Bloomers Flowers of Botley
“Floristry is a full-on business,” admit husband and wife team Anita and Bob Dunn, “There are plenty of early starts and late finishes, and sometimes we work all day Sunday too, but we love it.” And with their fresh flowers supplied from day one by Totton wholesalers J. Van Vliet, these two, who both ditched jobs in local government six years ago to run their first business together (www.bloomersbotley.co.uk), are determined to stay at the top of their game, whatever the occasion.
“We do a lot of large weddings and have corporate clients too,” adds Bob. “Orders also regularly come in from abroad for relatives who live locally. Once Anita got her floristry qualifications we wanted a traditional village premises close to where we live in Netley Abbey. This is such a friendly place - our customers are lovely and often pop in for a chat.”
• Eating out in Botley: “As we both enjoy curry, we love the Purbani because it’s always a friendly and fun place in which to eat.”
Melissa Wybourne, The Bespoke Cake Studio
“These days people want to have cakes that are simpler, with perhaps a traditional twist and a hint of shimmer,” says Melissa whose exquisite creations are the centrepiece of wedding breakfasts and celebrations across Hampshire. Self-taught yet undoubtedly a master in the sugar craft department, it’s a family affair with her sister Justine working alongside. Having rented a unit at Botley Mills (www.bespokecakestudio.co.uk) during 2014 it is, she says, a winning location. “It’s quite quirky here but has got a lot busier since I moved in. And last December the traders association, of which I’m a member, extended the Christmas market to include the Mills which made a real difference.”
Building on this success she’s commissioned the 3-D printing company two doors down to produce her eye-catching cake toppers, and with plans to open up more studios, this mum of three from Waltham Chase already has her sights sets on the next tier of her baking empire.
• Eating out in Botley: “Now that there’s The Courtyard Kitchen at the Mills, a lot more people come down to this end of Botley.”
Hannah Mayhew, Hannah Elizabeth Bridal Boutique
With its second anniversary approaching Hannah, who has a degree in fashion and textile design, managed a bridal boutique in Winchester before fulfilling the dream of opening her own shop (www.facebook.com/hannahelizabethbridal). “I’m doing really well here, and have even been nominated for the Best Newcomer award in a national competition,” she beams. “Personal recommendation through word of mouth is huge in this business. I offer a one-to-one service so the focus is on one bride at a time - some are really nervous looking at dresses for the first time, others have already seen loads and just can’t find exactly what they want.”
There’s certainly no shortage of ideas here with exquisite gowns from designers including Lusan Mandongus and La Sposa. And new to the accessory shelves in this relaxing Parisian style salon are wonderful vintage inspired bridal shoes by Rachel Simpson. “I’m getting married myself next year and am so busy that it’s hard to find the time to plan my own wedding!” laughs Hannah.
• Eating out in Botley: “After fitting a lot of my customers, I like to go to Elsie’s Traditional Tea Rooms to have one of their lovely afternoon teas.”
• Hampshire walk through Botley and alongside the River Hamble - Our walk this month, a figure-of-eight stroll which can easily be split into two shorter walks if required, is based at historic Botley and follows parts of the Strawberry Trail - a 15-mile route that weaves its way through an area that was once well-known for the sweet, red fruits.
• Best things about living in the Hamble Valley - From sailing along the strawberry coast to shopping on cobbled streets, the Hamble Valley offers an idyllic lifestyle as Emma Caulton discovered on a recent visit