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|Bitterne Park - a village within a city?|
|Wednesday, 13 January 2010 14:57|
From the tiniest pub and Italian café in town, to our own ice cream parlour, walks by the river, rides on a miniature steam railway, period properties, nearby schools and even a club night for those who like to "get home in time to pay the babysitter" – what's not to like about Bitterne Park?
Fancy a visit to Bitterne Park - or thinking about moving to the SO18 area? Perhaps you already live here and are curious to find out more. We hope this work in progress offers a few pointers to some of the ups, and downs, of Bitterne Park.
Transport and parking
Food and drink
Boom or bust?
Bitterne Road West
Bitterne Park is often thought of as simply Bitterne Park Triangle (and woe betide anyone who misses out the 'Park' bit!). In fact Bitterne Park is a suburb and electoral ward of the City of Southampton, in England.
The Bitterne Park ward covers a surprisingly large area: its boundary extends from Bitterne Manor to Mansbridge along the eastern bank of the River Itchen; along the A27 via Haskins garden centre in the north; and returns through Townhill Park, bordering with various other wards along the way, including West End North and South, Harefield, and finally Peartree ward in the south. St Denys, which this website also covers, is in fact part of Portswood ward. There are about 6,300 dwellings, and a population of around 13,300 in the Bitterne Park ward.
From Bitterne Park it is, in theory, also a short hop into town by train, from either Bitterne or St Denys stations, which are both around a ten-minute walk from the Triangle — although sadly connections with intercity routes rarely seem joined up. A cycle and pedestrian route links Horse Shoe Bridge in St Denys with Northam and on into the city - get to it by crossing over Cobden Bridge from the Bitterne Park side, and turning left along Priory Road. At the Junction pub turn left and the start is your left just before the Bridge crosses the railway. This forms part of cycle route 23 which continues through Riverside Park (download a cycle route map from the council's site - pdf).
Some really interesting new businesses are starting to make their home at Bitterne Park Triangle, well worth checking out whether you're a local or popping over to see us!
For sustenance try some of Sandro’s Italian treats in his tiny café and deli Il Picchio [under new management Sept 2015]. You can enjoy anything from a cappuccino to a full lunch by day. Evenings it becomes a restaurant by arrangement. Next door try Lite Bites Miss Ellie's café, or also at The Triangle the Riverside Diner – particularly popular on Sunday mornings.
You could also follow a much-loved local tradition and enjoy freshly-fried fish and chips from the wrapper beside the river. Could there be just time to pop over the road for a micro beer while yours is being freshly fried? But whose chips are best: Charlie's or Andy's? We really couldn't say...
Our very own specialist real ale micro pub (not in fact a micro brewery as many assume), The Butcher's Hook, was opened by MP John Denham in February 2014 right on the Triangle. "Local beer enthusiasts... have restored the one-time butchers’ shop to a miniature gem and I would say easily the best pub in town," says a review of The Butchers Hook on bierebelle.com. Read it in full here. And you can listen to Dan Richardson and Anthony Nicholls (above) talking to us about their inspiration for the Butcher's Hook in our audio interview just before the micro pub opened.
If there's no room at the inn, you could walk up the road to The Bitterne Park Hotel, which saw a closure and uncertainty for a period at the start of 2014. It re-opened in May 2014 under new management. In the same month the pub was also listed by the council as an 'asset of community value', giving the community the right to bid on and potentially buy the property should owners Enterprise Inns ever decide to sell. Following this, the Bitterne Park Hotel was refurbished and re-opended in February 2015.
Another clue that, just possibly, Bitterne Park Triangle could start to really become 'up and coming' is the opening of ice cream parlour Dora's Cups and Cones – already looking like a big hit with the many families in the area, and pictured above with new owners. It's surely only bright new businesses like the Butcher's Hook and Cups & Cones that will bring new life to the Triangle. So what's next?
As well as Il Picchio's weekend evening dining, later in the day for Indian food to eat in or collect, try the Bitterne Balti (can get busy at the weekends), or, for takeaway only, try the Bengal Paradise. There are various other takeaways at the Triangle including Chinese and pizza — in fact many feel there are too many and priority should be given to other businesses (whether there is demand from 'other businesses' is perhaps debatable). There is also a plethora of other takeaways further afield, which will happily deliver hot food to your door in the evenings — and menus through your letterbox on an almost hourly basis!
Boom or bust?
There was a time not so long ago (OK – probably a decade!) when you had to queue to get in the door on a busy Saturday at Kenman's fruit and veg shop, which also did a fine line in wholefoods, herbs and spices, and an array of other comestibles. It became veg and wholefood store Fruitopia, which itself closed in July 2007. Since then there have been various efforts at running different forms of greengrocer from the same premises, but as of April 2014, Manor Farm fruit and veg closed, (it's now rideride cycle shop), so you'll need to take your greengrocery custom elsewhere....
.... perhaps to The Veg Shed, that currently trades most Saturday mornings from 9am -12 pm at the Triangle near the clock tower, offering a good selection of fruit, veg (some organic), and some other goods including olive oil and coffee. Organisers have however recently appealed for help to keep the Veg Shed going.
