With almost half of Hampshire covered by two National Parks (the New Forest and part of the South Downs), it may come as a surprise to learn that the it’s the most populated county outside of London and the Metropolitan Counties (Greater Manchester, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, and the West Midlands).
The reason for this is that Hampshire has its own large conurbation in what’s known as the South Hampshire Metropolitan area, which is basically the Greater Southampton and Portsmouth area.
Both these cities have traditionally been heavily involved in the maritime industries – Southampton in the container and cruise liner business, and Portsmouth as a naval port.
Portsmouth isn’t the only place in the county with military connections. Aldershot with the army, and Farnborough with the RAF, also have important military establishments.
There are other towns that add to the county’s population such as Basingstoke and Andover, but by and large the rest of the county is mostly rural with heathland and chalk downland dominating the landscape.
The two main rivers that flow through this lovely countryside are the Itchen and Test, both of which emerge into Southampton Water.
On its way, the Itchen flows through Winchester, which is not only the county town of Hampshire, but also the first capital of England – and also one of my favourite English cities.
Within easy commuting distance to London, Hampshire has become one of the most affluent counties in England, which also makes living in places like Winchester expensive.
King Alfred may have been able to set up his kingdom here, but for somebody like me who likes to live like a king but has the pockets of a pauper I think I’ll have to stay where I am for now.