Community news for Bitterne Park and nearby areas since 2005


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22 October 2017

 

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Bitterne Park - a village within a city? PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 14:57

swans group bigFrom the tiniest pub to ice creams, swans, games in the park, rides on a steam railway, period properties, local 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.

     

Geography

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Riverside Park on the bank of the Itchen

 

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.


View a map of Southampton Council Ward Boundaries

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History
Historians will tell you that Bitterne Park was originally part of the parkland of Bitterne Manor. Jim Brown, in his ‘Illustrated History of Southampton's Suburbs’, explains how the rural character of the area changed beyond recognition when the National Liberal Land Company purchased over 317 acres of this land in 1882 for the Bitterne Park Estate, leaving some five acres for a cricket and lawn tennis ground, with the remainder scheduled for extensive development. For more on the history of the area, including stories of fights with sticks on Cobden Bridge and of times before Riverside Park, check our archive of articles and audio clips.

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Village feel
Bitterne Park has been described by one bitternepark.info reader as “a special place - one of the last real villages in Southampton”. Many will tell you that they came to Bitterne Park for the friendly ‘village feel’, its period properties, the river, Riverside Park, to be in the Bitterne Park catchment area for localschools, and of course the local shops at the Triangle — regarded by some close to it as the ‘village hub’.

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Transport and parking
And yet it is only a short journey into either central Southampton, or, in the other direction, to Eastleigh. From Southampton Central or Parkway rail stations it can take just a few minutes to Winchester, and just over an hour into London Waterloo. The M27’s junction 5 is (sometimes) only a five-minute drive away, offering easy access to Bournemouth, Poole and the south west, to Portsmouth and West Sussex, and the M3 to London.

bluestar no 16 front Bitterne Park is also well connected for buses, while by bike the city centre is easily accessible - although safer, cleaner, quieter cycling routes are high on many people's agendas.

If you're visiting beware the one hour parking restriction around the Triangle is often enforced, but many nearby roads offer free parking, and there are car parks near Riverside Park.

Of course living in Bitterne Park you also have all the advantages, and disadvantages, of having an expanding airport right on your doorstep; seek, and you’ll find many articles about that on this site.

For more on transport, please click here (we've moved the more detailed information about buses and cycle routes to this new page).


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The Triangle

Bitterne Park Triangle
Bitterne Park Triangle


The Triangle is often seen as the ‘hub’ of Bitterne Park. It has much to offer locals and visitors alike. For the former, a fair amount of day to day needs is available on your doorstep. For visitors, the Triangle, and Riverside Park, are pleasant destinations for whiling away some weekend time with some mooching.

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Shopping
As well as boasting a traditional baker's, there's a small Co-operative store (you may need earplugs if you don't like Co-operative Radio, which plays loud!), you can browse the bric-a-brac in Piper’s Emporium in the old butcher's shop, or even buy a Persian rug or a piano at the Triangle.

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The Old Chemist

Sadly the art scene in Bitterne Park is somewhat depleted since the closure of Spice Art Studios in the lovely old pharmacy shop - now run by Vineyard Church as offices and community space (hear an audio feature from this link). And what was once a picture framing shop near the clock tower has now morphed into micro pub The Butcher's Hook (read on for more on this). Antiques are thin on the ground too, since the closure of various outlets over the last few years.

But you will find various options for preening, with barber shops, hairdressers, and a couple of beauty businesses at The Triangle.


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Food and drink

Il Picchio shop front
 

One or two 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!

At tiny café Il Picchio you can enjoy anything from a cappuccino to a full lunch by day, and in the evenings it becomes a restaurant but only by arrangement.

For more traditional fare, try Miss Ellie's café next door, or the Riverside Diner – both 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 cooked? But whose chips are best: Charlie's or Andy's? We really couldn't say...

Dan Richardson Anthony Nicholls butchers hook2

Specialist craft beer micro pub (not in fact a micro brewery as many assume) The Butcher's Hook was opened by the then MP John Denham in February 2014 right on the Triangle. It was the first of its kind in the city, and attracts visitors from far and wide.

"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 and try The Bitterne Park Hotel. However despite a makeover in 2015 the Ei Group pub (formerly Enterprise Inns) has seen frequent periods of closure and changes of management in recent years. The pub has now been listed by the council as an 'asset of community value', giving the community the right, should 'it' wish, to bid on and potentially buy the property should owners Enterprise Inns ever decide to sell.

If it's closed or not to your taste, you could head for the Hop Inn on Woodmill Lane. Alternatively it could be time to cross the river where you'll find three generally popular pubs in St Denys, and still more choices in Portswood.

doras new owners

Another interesting Triangle business is ice cream parlour The Songbird – a big hit with the many families in the area, especially when the sun shines, and pictured above with previous and new owners. It's surely only bright new businesses like the Butcher's Hook and The Songbird that will bring new life to the Triangle. 

So what's next?

Food-wise, later in the day for Indian food to eat in or collect, try the Bitterne Balti, 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!

