Dream of the perfect market town and it will probably look a lot like Whitchurch, Hampshire, with its historic charm and lovely location on the River Test — famous for salmon fishing and surrounded by water meadows.
A wonderful staging point for the North Wessex Downs, Whitchurch was home to author Richard Adams, who set his children’s classic Watership Down in the local countryside.
Whitchurch CofE Primary School is “good” according to Ofsted, while the local secondary, Testbourne Community School, is rated “outstanding”. Whitchurch property ranges from beamed 15th-century cottages, to brick-and-flint terraces, to modern executive homes and some rather grand manor houses on the outskirts.
This small but busy town has football, cricket and squash clubs, an amateur dramatic society and an annual beer festival. There are useful shops, several pubs — The Red House is very popular — and rush-hour trains to Waterloo take about an hour. An annual season ticket costs £4,448.
Whitchurch heads a list of the most successful commuter towns in the county of Hampshire. New research from Savills shows it has seen price growth of 45 per cent over the last five years, to an average of £324,927.
“Whitchurch is the best of both worlds,” says David Dobson, sales manager at Graham & Co estate agents. “It has that rural feel, a lot of heritage, and it is cheap compared to London.”
A three-bedroom period cottage in the town centre would cost about £300,000, a four-bedroom detached house in one of the small Eighties/Nineties-built developments would be £500,000 to £550,000, and a five-bedroom house on the edge of town, with an acre or two, would start at about £800,000.
The nearest competitor to Whitchurch, according to today’s study, is Winchfield, with five-year price growth of 38 per cent bringing average prices to £487,129.
This speck of a village off the M3, so easy for shopping at nearby Fleet and Hook, has a mainline station with 49-minute rush-hour trains to Waterloo. An annual season ticket costs £3,908.
There is no shop, although there are a couple of pubs, and every other year locals organise a music festival. It’s a drive to Greenfields Junior School in nearby Hartley Wintney, rated “good” by Ofsted. Another red flag is that Hart district council has proposed a major housing development on the village fringes, vigorously opposed by locals.
“Winchfield is basically a station, two pubs and about 200 houses, barely a village, but there are some lovely homes,” says Gavin Myers, associate at Carson & Co estate agents. About £400,000 buys a two- to three-bedroom cottage, with a four-bedroom, detached executive home from about £700,000.
For something larger, Farnborough is not a beauty but it has had price growth of 35 per cent in the past five years, to an average of £309,200. There are plenty of shops, some very dull — but an £80 million revamp is changing all that.
Trains to Waterloo take 38 minutes and an annual season ticket costs £3,760. South Farnborough Junior School, South Farnborough Infant School, St Mark’s CofE Aided Primary School and North Farnborough Infant School get top Ofsted marks. The Wavell School, a local co-ed secondary school, gets a “good” report.
According to Greg Rowse, director of Greg James estate agents, the hot spot is Farnborough Park, where leafy streets are lined with four- to five-bedroom detached houses from £750,000 to £800,000. A first-time buyer price tag of £275,000 will buy you a modern flat within walking distance of the town centre.
HAMPSHIRE COMMUTER HOTSPOTS
|Station||Travel time (mins)||Season ticket price (£)||Average second-hand home price *||Five-year price growth (%)|
* 12 months to Oct 2016. Source: Savills Research using Land Registry & National Rail