Suburban Safari: Shopping for Life in Bitterne

Suburban Safari: Shopping for Life in Bitterne

by Katie Isham.

In the east of Southampton lies Bitterne village. Not what one would usually think of as a village, but still more than worth a visit. It may not have the popularity of the city centre or the cool kid chic of Portswood, but Bitterne is a vector of variety. Join me to tick off the varied items on a shopping list of things to find when on a safari in the suburbs. 

1. A precinct 

Start your explorations in the pedestrianised zone. Everybody loves a precinct. The surrounding shops are only part of the joy. There are benches and trees and a play area and a big round circular platform made of bricks; the purpose of which nobody knows, but everyone has a memory of running around and around until dizziness stops play. 


2. A market

On Wednesdays, there’s an extra layer of life to Bitterne. The gazebos are up, the patio furniture is outside the burger van, bowls of fruit and veg stretch as far as the eye can see and everyone hopes the rain stays away. Time your journey through the precinct to peruse the stalls and add colour to your day. 




3. A churchyard 

At the top of the precinct sits the Anglican church with its spire watching over all. Duck into the churchyard to wander between the towering trees and the new growth emerging in early spring blooms at your feet. There’s a calm that extends to the church interior as well if you need a pause. 


4. Secret pathways multipack 

Exit the churchyard at the other gate and follow the path past the strangely intriguing deserted buildings onto White’s Road. Turn right and continue, taking the next right down Brownlow Avenue. Meander around the bend until the pink blossoms marking the entrance to Oakley John Walk appear. Sidle up this path to bring you behind the car park and within reaching distance of the precinct. 



5. Second-hand treasures 

Bitterne is awash with charity shops. Trawl the treasure troves for that book you thought you’d never find or that art-deco vase you never realised you needed. Don’t forget the slightly annexed Bitterne Local History Society, as well as the Salvation Army standing to attention on West End Road. Here also stands the new kid on the block: The Mercantile Flea. Part antiques emporium, part café, part-time music venue. It’s a part of the journey not to miss. 


6. People 

This wander is not one for those days in search of solitude. This is a bustling burst of Southampton society. People shopping, talking, grumbling, sitting, eating, remembering, living and using the local facilities we have. Let’s be part of this and stretch our legs in the fresh air at the same time. Take your shopping trip to Bitterne and explore some of the routes and locations you may not normally call upon; push your daily routine beyond its usual borders and you never know what mild adventures you might find. 


7. Cake 

Because there should always be cake on a shopping list. 


Cost: No cost for the wandering. Any stops you make for refreshments or retail can lead to enjoyable expenditure.  

Accessibility: Bitterne Precinct is reached from Peartree Avenue, Bitterne Road West or Bursledon Road: a convergence of many through routes in the east of the city. Also a hub for many bus routes into and out of the city centre. Paved routes throughout including the precinct and paths through the church grounds. 

Facilities: All the facilities you could imagine. Shops, cafes, pub, gym, hairdressers, library, leisure centre, church, play area, toilets as well as the weekly market. 


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