Yateley, Hampshire, UK Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Yateley, Hampshire, UK

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Yateley is a small town in north east Hampshire that is much like any other. It may have slightly more fast food restaurants than are really necessary, but other than that it is really quite normal. The best of these is probably the new fish and chip shop near the Shell garage that started up a small portions war with the nearby Piper's Fish and Chips. The result was that one would often get home and find the 90p portion of chips you'd just bought would have gone a long way to helping Jesus feed the five thousand. The Chinese in the parade is also worth a visit, particularly for their chicken balls and noodle dishes which are very good, so long as you're careful with their rather volatile and glow-in-the-dark sweet and sour sauce.

Yateley is an old town, dating back many thousands of years. The traditional church, Saint Peter's, is even mentioned in the Doomsday book, and is almost certainly the architectural highlight of the town. Half of the church was sadly consumed by fire some years ago, and the renovator insisted on not trying to replicate the original, so one now gets a very strong sense of old versus new when inside, due the almost complete clash of styles.

This builder's lack of tact and respect for the old is pretty much mirrored throughout the whole town these days with housing estates seemingly arriving by the day and taking over the rather beautiful countryside. What was a tiny village of four thousand people in the 1950s has now grown into a relatively large dormitory town of some twenty eight thousand, and while, as mentioned, the fast food corporations have been able to keep pace, most other amenities have not. Basically, Yateley is a nightmare for the younger citizen as there is quite literally nothing to do. Any attempts at youth clubs have been short lived, so they either have to (a) wait until they are 18 in order to go to one of the half dozen pubs; or (b) cause havoc hanging round the streets and threatening people whilst drinking cheap cider. Most choose (b). In fact, this has got to the point where a regional police station has now been built in the town and several CCTV towers placed on the main road, proving quite a shock to long-time residents.

A few other possible pursuits come to mind: if you like biking or walking then the town is still surrounded by some great woods and parks (despite the best efforts of builders and real estate people); and if you like inanely watching cars being crushed then Blackbushe metalworks should keep you happy for hours.

For the older person, one of the many pubs should suffice for an evening's leisure. Although the one-time favourite, The Royal Oak, has now been transformed into an appalling chain-pub-like abomination (complete with bouncers on a Friday night for that cheap bar feel), no such thing has happened to The White Lion and the Dog and Partridge, old time pubs with at least a degree of charm. The former also does some decent pub grub and meals, most notably the 14oz T-bone steak - extremely tasty and great value. The nearby town of Eversley probably has superior pubs though, and one can take one's pick from any of The Chequers, Golden Pot (very good Sunday roasts here), or White Hart, without risk of getting thrown out of a window. The reason for mentioning this is that it's actually a fairly likely occurrence at the Poet's Corner on Monteagle Lane, a pub that changes its name every few months or so to try and go "upmarket", only to see its windows broken by flying bodies for the umpteenth time. Pilkington's are rumoured to be considering a sponsorship deal.

The town has a few schools, a posh one on the Reading Road for rich kids, and a couple of Comprehensives for the rest of us. All are of a good standard without being anything to shout about. Yateley School's "Brunel" building is worth a look if you're passing through for a wonderful example of how to make something stick out like a sore thumb, albeit a three story high sore thumb, while desperately trying to make it fit in by using similar coloured bricks. It has a roof like a ski-slope and is about eighty percent glass. This is very handy in the summer, when the inside becomes a greenhouse, causing all the pupils to pass out, and also in the winter when the more adventurous stuntman can try a ski jump from there to the nearby cookery block.

Shopping is not something to try in Yateley, except (strangely) on Sundays. The selection of shops is pitiful at best and almost everyone travels to nearby Camberley, or even London. Going to London is exceptionally easy despite Yateley's lack of a train station. Those wanting to escape to the big city can do so via the "London Link" green-line bus service, which offers a very reasonable return ticket for only five pounds. On a Sunday, however, it's a different story. This is market day for Yateley, and while that may not sound exciting, this is more than the typical twenty stalls in a car park. Blackbushe airport, which during the week is home to a large car auctions and a few dozen private jets, opens a large chunk of its land to market traders from all over the UK. This results in several thousand pitches in which one can find anything from garden gnomes to the latest (legal) CDs. It is one of the biggest markets in the UK, perhaps even in Europe, and well worth a look. The entry price: 50p, and that covers two people!

The one odd thing about Yateley is its name which literally translates as "the gate in the field". Now, I'm no genius when it comes to the laying out of the rural landscape, but I do know my gates and fields, and there's the very real fact that the former are meant to be at the edge of the latter and not actually in them at all. I have never seen a gate in a field, except one that is broken, and shortly due for removal. This doesn't explain the name of the town though because to find a broken gate in the field, someone must have been living there first. On the other hand, it might explain the name of the nearby village of Eversley, which literally translates as "group of people who live in a nice clean field because they dump all their rubbish like broken gates in the unsettled wilderness about two miles away, that is coincidentally a large field".

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