It has just dawned on me that despite repeating for the past 6 years “I only live in Basingstoke because I work here” there are actually some things I’m going to miss. The biggest being my little flat – the place I have called home for the past 6 years, the place I have made home. It’s filled with so many memories – getting my kitten who is now a full fledged beast, growing veg in my garden, throwing BBQs and parties for friends and family (ok, I don’t remember all of those!) and best of all – welcoming the Dutchie to England to share my home with me.
When people think of Basingstoke they think: lots of roundabouts, Festival Place shopping centre and chavs hanging around drinking cider, but it’s actually a very pretty place. I think I appreciate Basingstoke’s beauty even more since I got an SLR camera and took a photography course. For 5 weeks we had to hand in homework on various subjects, so I made it my mission to capture the beautiful, but simple, everyday things. And there are a lot of those in Basingstoke!
One of our favourite things to do is go on a nice long walk and warm up in a cosy pub afterwards. Basingstoke has some great pubs:
- The Hogget – ok, not strictly Basingstoke, it’s in Hook – but close enough. Great gastro-pub, the salted caramel ice-cream is to die for.
- Barton’s Mill – Old Basing (formerly The Millstone.) Excellent location with beautiful trees, ponds and a bridge. Very close to Basing House, so nice local walks. Food a bit pricey and overrated, but nice place for a drink.
- The Hatch – on the A30. Great place for drinks, large garden to enjoy in the summer – think jugs of Pimms 🙂 Don’t order food here, it’s terrible. If you’re starving, just get chips! Everything else is soooo disappointing.
- The Portsmouth Arms – decent food for the price, occasionally disappointing. Gorgeous building with a thatched cottage. Large garden with lots of tables, so another great place to go in the summer.
- Rhu bar – London Road / High Street. The only decent bar in town. Very quirky with low ceilings and beams, cosy seating upstairs. Great cocktails and shooters: Slippery Nipple, B52s, Sex on the Beach etc etc.
- The Mill House – North Warnborough, Hook. Does what is says on the tin – you can see the workings of the old mill inside. Great garden and impressive lake! Again, the food is overpriced (is there nowhere decent to eat in Basingstoke!?) but great place for drinks and to impress people with the view!
Shopping in Basingstoke is pretty good. Not the High Street – which is mainly charity shops (unless you like that kind of thing – my Mum certainly does) banks and bars, but Festival Place and Primark are fab!! The Basingstoke Primark is the best one I know – it’s tidy, well laid out and has the nicest range I’ve seen – even compared to their Brighton, Southampton and London stores! Festival place has pretty much every shop you can think of – from Debenhams to Topshop, River Island to Zara. Gap, H&M, Next, Monsoon… the list goes on and on. Really handy to have everything under one roof. I’d recommend skipping Saturday though – it gets soooo busy. Go on Sunday instead for stress-free shopping. Massive geek alert: the best place to park is Churchill Way – about 100 spaces, short walk through the park past the pretty St Michael’s Church, up the steps and you’re at the entrance to The Malls and 30 seconds to the entrance of Festival Place. Much easier than parking in the hideous Festival Place multi-storey!!
If you want to get out of town… Basingstoke is well-situated to do so: 20 min drive to Newbury, 30 to Reading or Southampton, 45 mins to New Forest, 1 hour-ish to Oxford, Luton airport, Gatwick or Bournemouth. 1 hour 30 mins to Brighton – my favourite place ever!! Being close to the motorway does have its advantages!! 😉 And of course you can be in London Waterloo by train in 45 mins, not bad, not bad at all!
The highlight of Basingstoke’s summer calendar, is the town’s free festival: Basingstoke Live! Held every July, it’s a two day event in the War Memorial Park, in central Basingstoke. It showcases local artists as well as national and international performers (apparently… you’ve probably never heard of them, but hey – it’s a free festival – what do you expect??) The Dutchie and I have been 3 years running and it’s always a great experience! We discovered Bellyeyesmile (formerly Kinky Boot Beasts) there back in 2010 and now they’re playing at our wedding!! Plus, you can take your own booze into the festival… what’s not to love?
Other Basingstoke attractions include Odiham Castle. Construction began in 1207 and it was completed in 1214. It’s now described as a ruin, but don’t let that put you off. It’s well worth a visit especially if you like walking, the area around it is very pretty.
Milestones Museum is a great place to go on a rainy Sunday afternoon – the museum is a recreation of Victorian and 1930s Hampshire. It was opened on 1 December 2000 as a joint project between Hampshire County Council and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It currently costs £8.70 entry (adults) which will rise to £8.95 in April 2014… not bad considering a cinema ticket is around the same price. The most fun we had was trying on the Victorian clothes and taking silly pictures. Also visit the pub and the old-fashioned sweet shop, it’ll make you feel like a kid again! 🙂
The Crabtree Plantation is a great place for walking and you get panoramic views of Basingstoke thrown in too! A beautiful nature reserve of open space and partial woodland – it attracts lots of dog walkers, families as well as kite flyers and pilots of radio controlled aircraft due to it’s open location. Recently a children’s play area was added – including a zip line, climbing frame and swings. Perfect for kids… and big kids!!
Bye Bye, Basingstoke! You will be greatly missed.