What life is really like in Berkshire’s most remote villages

Did somebody mention Hot Fuzz?

What life is really like in Berkshire's most remote villages

We took a trip to tiny communities around West Berkshire

The Five Bells pub in Wickham, West Berkshire
The Five Bells pub in Wickham, West Berkshire (Image: Google Maps)

Villagers living the good life in the wilds of West Berkshire are the least connected in the county.

The villages of Wickham and the tiny hamlets of Elcot and Combe are some of the most cut off communities in Berkshire, miles away from schools, doctors and hospitals.

And holidaymakers in the village face a three hour journey if they use public transport to get to Heathrow Airport.

Reading is a far away land, with a 100-minute journey on public transport required to reach the station, although in the car you could be at Heathrow in 80 minutes and Basingstoke in 50 minutes.

More locally, it’s an average journey of 17 minutes to a primary school and 44 minutes to a secondary school on foot or by public transport.

In the car, it’s nine minutes and 17 minutes respectively.

The research pulled together by Reach PLC’s Data Unit and InYourArea.co.uk looks at a number of factors from Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, including the time it takes to reach schools, GP surgeries, major train stations and airports.

But what is life really like these ‘isolated’ communities?

“Honestly, it’s not like Hot Fuzz here, everyone’s very nice and very normal”

A Barmaid
Barmaid Annie Wright loves life in the wilds of West Berkshire (Image: BerkshireLive)

Berkshire Live took a trip to Wickham to find out what it’s really like living miles from anywhere.

Wickham is the largest of the three areas of West Berkshire declared the least connected.

The village is surrounded by farmland and although seemingly remote sits near the M4.

It has a primary school which serves the village and neighbouring Welford, a pub and a phone box.

Welford and Wickham Primary School can take up to 105 pupils from age five to 11 years old.

The village is also home to the spectacular Wickham House, an 18th century mansion, which is now a corporate events venue and film location.

Road signs for Wickham
The village of Wickham is one of the least connected places in Berkshire (Image: Google Maps)

We took visited the Five Bells pub, where we met barmaid Annie Wright.

She explained the village is one of many in the outskirts of Hungerford, which are all interlinked.

For example, there’s no Post Office in Wickham itself, but there is in neighbouring Stockcross.

“The wifi is terrible but there’s a real community feel”

She said: “These are all great places to live.

“If you want this life, the rural life, then it’s fantastic.

“There’s clean air, and loads of places for the children to go and play.

“There are pubs, and a real community feel.

“The scenery is amazing.

“People want the country life here, it does take a while to get to things like the doctors or hospital, but everyone here has the benefits of the country lifestyle.

“The wi-fi is terrible, but we’re promised that is improving.

“Honestly, it’s not like Hot Fuzz here, everyone’s very nice and very normal.”

Elcot

Entrance to The Mercure Newbury Elcot Park Hotel in Elcot
The Mercure Newbury Elcot Park Hotel in Elcot (Image: BerkshireLive)

We headed to Elcot next, and, quite frankly, found very little.

Again the area is surrounded by sprawling fields and woodland, it’s a certainly a scenic drive.

Curiously, there is a large hotel, and a scattering of homes and farms.

We also spotted a very remote post box but that was about it.

We had hoped to speak to some of the locals, but there wasn’t a soul to be found as we navigated the single track roads around the hamlet, which is off the A4 between Newbury and Hungerford.

It’s nearest village, roughly a six minute drive, is Kintbury which by comparison is a hub – with a station, pubs, a school, shops and church.

Combe

Narrow and windy country road
Roads like this are a familiar site in Combe (Image: Google Maps)

In Combe, pronounced Coom, it was a similar story to Elcot.

Our advice is not to rely on Google Maps if you’re trying to locate this village – as it very much doesn’t work.

Similarly to Elcot, there didn’t seem to be a “centre” as such.

The village is part of the larger area of Inkpen.

It has some interesting history.

During the bronze age, it was used as a burial site for the “important dead”.

It was also a popular gathering spot, as a location for public hangings.

Many people enjoy walking on Combe Gibbet, and taking in its views of the area.

The area also contains some very small and very narrow one track roads, one of which has a somewhat alarming drop to one side.

We spoke to Councillor James Cole, who represents the area on West Berkshire Council.

He was surprised to hear that Wickham was considered to be an unconnected area.

He agreed Combe and Elcot were isolated areas.

He said he thought a lot of the houses in Combe were used as countryside second homes or holiday houses.

He confirmed there was no school, or a pub, or a bus route to the village.

He said “I’m surprised by Wickham, which is a proper community.

“Elcot is undoubtedly a tiny hamlet.

“Combe is officially classed as a village, because it has a church.

“But there is no school, or a pub.

“From knocking on doors canvassing there, it’s mostly an older community and a lot of the homes are second homes.”

Where is the most remote community in the country?

The least connected place in England in the tiny area of Teignbridge in Devon, including the villages of Poundsgate to Moretonhampstead.

The average person here is 51 minutes away from the nearest primary school and nearly two hours from the nearest secondary school.

The nearest hospital is two hours away on public transport, as are the nearest airports and train stations.

By car it’s two hours to the airport and two hours and 20 minutes to the nearest station.

News from Berkshire live

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