Article by Ruth Bloomfield
THE Hampshire military town of Aldershot has historically been outshone by its posher near neighbours Farnham, Farnborough and Guildford, evolved from country villages. But all that is about to change.
Imminent regeneration will put a spring into Aldershot’s step, perceptions will change and with landmark projects such as Weston Homes’ military hospital conversion, property prices will rise. The infrastructure is all there for a family life near London: great schools in an enviable location on the fringes of the Surrey Hills for cycling, walking and countryside picnics.
In recent years Tim Harriss, a partner at Knight Frank, has seen a ripple of young buyers moving into the town after realising the value is about to blossom. Just step across the Surrey/Hampshire border. “Covid is driving people out of London,” says Harriss. “We are seeing people waking up to this area. And there is a noticeable ripple effect of people coming west out of Guildford and north from Farnham. In the past Aldershot was very much seen as an Army town, but that is starting to change.”
The new look for Aldershot includes investment in the worn-down town centre and facilities for families. For London commuters who also want to be close to some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain, it is a perfect each-way bet.
The average price of a home in Aldershot stands at just under £290,000 according to the latest figures from Rightmove. This compares to more than £500,000 in Guildford. Prices are moving upwards, too – five years ago the Aldershot average stood at just under £240,000.
Education standards are good. There are three local primary schools. Two have “good” Ofsted reports, while the schools watchdog considers St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School to be “outstanding”. For older pupils, All Hallows Catholic School also gets top marks from Ofsted, while Alderwood Senior School gets a “good” report.
Rush-hour trains from Aldershot to London Waterloo take from 48 minutes – an annual season ticket costs £4,980. And as Covid restrictions ease, you might also look forward to a day at the races in Ascot, around half an hour away. By car you could take an easy trip to the seaside – lovely West Wittering is about an hour’s drive while getting to Brighton should take less than 90 minutes. Windsor is a 40-minute drive, or you could be at Heathrow airport in half an hour.
The great outdoors:
Aldershot really scores on open space, so it’s fabulous for family time outdoors, through lockdown and beyond. There’s a good choice of parks, the tranquil Lakeside Nature Reserve dotted with streams, rivers, ponds and a play park for the kids, plus long walks along the Basingstoke Canal on the doorstep. Aldershot Lido, which opened in 1930, is great for an outdoor dip. Or you could head to Tilford for a spot of wild swimming in the River Wey. Winter sports fans can hone their skills at Aldershot’s dry ski slope. And, of course, the town is on the doorstep of the Surrey Hills and the South Downs for days out hiking, cycling and horse riding.
Things to do:
As we look forward to Covid restrictions lifting, Aldershot has a Cineworld cinema and two arts centres – Princes Hall and the West End Centre – offering theatre, music and comedy in more normal times. For sporty types there are two leisure centres. If you prefer your downtime to be a bit more relaxed, the town is handy for many of England’s best vineyards, most of which offer tours and tastings.
The pedestrianised town centre has a range of useful shops, supermarkets, pubs, coffee shops and restaurants. There is a Thursday street market, and Rushmoor council hopes eventually to introduce a Monday market, too. For more choice on the eating, drinking and shopping front, pretty, Georgian Farnham is a six-minute hop on the train, while the shops, restaurants and cafes of Guildford are 21 minutes away.