This week I passed my fifth year living in Eastleigh. It's the longest I've lived in a place since my childhood home in a town called Crowborough. Since moving from there I had 2 years in Reading, 2 years in Portsmouth at university, 1 year in Southampton on an industrial placement, then back to Portsmouth for 2 years, Ludgershall for 2 years, then Basingstoke for 1 year. Before finally moving to Eastleigh.
For a while there filling out address history was a real pain, since most forms want more than one address if you've been in one place for less than 3 years.
5 Years on, I still get junk mail for the previous residents, and indeed others who may have come before them.
In the 5 years a lot has happened, both to me personally, and to Eastleigh town. When I first started looking at moving to Eastleigh, estate agents assured me that a new cinema complex was going to be built. Shortly after I moved in I discovered that this had been rumoured for at least the previous 5 years. However about 2 years ago it finally was built, along with a bowling alley and a number of new restaurants. I think it's fair to say that this has catalysed a lot of new development in Eastleigh. Although there are still some shops closed down, many have re-opened, a new café will open shortly, along with a new wine bar next week. There is still loads of room in the newly developed structure that houses the cinema and bowling alley. I hope that it will be filled with interesting shops and services.
A few years ago I heard about the openstreetmap project. At that time Eastleigh was mapped as just a couple of the major through roads. So I set off on a project over the summer to walk the streets of Eastleigh, with a gps device tracking my route, so that I could fill it in. And so I mapped the whole of my town. If your town is not fully mapped in openstreetmap, then I can really recommend the project of mapping it. I really enjoyed walking down every road, every street, seeing all the little areas of the town I live in. Finding interesting cut throughs and paths that don't show up on regular maps. Of course it is much faster to do this on a bike, which my friend and colleague Russell Finn did to map the north of Eastleigh. However, I really enjoyed the process of walking the town. For a long time there was a road missing from my map, for which I blame Katie Blake. Many of my wanderings were targeted to end at a pub, and I was often joined by my friend Steve, on a few occasions we walked via Katie's then residence as we went to the pub, this meant we never took the alternate route down a main road, off of which was one small residential road. Since this project, others have come and added more levels and layers of detail, and filled in the road I missed, along with new housing developments. It's nice to know there is a free and detailed map of my town and I was a part of that.
As I sit and write this in Costa Coffee, I dread to think how many coffee's and breakfasts I've had, mostly in Boswells, over the last 5 years. Certainly more since starting this blog!
Generally speaking Eastleigh has a bad reputation, certainly when compared to the towns and cities around it, and I've certainly seen some of the bad side of the town. However I don't believe that those other places are free from their own bad sides. Despite the things that detract, I have enjoyed living in Eastleigh, it has pretty much everything I need it to have, and is much less busy than the larger towns of Southampton and Winchester. Certainly when I started living here I often went to Southampton on a Saturday, but ultimately realised that I came away having seen nothing of interest that could not have been found in Eastleigh, but exhausted from the sheer crush of people there.
So 5 years after moving in, and swearing that I would never move again (I hate moving), my wife and I are seriously looking at moving. Not really sure where yet, and the horrendous cost of moving will make it a long term plan. (Seriously government, I have to pay you a few grand for the privilege of buying a new house? 3% if that house happens to cost more than 250k, for which I will then pay a higher council tax rate?) However it is possible that I will not see a sixth year in this house. That said given my current reliance on the size of my awesome garage, I may never find anywhere else I can move all my tools to!