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Swans at Riverside Park

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Boom or bust?
to let signIt’s not all a bed of roses at the Triangle: businesses come and go (this page seems to need constant updating!), and ‘to let’ signs are all too familiar. The names the buildings are known by say it all: there's an 'Old Chemist' and an 'Old Post Office', but you can't pick up a prescription or get a parcel weighed at the Triangle.

In fact The Old Chemist becomes a foodbank once a week, giving away (to those in crisis who have been granted the relevant clearance by other agencies) emergency rations, and highlighting a rather unpalatable truth about contemporary life – even in Bitterne Park.

To see our video showing the scale of foodbank operations in Southampton and find out how to donate food, click here.

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Health centre: a steep climb

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. Since then there have been various efforts at running different forms of greengrocer from the same premises.  It's now rideride cycle shop, so you'll need to take your greengrocery custom elsewhere....

veg shed display

....perhaps to The Veg Shed, which pops up most Saturday mornings (with a summer break) from 9am-2 pm at the Triangle near the clock tower/ Old Chemist, offering a good selection of fruit, veg (some organic), and some other goods including olive oil and coffee. Doubtless it needs as much support as possible to survive.

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).

Triangle estate agents' offices are also on the way out, blaming the lack of Triangle footfall and the shift towards online searching – although you'll still be spoilt for choice if you head up the hill to Bitterne or into town on London Road, and competition between them appears to be fierce. Interestingly, unconfirmed reports suggest a new agency could open at the Triangle later in 2017...  At any rate, you can read a local agent's view on Bitterne Park property on our site from this link.

The old Bitterne Park post office
Old post office

Some say the closure of the bank in the 90s (in what is now H Palace), and the closure of Triangle post office in 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).

But despite rumblings, a significant, joined-up, imaginative campaign to encourage ‘local Triangle shopping’ has still yet to emerge - and seems less likely as core businesses such as the butcher's disappear (despite the fact that, in our 2015 survey, a butcher’s shop came top when we asked which businesses our website readers would most like to see start up at the Triangle).

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Witts Hill

midanbury co-op closure poster cropped

As well as the post office, there are various other shops at Witts Hill, Midanbury, including a small supermarket (another one, a Co-op, closed in August 2015, after nearby Tesco Express opened in May 2013, and the building has been empty ever since), a baker, takeaways and a Boots chemist, in a parade next to what was the Castle pub.

The pub closed in 2012, and its transition into a Tesco was opposed by many local traders, residents and the MP. You can find several articles about Tesco Express, including audio interviews, by following this link.

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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).


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Bitterne Road West

bitterne road west

Other retail outlets are dotted around the crossroads at the bottom of Bullar Road as it intersects with the busy Bitterne Road West. It's as hard as it is unpleasant to negotiate on foot - or indeed by using any other transport! It marks a boundary between Bitterne Park and Bitterne wards. Some businesses are positioned in the middle of what is affectionately known as the “Bullar Road gyratory”.

bitterneroadsignAround this area you'll find a carpet shop, hairdresser, barber, 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.

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Schools

bitterne park secondary exterior

Bitterne Park School (old building) - hopes to become part of a multi-academy trust

Bitterne Park is mainly served by Bitterne Park Primary School (Outstanding - Ofsted September 2014) and Bitterne Park School, the secondary on Copeswood Road: "specialist performing arts and applied learning school" (Good: Ofsted 2014 - down from Outstanding in 2009). The latter also includes a fairly new sixth form centre (promoted as "bp6") with, among other things, excellent theatre facilities. 

Bitterne Park is also a teaching school: there's more information about the Bitterne Park Alliance on the Bitterne Park School website.

A new Bitterne Park secondary school building, to offer modern facilities and take the roll from 1500 to a whopping 1800 secondary school pupils, is due to open for the new term in September 2017. When complete, the old buildings will be demolished and replaced by sports fields. Search this site to find various articles about this.

The governing body, which oversees both Bitterne Park School and Townhill Junior School, is known as the Southampton Riverside Federation. The school told bitternepark.info in March 2017 it "hopes to develop this further by becoming a small multi-academy trust (MAT) with additional partners in the year ahead".

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.

As well as Bitterne Park Sixth Form, many students travel to local sixth form colleges, some of which offer bus services to and from Bitterne Park. Popular nearby choices include Barton Peveril in Eastleigh and Itchen College in Bitterne; City College, Richard Taunton College and Peter Symonds College in Winchester are other options.

Or go private: St Mary's Independent School (formerly known as St Mary's College) is a 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.

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Politics

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Bitterne Park 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. 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 (since 1992) by John Denham for Labour, who 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,

In the 'snap' 2017 election, Royston Smith clung on to the seat, with just 31 votes separating him from the Labour candidate and council leader Simon Letts, making Southampton Itchen perhaps the top target seat for Labour in any future general election. 

• We regularly include information about local and national elections on this site, often including candidate statements that aren't available elsewhere, so if you're interested stay tuned, follow us on social media here and here, and subscribe to our email digest for updates.

pie chart GE 2017 Southampton Itchen

 Distribution of votes in Southampton Itchen at the 2017 general election

Royston Smith's record as an MP on They Work for You here | Southampton Itchen seat analysis on Electoral Calculus

Contact details for councillors and MPs are in this section.

