Moving to Winchester, Hampshire
The story of our move from Wandsworth, London to Winchester, Hampshire
Hi there, I am guessing you have found this blog because you are interested in moving to Winchester or elsewhere in Hampshire and this popped up.
My name is Evie and I moved here with my husband and two young daughters in November 2018 (7months ago from time of first writing), I often have requests via instagram and facebook about what Winchester is like so I have put all my thoughts down here and hope that you might find it of some use as you consider your own move.
I am working as a newborn, baby and family photographer in Hampshire - so my viewpoint is from that of a mother of young children.
I have been trying to write this blog for so long and it just has not worked out, so I am going to just do it from the heart and hope that the person who needs to read it, finds it. If that is you - let me know, I’d love to hear your story.
Moving house is a big thing for most people, never mind moving city as well. I grew up in Islington (population 230k) and as an adult lived in Finsbury Park. After marrying Andrew, I moved to his flat in Wandsworth, South West London aka Nappy Valley.
Our London flat was a lovely oasis of peace in a busy city, on the first floor with two bedrooms, it was easy to maintain and clean but with two girls - the desire for more space became stronger and stronger and we could never have afforded that in any part of London, we would have wanted to live in.
So the time came to look further afield. We zeroed in on South England and looked at Bristol, Surrey and Winchester / Hampshire. Bristol looked too big and Surrey - too expensive. Winchester and Hampshire was perfectly located for London and within out financial grasp so we decided to look closer.
Is it a Town, is it a City?
Apparently Winchester is a city but as I mentioned earlier, Islington’s population is 270k and Winchester’s population is 123k. That’s right , the city of Winchester has less people than the borough of Islington. Winchester is a city with a town atmosphere.
The Hampshire air is cleaner than London which is a huge bonus, there is a lot in the media these days of the benefits of clean air to mental health and physical health and Winchester is a great place to enjoy that clean air and still be able to get back to London.
Which is the Best Area
Well only you can decide that really. But your choice (roughly) is:
From what I can tell, these are all nice areas. Since we moved here, I haven’t heard of any major crimes happening in Winchester like we would have had on a weekly basis in London. Winnall I think has more student housing, as does Stanmore which might lead to a more transient / less of a family atmosphere. However I do know families in Stanmore who like it so it is worth checking different streets there.
We focused our initial search on Stanmore and Abbotts Barton. The main problem with Stanmore for us is that we aren’t currently a car owning family and Stanmore is much further from the city, also the houses we looked at were on a busy and hilly road. However the houses around there are spacious and affordable (relatively) so it is an area worth considering if you don’t mind the walk / have a car.
Abbotts Barton, where we are is less than 15 mins from the station (great for commuting) and the town centre. If you are going to the town centre you can walk along the river and walk through River Park to get in to a town. It is a beautiful walk, if you have a buggy, turn left down Nuns Rd to avoid the steps and bridge that connects Monks Rd to River Park. If you are heading towards the top end of the high street, then continue walking along Saxon Rd and reconnect with the river at King Alfred Place.
I know of people who live in most of the above areas and love their houses and community. When we were researching, we asked on the local facebook group and some good tips there that helped define which areas to look. (If you don’t want to ask yourself, just use the search bar to find previous questions as it gets asked regularly)
Public Transport / Commuting
There is nothing like leaving London than to appreciate it’s absolutely brilliant public transport. Hampshire transport is a different experience. There are many busses locally, the ones I have taken so far have never been time, sometimes they don’t turn up at all. Which when they are only due to come every 25 minutes, is annoying! If you want to get out of Winchester the busses are even more infrequent and you have to plan well, we get the 66 to Harold Hillier Gardens - only alternate busses actually stop outside the gardens and they come once an hour.
If you need to go to the big Tescos on a Sunday, the bus is once an hour. So basically life here without a car is achievable, but you need to plan well (and avoid on Sundays).
