IT USED to be known as the largest village in England.

The nickname was given to Totton in the days when it was still a relatively rural settlement surrounded by farms and country houses, with New Forest ponies roaming the streets.

But Totton has expanded dramatically in the past few decades and is now one of Hampshire's biggest towns.

Most of the growth has taken place in Calmore and neighbouring West Totton, where ancient fields have been replaced by houses, shops and schools.

But what the area lacks in open space it more than makes up for in community spirit.

Evidence of that can be found at the Saxon Inn, a popular watering hole that has been meeting the needs of Calmore residents since the estate was built in the early 1970s.

The Saxon is well away from the New Forest tourist trail and is used almost exclusively by locals looking for somewhere to relax with friends.

Situated next to the local community centre the pub has a spacious lounge, a public bar with pool, darts and televised sport, and a picnic area on the front lawn.

It also boasts a large amount of sporting prowess, with pool and darts players having won an impressive array of silverware over the years. Other attractions include the Sunday quiz and meat raffle.

The manager is Ben Bran, 38, who has been at the Saxon since November last year.

He knows the area well, having gone to Bartley Junior School and Hounsdown School before working as a chef at the Fox and Hounds pub in Lyndhurst High Street.

Mr Bran, who used to run The Players pub in Water Lane, Totton, plans to build on the Saxon's success by introducing a carvery.

He said: "Most of our customers are Totton residents - we've got a very good local trade.

"The things I love about the job most are the people who come here, the atmosphere and the social side of things."