What’s going for it? I sense that Winchester has never fallen on particularly hard times – perhaps when the Romans left? These days, though, the town, lush and leafy in its hollow at the start (or end) of the South Downs, regularly cavorts in, if not tops, “10 most prosperous/gorgeous/popular/la-di-da places to live” league tables. It is lovely. Really lovely. The streets are lined with the homes of your dreams: all periods are represented from King Arthur (almost) to Grand Designs, spick and span and freshly painted, gardens fit-for-a-House Beautiful photoshoot. History pours from every stone, even fake history – from King Arthur’s round table (yeah, right) to the diver who stopped its immense cathedral from sinking into the mud. Never a dull moment in Winchester. The river Itchen, where John Keats once took afternoon strolls, tinkles away contentedly in its water meadows at the bottom of the hill. In Winchester, all is right with the world.
The case against… And that might be the problem. I might go mad here, it’s such a bubble of prosperity. The wonderful art school aside, there’s not much edge to the place. And, inevitably, it is very expensive – almost London prices.
Well connected? Very. Trains: to London Waterloo (just over an hour), through Basingstoke; to Southampton (15-25 mins) via Southampton Airport. Driving: you’re right on the M3, so you can make the M25 in an hour and Southampton and Portsmouth in 30 mins, 40 mins to the New Forest and 50 mins to Bournemouth.
Schools Primaries: Harestock, Weeke, The Westgate, Western CofE, Oliver’s Battery, All Saints CofE and Winnall are all “good”, says Ofsted, with St Peter’s Catholic, St Faith’s CofE and St Bede CofE “outstanding”. Secondaries: Henry Beaufort and The Westgate are “good”, with King’s “outstanding”.
Hang out at… I can recommend the coffee and cakes at Coffee Lab. High praise, food-wise, for The Black Rat and Chesil Rectory nearby.
Where to buy Few cities outside London have such a great mass of historic properties. The city has a large centre, on a grid plan laid out by the Saxons, packed with buildings of all ages. It then follows the river south to St Cross, Christchurch Road and all. Other great areas? Stanmore; around Sleepers Hill; Weeke, close to the station; west to Fulflood is nice, too – check out Chilbolton Avenue. Large detacheds and townhouses, £650,000-£3m. Detacheds and smaller townhouses, £350,000-£650,000. Semis, £300,000-£1.3m. Terraces and cottages, £250,000-£800,000. Flats, £160,000-£1.2m. Rentals: a one-bedroom flat, £675-£1,200pcm; a three-bedroom house, £1,000-£2,000pcm.
Bargain of the week You’ll be lucky. This three-bedroom postwar semi, with potential to extend, is as good as you’ll get, £310,000 with dybles.com.
From the streets
James Douglass “The Willow Tree is a hidden gem of a pub – the River Itchen passes both sides of the little garden. A lack of diversity.”
Amanda Taylor “Lovely coffee at Flat Whites. Winchester has lost a lot of the independent stores, which is a shame. The delay in developing the Silver Hill area means some of the city looks scruffy.”
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