Whether you’ve just discovered the village and are planning to move here or have recently landed in your new home, you’ll soon discover that East Stratton is a very unique place with a very friendly and welcoming community.
Andy and Kristin share their experience of moving to the village from Kingston upon Thames in Surrey in November 2022.
Like many who decided that it was time to “start a new life in the country” we didn’t have a specific destination in mind. My partner Kristin, originally from Norway, had a simple dream of living in the english countryside surrounded by “rolling hills and grazing cows”! I was born on a farm in West Sussex which I’d left at 16 and yearned to return to a rural lifestyle. We just wanted some open space and ideally that meant being on the edge of a village surrounded by open farmland. Our ‘saved search’ on property portals covered a very broad area across the south of England and naturally included the South Downs National Park AONB which is a few minutes away.
There wasn’t a firm checklist, but a good pub was important as both being quite sociable we knew it would enable us to integrate into the community more easily. We didn’t want to be completely isolated, or in a diddy hamlet with just a handful of homes, or in a large impersonal village. Being reasonably close to good road and rail links and a supermarket would be ideal, a village shop/post office useful but not essential. That was about it, not too much to ask?
We stumbled across East Stratton when a property came on the market and safe to say the few boxes we had were ticked. That the pub had recently changed hands and the new owners had ambitious plans to develop it with a new restaurant was encouraging as so many rural pubs struggle to survive – it suggested that there was a strong community and something good was going on! Their plans for upgrading the accommodation would be useful for overspill when groups of friends came to stay over too!
While we exchanged contracts in the summer on what is still referred to affectionately in the village as “Paul and David’s House” – a couple who did so much for the community we rapidly discovered they left us big shoes to fill! They kindly invited us to the village fete which was on a glorious summer’s day and clearly had a reputation as a huge summer party. Fortunately we arrived early and got a space in the car park (a field had been opened up which must have had a few hundred cars in it by midday) and decided to take a quick local walk with our dog. We were blown away by the surrounding area and the beautiful views (with the rolling hills!) and Red Kite circling overhead, soon finding ourselves on an enticing circular walk. We meandered through the “Candovers” a collection of neighbouring villages featuring thatched cottages, quiet streams, beautiful churches, lush cricket greens and more pubs. We’re now planning on getting mountain bikes in time explore the numerous trails on our doorstep that pass through bluebell laden woodland. Suffice to say, that discovering Hampshire has been a pleasure, it’s truly a beautiful county with some of the very best countryside England has to offer.
Having moved in, we avail ourselves of the Northbrook Arms and look forward to Friday nights – but have learnt the hard way that “popping down for a quick one” is impossible! Adam and Kate’s team offer a great menu, excellent wine list and well kept local ale from the Flower Pots brewery. We’re really looking forward to the summer months when the village green bursts into life most evenings.
We’ve quickly met a wonderful group of genuine people from all walks of life who have become good friends and invited us to welcome drinks and informal suppers. The pub’s comedy night (featuring some top talent) and special curry evenings bring in people from neighbouring villages and Kristin is thrilled to be invited to join an informal village craft group and a social choir in Winchester. I casually mentioned that I needed to get a roller for the lawn – only to find one left on the drive by a neighbour a few days later! Ive also witnessed groups of people rallying together to support those in need, for a small village there really is a lot going on under the surface, if you choose to look. We do also enjoy our privacy and while there’s plenty of that too, its good to know there’s help close at hand if needed.
We were told about Patrick the village historian, so knocked on his door unannounced and he kindly took us for a guided walk round the village revealing the fascinating history of Stratton Park. Patrick explained the village origins and how over the centuries successive owners of the estate have sought to preserve the historic character of the village and as result the development infill that blights most villages of this kind has been prevented. Long may that continue!
While many residents have lived in the village for years – many quoting double digits – we are only one of a handful of new residents that have moved in over the last year, so the community are clearly used to welcoming new faces (yes there’s a WhatsApp group too). We’ve also met a few who were born here, others who have left and just had to come back, all of which helps to explain why East Stratton really is a very special place that people hold close to their hearts.
Without any doubt we count ourselves as very fortunate to ‘live our dream’ in East Stratton and maybe one day Coldharbour will be known as “Andy and Kristin’s house”!