Of course, Triangle traders face stiff competition from 'newcomer' Tesco Express, on Cobden Avenue (many locals still resent its appearance and won't shop there), another Tesco Express on Witts Hill, and, just up the road in Portswood, a massive Sainsbury’s store opened in spring 2012 on the site of the old bus depot (which has now moved to Empress Road).
Some say the closure of the bank in the 90s (in what is now H Palace), and the closure of Triangle post office 2005 made a significant impact on passing trade (if you need a post office now the nearest are at Witts Hill, Midanbury or in Portswood). The chemist closed in 2007, again reducing Triangle footfall, and moved up to Thorold Road in the then new health centre (a steep climb too far for many). And it’s been suggested that, if the Triangle ‘fails’, and can no longer boast at least the basics - a local butcher, bakery and greengrocer - every property in Bitterne Park will drop in value by at least £10,000. Whether or not that's true, despite rumblings, a significant, joined-up, imaginative campaign to encourage ‘local Triangle shopping’ has yet to emerge.
Nonetheless, if new businesses like the micro pub and ice cream shop can inspire others to set up original and sustainable enterprises at the Triangle, maybe it does stand a chance of reinventing itself.
The summit of the hill offers a fine view towards the airport runway, and if you do your time on the council waiting list, you could one day even be rewarded with your very own key to the Witts Hill allotments (other allotments are available - close to our area over Bitterne Road West you could also look at Athleston Road allotments, which offer stunning views across the river).
Around this area you'll find a carpet shop, hairdresser, barbers, garage, takeaways, a newsagent and others. There's also a recycling point on the approach to Bitterne railway station - and here too you'll find The Station Hotel pub (SO18 1GT) - part of the John Barras chain.
Bitterne Park is mainly served by Bitterne Park Primary School (Outstanding - Ofsted September 2014) – which until September 2013 comprised Bitterne Park Infant School (Good: Ofsted January 2012) and Bitterne Park Junior School (Good - up from Satisfactory - Ofsted September 2012) on Manor Farm Road – and Bitterne Park School, the secondary on Copeswood Road: "specialist performing arts and applied learning school" (Good: Ofsted 2014 - down from Outstanding in 2009). It also includes a fairly new sixth form centre with, among other things, excellent theatre facilities. Bitterne Park sixth form boasted A level results of: "100% A – E pass rate (National = 98%), with A – C grades at 77% and A – B grades at 40%" in 2015 on its website.
Bitterne Park School is also a teaching school, and the lead for the Bitterne Park Teaching School Alliance, a partnership of schools working with the University of Southampton. There's more information about the Bitterne Park Alliance on the Bitterne Park School website.
It's planned that a new Bitterne Park secondary school, to offer modern facilities and take the roll from 1500 to a whopping 1800 secondary school pupils, is to be built in the school grounds. When complete, the current buildings will be demolished and replaced by sports fields. All this is due to happen by 2018. Search this site to find various articles about this, and the possibile impact on the local community during and following construction.
St Denys Primary School is a stone's throw away over Cobden Bridge, and further afield are Highfield C of E, Bitterne Manor Primary and Portswood Primary Schools.
Or go private: St Mary's College is an independent day school for boys and girls on Midanbury Lane, while The Gregg School is at Townhill Park House, Townhill Park. Both have their own junior schools. For more information, see our listings of schools - the links lead to schools' websites and to their Ofsted reports.
Bitterne Park ward has in recent years voted Conservative in local elections — we have three Tory councillors; Southampton City Council, which is a unitary authority, is since 2012 Labour controlled again. Bitterne Park ward Conservative councillors hold regular surgeries at the local library. Bitterne Park is in the Southampton Itchen parliamentary constituency, and former council leader Royston Smith overturned a very small Labour majority to become our (Conservative) MP in 2015, securing a 2,316 majority.
The seat was previously held by John Denham for Labour, who'd held it since 1992, and was Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government prior to the fall of the Labour government. He retired at the 2015 election, and Labour selected journalist and Peckham councillor Rowenna Davis to contest the ultra-marginal constituency.
There are the groups and activities that meet in more formal settings, such as at the excellent Cobbett Road Library (sadly only open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday mornings - one of the many libraries under threat of closure up and down the country), which offers an oasis of calm for individuals and groups, in lovely art deco surroundings right on the Bullar Road gyratory system, or at the nearest community centres in Bitterne Manor, St Denys and Meggeson Avenue (the Bitterne Park suburb itself is sadly devoid of its own community centre).
And like anywhere else, there are many networks and communities based around Bitterne Park: whether it's informal groups of parents who originally met at the school gates or at a children's activity, communities of dog walkers, park users, football players, church-goers, skateboarders, duck feeders, or regulars at one of the few pubs in Bitterne Park, and several others on the other side of the river (perhaps we'll save a more in-depth look for a later update!), there's plenty for many in Bitterne Park.
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|Last Updated on Saturday, 02 January 2016 23:31|