Many people commute in to London, which is an hour on the train from Winchester. It could be ideal for someone who works near Waterloo station. Most people I have met work in either London, Basingstoke or Southampton if not in Winchester. The train does frequently have small delays and occasionally big delays, but mostly seems to work okay.
Saying all that, getting a car is definitely in our future, as we will be home educating we need to get to a wider area, and I don’t want to spend my life on busses or missing things because they are not covered by public transport. Additionally public transport is just really expensive, the running costs of a car would be cheaper. It does feel like taking a step back, in this day and age we need to be finding solutions to avoid car use really.
Most of the people I am hearing from those who are considering moving to Winchester are interested in schools. It is worth noting at this point, we will be home educating for the next year at least so I haven’t researched for myself.
There seem to be plenty of schools and all seem to be pretty good as far as schools go. Once you know the area you are interested in, you can research in more detail using the local facebook group if you want personal experiences.
How to choose a good School
From the perspective of someone that spent many years working in education you need to consider the needs of your child as much as whether your local school is outstanding. Schools are often outstanding with good grades because they don’t have children with special needs and if your child is one of those with special needs, then they may not get on well in that environment.
Winchester schools have a great reputation and so I think it would be hard to go too wrong here.
What is your criteria for family friendly? Mine is other like minded Mums, playgroups, playgrounds, activities, and cafes I can take the girls. All these are in abundance in Winchester. When we moved, I followed a facebook page which gave me the full rundown on all the activities on in the area the following day. It was a huge blessing to be given the information so easily and know what I could take the girls to do. (Check “Social Media” below for details).
There are literally playgroups on every single morning within Winchester as well as more structured groups. I can think of three groups off the top of my head especially for new mothers. If you look at the surrounding towns and villages, there is even more choice.
The big churches all seem to run playgrounds, the Ark is in Hope Church on Friday and runs playgroup on an industrial scale, we also enjoy Christ Church on a Tuesday morning and Pat-a-Cake at St Peters on a Wednesday Morning.
The Discovery Centre is the local library and a real community hub, they run a Rhyme Time for younger children and have tables with drawing in the children’s library, offering a safe space if you need to get out on a rainy day.
There are 26 parks and playgrounds in Winchester, 26!!! Those numbers are according to the Winchester Council website. Our favourites are our closest, Chaundler Road and Abbotts Walk (Just off Cassandra Rd - took me 6 weeks to find it due to the fact Abbotts Walk is not on google maps!), the girls really love North Walls which we pass when walking home from the city centre and Abbey Gardens (at the bottom of the high street). Abbey Gardens I think maybe one of the largest and is the next to a very pretty and well looked after gardens. If your child wants to play with ohter kids, thats the one to head to.
The best bit about Winchester Playgrounds is that they actually have children and families in them. We went away a few times before moving and always noticed that the playgrounds were empty dives. Additionally the Winchester playgrounds we have visited are all in relatively good condition or are earmarked to be renovated in the next few years.
If you want the country experience in Winchester, I’d recommend Wonky Park as it has a wildlife meadow attached and some woods where we love to go and chill out.
Playgrounds of Winchester, Hampshire
2.Abbotts Walk (aka Wonky Park)
3. Arlington Place, Hyde
4. Bath Place, Fulflood
5. Chaundler Rd
6. Deen Park, Weeke
7. Fairdown Close, Winnall
8. Friary Gardens, Culver Rd, St Cross
9. Gordon Avenue, Highcliffe
10. Imber Rd, Winnall
11. King George V, Milland Road, Highcliffe
13. Marnhill Rise, Fulflood
14. Monarch Way, Stanmore
15. North Walls Recreation Ground
16. River Park Leisure Centre, City Centre
17. Nursery Gardens, Fulflood
18. Oram’s Arbour, City Centre
19. Somers Close, Stanmore
20. St. Martins Close, Winnall
21. St Matthews Field, Week
22. Stanmore Recreation Ground, Cromwell Road
23. Taplings Rd, Weeke
24. Teg Down Meads
25. Thurmond Crescent, Stanmore
26. Winnall Manor Road
All these parks are just the ones with playgrounds attached and doesn’t include beautiful walks and nature reserves - I’ll get to that later!