Over the Itchen, Porstwood Ward, which includes St Denys, is currently represented by two Tories and one Labour councillor. It falls under the Southampton Test constituency. Alan Whitehead for Labour held on to the seat in 2015, making it the only red constituency in a sea of southern blues. In 2017 he increased his previous 3810 majority considerably, to 11503.

Bitterne Park Residents' Association may operate in Bitterne Park, although it seems remarkably invisible both online and off. We're unware of any public meeting being advertised for a number of years. A
ccording to e.VOLve - a database of voluntary and community organisations serving Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (we couldn't load this site during an article update in August 2017) - BPRA aims: "To sustain/improve the environmental quality of Bitterne Park and to encourage a cohesive and supportive community." e.VOlve also says Bitterne Park Residents' Association "holds 1-2 public meetings a year": if you find out when they are, do let us know!

Bitterne Park Residents' Association also continues to be a listed organisation under 'Constraints' on Southampton City Council planning applications in the ward.

Meanwhile other informal groups sometimes come together to campaign for changes or to hold seasonal events - for example see here.

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Community


 

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Cobbett Hub and Library

There are the groups and activities that meet in more formal settings, such as at the excellent Cobbett Hub and Library, sadly only open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday mornings - one of the many libraries natioinally that was under threat of closure but which is now run by a local community organisations and volunteers. It offers an oasis of calm for individuals and groups, in lovely art deco surroundings right on the Bullar Road gyratory system.

There are also 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).

The Junction in St Denys
The Junction in St Denys

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 pub regulars, there's plenty for many in Bitterne Park.

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Feel there's essential information missing — or would you like to help us add a section? Then contact us with your idea. 



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The Triangle’s most famous landmark is the clock tower, which was moved to its current spot from New Road in 1934, and which apparently leans towards Cobden Bridge by several inches.

Or is it by more than that?









 

©  Bitterne Park's local website - bitternepark.info

 

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Last Updated on Monday, 25 September 2017 17:32
 

Comments   

 
+2 #1 Ann MacGillivray 2010-01-17 12:28
Well done!
I really like what you have done with this article.
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+2 #2 Rose Nicole 2010-01-17 17:47
Yes, it's great. Shows why we all like it here.
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+1 #3 lbluemel 2010-03-13 11:42
I agree that it's a pity about Spice Art and, before that, Public Hangings, which I, for one, was very sorry to see close. However, I maintain one room in my house as a mini art gallery and everyone is welcome to come and see the art works, including paintings by myself of local buildings and street scenes and sculptures by local artist Ann MacGillivray. There are also cards for sale at a very reasonable price. Visitors are welcome at any time, but ring first (023 8033 2926) if you want to be sure of finding me at home.
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-5 #4 Abduldabadoo 2010-06-26 15:50
This is a great article however it fails to highlight the importance of the islamic asian and somalli community groups, hopefully with goverment and lottery funding we can set up the al hazzarld islamic refuge community centre, and sharia law drop in clinic. For the displaced afgan and iraqi peoples coming to southampton for the first time.
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-5 #5 qwerty 2011-09-19 14:49
ive grown up in bitterne park and there is no way that bitterne park is a village, have you seen a village. the people who call this place a village are derranged snobs living in the past.
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-4 #6 koolduke 2011-11-20 04:40
Ann Mac'told me about this comment the other day and I'm afraid I didn't take in what she was saying!! Now I have read it I totally agree with you qwerty! I grew up in Harcourt Road and I would never call Bitterne Park a village. For a start there is a busy road running straight through the middle and it has been busy for over 50 years and my mum got knocked over on the then zebra crossing when returning from walking the dogs and I was with her as a small child! I now live in Netley Abbey in Eastleigh Borough which I would class as a large village and we have a parish council! Anyway I adored your comment about derranged snobs in fact the only reason I registered was so I could comment on your comment!! sorry about the exclaimation marks!!!! My real name is Patricia Gibson nee Shutler. Can someone tell me the boundaries of Bitterne Park village?
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0 #7 koolduke 2011-11-20 14:41
I am sorry but this has got to be a joke. Yabadabadoo? --- Abduldabadoo? I apologise if this your real name.
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0 #8 Odessa 2012-03-29 14:50
A village within a village maybe?
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+2 #9 Rose Nicole 2012-06-11 09:28
On Sunday I was in Oxford, and popped into a cafe to have a drink and some bruschetta - a favourite of mine. But, despite the promise of something tasty to eat in a thriving and cosmopolitan City, I was very disappointed; a very small portion, no oil, no flavour. Thank goodness we have Il Picchio in the Triangle where the food is always excellent. Well done Sandro, and thank you.
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+6 #10 BitternePark1961 2013-10-04 13:13
I moved to Bitterne Park as a 7 yr old, in 1968. I still live in the same house 45 yrs on... It is not a village, but is a suburb to the city. In all my years, I have had a wonderful life in Bitterne Park.I have not encountered any anti social problems, and feel very safe in my area ! Love the Triangle ..Love Bitterne Park.. Heaven !
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