‘Hampshire has something almost everybody wants,’ says Ed Cunningham, from FPD Savills. But he is not just talking about proximity to London, he is talking about the varied nature of much of the county. From the horse-lovers’ New Forest to the beaches for sailing and watersports, Hampshire for those who live there is more than just a convenient commute.

With developing centres such as Portsmouth and Southampton and a rapidly expanding airport (Southampton International), fantastic schools, sailing, riding and plenty of Michelin starred restaurants, Hampshire is totally self sufficient, and has the advantage of being lived-in all year round, rather than suffering from the seasonal fluctuations which mark out areas made up mostly of second homes.

For many reasons, entering the Hampshire property market is extremely difficult. Mark Potter, from Knight Frank’s Basingstoke office claims that in quintessential Hampshire villages such as Upton Gray, it is virtually impossible to buy a house. ‘The Hampshire property market is on fire,’ says Potter, ‘Demand is great and supply is very short’.

Potter claims the area surrounding Basingstoke is one of the most sought after in the county. ‘You can be in London in 42 minutes and many of the nice houses are within only 10 or 15 minutes of train stations and good schools’, he says. According to Potter Odium, Dummer, Monk Sherborne and Upton Gray are the prettiest villages, ‘People forget Watership Down is in Hampshire,’ he comments.

Only houses that are not correctly priced or have a major problem (railways, pylons, roads) stick on the market, the rest sell competitively.

Holmwood, Hartley Witney is an attractive Georgian house with a classical fa?e, 6 bedrooms and a tennis court. Less than three quarters of an hour from London and within striking distance of Basingstoke, the property is ideal for a commuting family. For further information, contact Knight Frank on +44 (0)1256 350 600.

George Burnand of Strutt and Parker’s Winchester office maintains that Winchester is an excellent centre for families to be near. Although it is a little further from London (about 90 minutes) Winchester combines architectural elegance with good schools, businesses and shops, and is surrounded by beautiful countryside.

Education, education, education is the mantra of Mr Cunningham at Savills in Winchester: ‘We see lots of families looking to move to the area who come down, and see which of the schools they can get their children into, and then start to look for a house in that area,’ he says.

And any parents looking to find good schools are spoilt for choice in terms of quality, if a little pushed when it comes to getting all the children accepted: places are highly prized. And rightly so, as many of these are considered to be amongst the finest schools in the country.

Apart from schools, however, there are other differences in area and in atmosphere which make the difference between a high price and an extremely high price, points out Mr Cunningham, and much of this has to do with who owns the land near a property.

Hampshire now commands such high prices for land that many landowners are tempted to sell when in need of a quick cash injection, and therefore areas which are owned by large estates, or which are protected from development are considered to be more desirable in what can feel like a crowded county. In short, people are willing to pay for what they know will be seclusion, rather than worrying about new builds encroaching on a peaceful community without warning.

Interestingly some of the highest prices for Hampshire properties recently are being paid in the New Forest area, where a London commute is not really an option, explains George Hyde of Knight Frank: ‘It is an extremely nice area with no big roads and Lymington is a very nice centre,’ he points out.

The New Forest was traditionally the haunt of the extremely horsey, or those who wanted a second home, rather than a primary residence, but since it won National Park status, the Forest is becoming more popular with those who do not have to be in London for every single working day of the week, and who admire the wildlife and landscape such a place provides, even if the tourists in summertime can be somewhat taxing.

But although hotspots will come and go in Hampshire, the one thing you can be sure of is that good property will be in high demand when it comes onto the market, a fact reflected in the prices. ‘We always say nothing is recession proof,’ says Mr Cunningham, ‘But we are about as close as it gets!’

The advice from most agents is that Hampshire is a county where you will pay a higher price on a property than you would in any of the neighbouring counties, merely because it is Hampshire. Therefore the most important thing is to understand the area and surroundings you buy in, and find out the potential for development, to ensure you get value for your money – once you’ve found those crucial school places, of course.

Major towns

Southampton, Portsmouth, Basingstoke, Winchester, Alton, Andover, Farnborough, Stockbridge, Lymington, Gosport; (Isle of Wight) Newport, Cowes, Ryde.

Transport links

Train: Waterloo to Southampton 1hr 10min; to Portsmouth 1hr 30min; to Basingstoke 45min.

Car: Southampton is 80 miles and Basingstoke 48 miles from central London via the M3; Portsmouth is 74 miles via the A3(M) and A3.

Public schools

Bedales School, Petersfield (01730 300100). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.bedales.org.uk

King Edward VI School, Southampton (01703 704561). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day. www.kes.hants.sch.uk

The Pilgrims’ School, Winchester (01962 854189). Boys only, age range 7-13, day and boarding. www.pilgrims-school.co.uk

Portsmouth High School (01705 826714). Girls only, age range 4-18, day. www.pdst.net/portsmouthhigh

St Swithun’s School, Winchester (01962 861316). Girls only, age range 8-18 (boys and girls, 3-8), day and boarding. www.stswithuns.com

St Mary’s College, Southampton (01703 671267). Co- educational, age range 11-18, day. www.stmaryscollege.co.uk

The Portsmouth Grammar School (01705 819125). Co-educational, age range 4-18, day. www.pgs.co.uk

Winchester College (01962 854328). Boys only, age range 13-18, day and boarding. www.winchestercollege.org

Leisure

Golf courses: Royal Winchester (01962 852462).

Hunts: the Hampshire (HH), Mr Goschen’s, the Hursley Hambledon, the Isle of Wight and the New Forest.

Staghounds: the New Forest.

Yachting clubs: the Royal Southampton, Ocean, Royal Solent, Royal Southern and Royal Lymington Yacht Clubs; (Isle of Wight) Island Sailing Club, Cowes Corinthian, Royal Corinthian, Royal London and Royal Victoria Yacht Clubs and the Royal Yacht Squadron.

Fishing: rivers Avon, Bourne, Itchen and Test.