Whether you are young, free and single / mature / a Mum with kids, there is something for you in Winchester. The high street familiars are there with Cafe Nero, Costa and Starbucks. I am a Cafe Nero fan, we combine it with playing in the Cathedral grounds, walking through the Square and under the archway and straight in to Nero. The space is big and is welcoming to all.
There are other cafes like Josie’s (expect a half hour wait at the weekend) with delicious food and atmosphere, a variety of independents on the Square and also a Coffee Lab on Little Minster Street, 1 min from the Cathedral.
The Discovery Centre have a cafe within the premises, avoid their hot chocolate - it was one of the most vile drinks I’ve had in Winchester - the rest is okay though! The seating is open, so you can get a book and have a read rather than actually taking it out or go on your computer.
There is also the lovely Leaf and Bean Cafe behind the station, it has a little area with toys and cakes and would be a great place to go if you are waiting for the train. If you have a child that grabs though, you may want to avoid as they have a Kallax full of breakable items!
People of Winchester
Winchester residents are all very lovely and fairly liberal kind of place. Whilst the demographic is mainly, white and middle class - there are plenty of exceptions and as I haven’t seen or heard any kind of racist attitudes since I moved, I hope the area will continue to become more diverse.
Everybody here is so friendly and we have made some great friends. With all the horror stories you hear about the neighbours, I was a bit nervous of who ours might be but I honestly should not have worried. They are both lovely people and have really improved our experience of moving.
It is hard work being a Mum and I have found a lot of encouragement from chatting to other Mums and Dads even in the local playgrounds. I have also started an instagram account called @hampshiremamas_meetup as a way to meet others, please do go and follow there to keep track on upcoming activities.
There are lots of ex pats living here, so if you are abroad reading this and wondering if you will find your like minded people, yup - you definitely will. Check out point “Social Media” for more about how to find out what is going on.
Activities and Events in Winchester
We have a booklet called ‘Festivals in Winchester’ and it seems there is one every week in Winchester at the moment. This weekend was the Hat Fair, We recently had Winchestival, which despite the downpours, was lots of fun (make sure you buy a decent pair of Wellies and a raincoat, they are vital wear here!)
From Wednesday to Sunday each week there are different types of markets through the middle of the high street, selling just about anything you could need, but most importantly - a farmers market.
During the Christmas season, there is a Christmas Market, behind the cathedral which includes an ice rink.
The only thing to look out for is if you don’t like crowds much, you probably won’t like the city centre during one of these events, and especially not Christmas Market, I think people must come in from all over Hampshire to join in.
Shopping in Winchester
The main bulk of shops in Winchester are on the highstreet in the centre of town and surrounding roads. There are big supermarkets like and Sainsburys (Oliver’s Batter) and Tescos and Homebase (Winnall). The shops in the centre of town are all the more expensive types and independents. It is part of what gives Winchester it’s charm but can be expensive.
To get a nice big shopping centre you have to travel to Southampton or Basingstoke, we have done both and to be honest. Basingstoke is the nicer option, if you are going by public transport. There is slightly more walking from the station at Southampton, and the area is really grim. Basingstoke brings you are at the shopping centre and it is easily navigable.
Leisure in Winchester
I haven’t really worked out where the boundary of Winchester stops to be honest, a lot of people I chat to don’t seem to live in the actual city, but elsewhere in Hampshire. I’ve met people who travel from as far as Eastleigh, Chandler’s Ford, Sutton Scotney and Whitchurch on a regular basis. In London there was so much to do, I'd never have thought of going over to Putney for a playgroup for example - it is another way of doing things which I think we might embrace when we finally get a car.
