Hampshire Life - - Inside -

Why Peters­field is great for fam­i­lies and food­ies

This thriv­ing mar­ket town in the South Downs national

park may be your per­fect match, says Emma Caulton

Ice cream. I could be per­suaded to move to Peters­field sim­ply for the ice cream. I am think­ing of Mooka, fresh gelatos and sor­bets made to their own orig­i­nal recipes in a nearby vil­lage and served up in Sparkles dessert bar in Peters­field’s Folly Mar­ket.

At the other foodie ex­treme there’s JSW – a long-es­tab­lished Miche­lin restau­rant on Dragon Street (one of only two Miche­lin­starred restau­rants in Hamp­shire). In be­tween there’s an abun­dance of cafes, inns and restau­rants. These in­clude Good Food Guide rec­om­mended An­nie Jones; Fez, an authen­tic Turk­ish restau­rant and meze bar; Sea and Spud, award­win­ning chip­pie; The Nat­u­ral Apothe­cary, spe­cial­is­ing in sal­ads and smooth­ies; and Josie’s – a rel­a­tive new­bie. The long and short of it is that Peters­field is per­fect for those who want to live some­where they can en­joy a good cup of coffee, de­li­cious eats and a de­cent pint.

Equally re­as­sur­ing is the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. With a monthly farmers’ mar­ket and twice weekly gen­eral mar­kets held in The Square, Peters­field is the gen­uine ar­ti­cle - a tra­di­tional mar­ket town that has kept its char­ac­ter and in­di­vid­u­al­ity. There’s a mix of in­de­pen­dents, such as One Tree Book­shop, Sew Cre­ative, home­ware bou­tique Tal­lu­lah Fox, Made­line’s Deli and The Gen­eral Wine Company, along­side national names - the likes of Joules and Waitrose.

That’s the food­ies and browsers sorted.

Next fam­i­lies. They will be de­lighted with the fa­cil­i­ties and ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able, en­com­pass­ing both the usual and the unexpected. A good leisure cen­tre has three pools, gym, squash courts, sports hall and health suite. There are also a cou­ple of golf clubs, rugby club and foot­ball club.

How­ever, Peters­field comes into its own with out of the or­di­nary ameni­ties. These in­clude a retro open-air swim­ming pool in a gar­den set­ting that in this sum­mer’s heat­wave has prob­a­bly never been more pop­u­lar. There’s the Physic Gar­den, a 17th cen­tury-style walled gar­den tucked be­hind the High Street that pro­vides a wel­come re­treat from the 21st cen­tury bus­tle. Best of all, and just a stroll from the town cen­tre,

is Peters­field Heath: 69 acres of park­land with boat­ing lake, cricket club, play area and café.

Mean­while cyclists, rid­ers and walk­ers can make the most of Peters­field’s ex­cep­tional set­ting in the South Downs National Park with chalk down­land slopes ris­ing be­yond the town­scape. Queen El­iz­a­beth Coun­try Park lies to the south with some 20 miles of way­marked trails, while to the north a steep es­carp­ment of beech hang­ers cre­ates a dra­matic land­scape that is of­ten re­ferred to as Lit­tle Switzer­land.

Per­haps this lo­ca­tion is re­spon­si­ble for Peters­field’s slower pace of life and ru­ral feel. The town is cer­tainly not known for its wild nightlife. It doesn’t even have a cinema com­plex. Back in the 18th cen­tury, writer Daniel De­foe de­scribed it as “a town em­i­nent for lit­tle but be­ing full of good Inns”. What it does have these days (as well as good inns) is a much-praised youth theatre, a num­ber of Fes­ti­vals (the old­est is a Mu­si­cal Fes­ti­val, the lat­est is Ok­to­ber­fest, 29 Septem­ber, Peters­field Fes­ti­val Hall), and a great Mu­seum en­com­pass­ing lo­cal ar­chae­ol­ogy, his­toric cos­tume and ex­hi­bi­tions of Flora Twort’s paint­ings of the town. The arts of­fer­ing is strength­ened by the Olivier Theatre at Bedales (the il­lus­tri­ous in­de­pen­dent school in Steep, just north of Peters­field) de­liv­er­ing top notch per­for­mances and events such as poet Si­mon Armitage giv­ing a talk, 13 Septem­ber.

Bedales is known for its lib­eral ethos and fa­mous alumni (The Good Schools Guide sug­gests the school is good for ‘ar­tic­u­late non­con­formists’). Other im­pres­sive in­de­pen­dents in­clude Churcher’s Col­lege (con­sid­ered “en­cour­ag­ing” and “friendly” by The Good Schools Guide) and Ditcham Park, idyl­li­cally po­si­tioned high on the Downs.

‘If you re­ally want to get away from it all, dis­cover the sur­round­ing pic­ture

post­card vil­lages’

Oth­er­wise, Peters­field In­fant School is “Out­stand­ing” says Of­sted. So, too, is Lan­gr­ish Pri­mary, while Herne Ju­nior and Bu­ri­ton, Sheet and Steep Pri­maries are all rated “Good”. At sec­ondary level

The Peters­field School is also “Good” and mov­ing to­wards “Out­stand­ing” – at­tract­ing many par­ents who would or­di­nar­ily hap­pily pay.

As for ac­ces­si­bil­ity, Peters­field de­vel­oped in part as a coach­ing stop on the Lon­don to Portsmouth road with rail ar­riv­ing in the mid-19th cen­tury. It re­mains well con­nected to­day with fre­quent trains to Guild­ford and Portsmouth (both about 30 min­utes) and Lon­don Water­loo (an hour and ten min­utes more or less). Mean­while the A3 now skirts around the town, pro­vid­ing ac­cess to the M27 in one di­rec­tion and M25 in the other.

With so many boxes ticked, un­sur­pris­ingly, prop­erty is pricey with those over­look­ing the Heath at­tract­ing a pre­mium. How­ever, in town there is a hotch­potch of pe­riod prop­er­ties in­clud­ing half-tim­bered 16th and 17th cen­tury houses lin­ing Sheep Street, el­e­gant Ge­or­gian houses on The Spain and im­pos­ing Vic­to­rian Vil­las and Ed­war­dian ter­races near the sta­tion. There are also re­cent and late 20th cen­tury de­vel­op­ments of fam­ily homes within easy walk of the High Street. If you re­ally want to get away from it all, dis­cover the sur­round­ing pic­ture post­card vil­lages, in­clud­ing Bu­ri­ton, East Meon, Steep and Sheet – mostly with good pubs and vil­lage greens.

All in all: great town, lovely coun­try­side, plenty to do, well con­nected and re­tain­ing a strong sense of com­mu­nity. But don’t tell ev­ery­one.

St Peter’s on The Square, the town’s cen­tral hub and venue for mar­kets and fes­ti­vals

STAR BUY Sus­sex Road, Peters­field, £450,000 Sym­pa­thet­i­cally up­dated three-bed­room cot­tage Homes Es­tate Agents, Peters­field, 01730 263907


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