Living in Aldershot
What is life like in Aldershot?
Aldershot is probably best known to many people around the UK as the home of the British Army, but it actually has much more to offer as a modern and vibrant place to live than simply military connections.
It has a thriving town centre with an array of high street stores, a number of local restaurants and bars and excellent links to London and the rest of Hampshire. The county town exudes a relaxed feel and a number of surrounding towns – such as Camberley, Farnborough and Farnham – ensure there is a variety of attractions and facilities within a few miles.
People in Aldershot are rightly proud of the town's military links and the barracks remain a key part of everyday life. The annual Aldershot Garrison Show attracts in the region of 60,000 visitors, underlining the strong links between the town and the army.
At the heart of the town lies a 40-tonne statue of Wellington on his horse Copenhagen. It was originally positioned at Hyde Park Corner in London, but can now be found in Aldershot and is a hugely popular landmark.
For many years, Aldershot has been famous for its army base, but it began its existence in very different circumstances. Indeed, Aldershot was a small and sleepy village in the north Hampshire countryside until the first military camp was set up in 1854.
Prior to that, it was an area of barren heathland housing a small community that relied on agriculture in order to make a living. There has been a settlement in Aldershot since prehistoric times, as evidence of earthworks from this period can still be seen today.
The first military camp grew throughout the 1850s and 1860s and temporary structures, footpaths and tracks were developed that opened up the town. Another key development came in 1900 when the Queens Avenue swimming bath was opened and this resulted in Aldershot becoming a popular destination.
In the 20th century, Aldershot continued to progress and a bustling town centre with shops and other amenities was created. Other key facilities such as the West End Centre followed.
A number of famous people began their life in Aldershot and some still call the town home today. Actor Martin Freeman was born in Aldershot, and so too were darts player James Wade, former football manager Bruce Rioch and Sugababes singer Amelle Berrabah.
Actor and comedian Arthur English, who died in 1995, was another who originally came from the town.
Entertainment, sport and days out
The West End Centre is arguably the cultural hub of Aldershot and is a venue that provides residents with the chance to enjoy all manner of entertainment options. From music to theatre and comedy, the centre hosts a range of performers and doubles up as a setting for a variety of classes and workshops for local people.
Another option for those seeking a night out is the Princes Hall, which is a multi-purpose venue that boasts a schedule packed with well-known entertainers. Alternatively, those hoping to catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster can do so at the modern cinema complex at the Westgate centre.
Sportspeople will undoubtedly be drawn towards the Aldershot Garrison Sports Centre, which boasts an Olympic-sized swimming pool, squash courts, gym, rugby stadium, football pitches, cricket pavilion, 170 acres of playing fields and a host of other facilities.
Aldershot Lido is a wonderful venue offering outdoor swimming facilities and is part of the popular Aldershot Pools complex.>/p>
Locals hoping to catch a live game can head to the Recreation Ground, home of Aldershot FC, who currently play in League Two, the fourth tier of English football.
With London a relatively short distance away, there is no shortage of great days out to be had from Aldershot. Whether it is a sightseeing tour of the capital, a gig or sports fixture, a romantic meal or a daredevil trip to a local theme park such as Thorpe Park that people are after, it can all be found within an hour of Aldershot.
Eating, drinking & shopping
A number of restaurants are spread throughout the town, such as at the Westgate complex where the likes of Frankie & Benny's, Nando's, Harvester, Pizza Express, Prezzo and Mimosa are based.
The Good Pub Guide recommends five pubs and bars in Aldershot as being worth a visit. These are the Golden Gate, the Alexandra, the Red Lion, the Unicorn and the Willems Park.
The Wellington Shopping Centre is Aldershot's retail focal point and is popular with shoppers from the area. It contains a number of the country's most popular high street names, such as WH Smith, New Look, Rymans, Boots, Argos and Specsavers.
Schools & healthcare
Aldershot offers a selection of primary and secondary schools to the local population. In the latest Ofsted reports, Newport Junior School achieved the highest score of all the primary establishments in the town, followed by St Joseph's Catholic Primary and St Michael's Church of England Controlled Junior School.
Ash Manor, The Connaught and All Hallows Catholic School are among the secondary schools on offer.
The Aldershot Centre for Health is the primary medical facility in the town and offers a variety of facilities, including radiology, pathology, physiotherapy, podiatry and paediatrics departments. A number of other surgeries can be found in the area.
Aldershot is ideally located close to the M3, which provides a direct route into central London. It also boasts excellent road links to Southampton, Portsmouth and the rest of the south coast, while the M4 can be used to head west.
By rail, it takes less than an hour to travel from Aldershot station to London, with services running to Waterloo, which is just a few steps from the banks of the Thames.
For those looking to head overseas for either business or pleasure, Heathrow Airport is the obvious starting point, with the UK's largest airport located just 25 miles or so from the north Hampshire town.