Winchester / Hampshire has a strong outdoors culture, invest in a good pair of wellies and raincoat. You have moved somewhere with cleaner air, don’t let rain stop you enjoying it!
When I lived in Wandsworth, we had a million local facebook book groups, they were the kind of group where you could chat, find out local info and connect with others. So far the closest I have found here is Winchester Mums Group UK, the majority of posts are advertising. So If anyone knows of a local Mum’s chat group, please do let me know. I know Abbotts Barton has a FB group for local info and guessing other areas do, which would be worth investigating once you have picked your area, to get some more local info.
If you are a Mum, it would be worth following the Boo and Mummy facebook group (that’s the one I mentioned earlier giving all the information of activities going on the following day - a life saver), they also run events several times a year for parents.
As I love instagram and can often be found there on my @evie.winter acct, I used that to connect with locals. I have in fact found one of my neighbours there, also connected with a lady who was doing a renovation and got a great recommendation for her builder through that.
Our local facebook group was used to plan a recent community picnic and also weekly football matches. I know social media isn’t for everyone and can be a pain, but it truly has been a great way to not feel so lonely in a new area.
Another fb group which I found quite useful is ‘Life After London’, lots of good recommendations on where to go and tips that make the moving process easier.
It is easy just to stay in the city and not go anywhere, just about everything can be found here. But sometimes you just need to get further out.Some of the things we like to do:
Bournemouth Beach: If you go on to the National Rail Website on the morning of travel, you can get some really cheap tickets on particular trains. Bournemouth Beach is lovely and we all love going there for the occasional treat, there is a bus straight outside the station to take you to the beach, but the walk is doable.
Winchester Science Centre: It can be a bit chaotic but it has some nice stuff, if you have a bolter - keep them in a buggy or take another adult, it is easy to lose kids due to the layout. There is a planetarium attached which we look forward to going to when the kids are older.
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens
This one is on the road to Romsey, and no. 66 bus as mentioned above. It really is a glorious place and well worth paying the yearly fee to be able to go in whenever you like. There is a playground for the kids and a cafe for you, perfect place for a Sunday afternoon stroll with the grandparents.
I haven’t done yet but will at some point:
Royal Victoria Country Park
Durleigh Marsh Farm (good Strawberry picking)
Paultons Park (Peppa Pig World)
This is just a few of the things around, but as we are here longer and get around more - I’ll come and update this list and hopefully add some reviews.
Winchester, Hampshire: A Beautiful Historical City
As a photographer, I have got to be honest - the biggest reason I chose Winchester is that it is pretty - you don’t have to go far to find inspiring and beautiful walks. Here are some of the ones we love...
Walking through Peninsula Square on the way to church.
Walking to the Good Life Cafe in Kings Worthy through the beautiful Barton Meadows.
Watching the girls play on the steps in the cathedral grounds (make sure you read the story of William Walker to truly appreciate how Winchester Cathedral is still standing.
Walking along nuns walk, from the entrance in Chaundler Road - You can take this path all the way to Kings Worthy, my girls have little legs so we have only done some of it.
Winnall Nature Reserve, can be entered from it’s main entrance near Water Lane, or from the bridge at River Park.
For something longer, join the river near King Arthur’s Statue and follow the river, past the Hospital of St Cross and then left on Five Bridges and back to town. If you are feeling in the mood you can stop off and go up St Catherine’s Hill and take in the views.
Well I am going to leave it there for now and post, otherwise I’ll never get this up - I’ll update as time goes on. If you are moving to Hampshire and have specific questions, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and if you need a newborn or family photographer, please do get in touch.
We love living in Winchester, Hampshire and hope you do to.
If you would like more info: Please email me on email@example.com
Evie Winter is a local Mother and Lifestyle photographer specialising in newborn, family and children’s portraits based in Winchester, Hampshire. To see more of her work, please visit Evie Winter Family Photographer