BASINGSTOKE The station car park is capacious and there is a good selection of fast trains. Some trains start from here, others come through from Bournemouth and Weymouth. Forty years ago Basingstoke was a comparatively sleepy market town with a population of 25,000. Now it is a London overspill town with a population of 159,000 and more than 400 companies, including the Automobile Association, IBM, Sony Broadcast and Sun Life Financial of Canada. The shopping centre has all the usual chain stores. Basingstoke Leisure Park has a ten-screen cinema, ten-pin bowling rink, aquadrome, championship-sized ice-rink and golf driving range. The old town is the place for wine bars, pubs and restaurants and The Haymarket Theatre. A farmers’ market is held here once a month. The town offers two-up-two-down Victorian terraces, priced from £170,000, and four-bedroom Thirties’ houses at £275,000. In the quiet of Cliddesdon Road, large, detached, five-bedroom Victorian and Edwardian houses sell for over £600,000. Further out, you come to the council estates. The modern estates are on the outskirts – North Chineham is one of the most popular because it has matured and has a shopping centre with a Tesco superstore. Three-bedroom semis can be bought for £210,000; five-bedroom detached houses for £400,000 upwards. Hatch Warren is similar.
Watercress beds are a particular feature of the countryside. Old Basing, Mapledurwell, St Mary Bourne and Whitchurch all have them. One of the best-known villages, only a short distance from Basingstoke’s south-western tentacle, is Dummer – a small linear village that found itself besieged by the world’s press at the time of Prince Andrew’s wedding, being the home of his then parents-in-law. Perhaps because of its exposure it is rather a tight-knit community. A two-bedroom period cottage will cost at least £240,000. A larger Georgian pile with land will cost £750,000.
Very close to Basingstoke’s eastern flank is Old Basing, where old brick cottages are prettily arranged around the church, the River Lodden, and what remains of Basing House. The house was a glamorous Tudor mansion, which became the focus of a two-year siege by the Roundheads during the Civil War and was eventually destroyed. Some of the stone was salvaged and used to build houses in the village. There is a strong village spirit and, says one local, ‘the place is alive with horses’. A two-up-two-down period cottage would cost around £230,000. Two villages nearby, Mapledurwell and Upton Grey, are the stuff of an adman’s dream, with Range Rovers carelessly parked outside idyllic thatched cottages. ‘Actually Mapledurwell is more Land Rovers, Upton Grey more Range Rovers,’ says one insider. Upton Grey has a duck pond, willow trees, some 17th-century cottages, village shop and post office. Prices vary from over £350,000 for a thatched cottage to around £750,000 for a new four-bedroom house.