Hampshire is undeniably one of the most beautiful places in the kingdom.
First of all, Hampshire is famous for its New Forest National Park, a favorite hunting ground for English kings since the time of William the Conqueror. Its territory covers about 400 square kilometers of open forests and fields. These are dozens of small old-fashioned villages, crystal clear rivers and springs, lookouts, beaches, hundreds of hiking and biking trails, pubs, family hotels, restaurants, farmers’ markets, gardens, castles and manors.
You can come here for a few days from London by train, stay in a traditional family B&B (bed & breakfast hotel), rent a bike or car and travel from one village to another. Or choose one of the hiking trails and walk the whole way on your own (all trails are clearly and clearly signposted) or as part of a group with a local guide.
A sunny summer day can be spent canoeing or kayaking on the Büli River.
The New Forest is also home to some of England’s most beautiful gardens, such as the acclaimed Exbury Gardens, with its majestic neo-Palladian mansion of the Rothschild family.
The western part of the county, stretching over 650 square kilometers from Romsey to Andover, is known as the Test Valley. It owes its name to the clear waters of the Test River, along the banks of which small picturesque villages are scattered.
The Test is considered the cleanest river in England due to the chalky underground springs from which it originates. Here you can go fishing for salmon, trout or grayling.
The Test Valley boasts the beautiful Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, located near the historic town of Romsey.
Just a short drive from Romsey is the famous Mottisfont Abbey, founded by Augustinian canons in 1201. In the first half of the 20th century, the abbey, owned at that time by the married couple Maud and Gilbert Russell (Maud & Gilbert Russell), was a fashionable meeting place for the English intelligentsia, artists and politicians, meetings of the famous Bloomsbury Set club were held here, intrigues were woven, hearts were broken, there were heated debates about politics.
One of the frequent guests was the famous writer Ian Fleming, the creator of the James Bond stories, who had a secret love affair with Maud. Rumor has it that during the Second World War Maud was recruited by British foreign intelligence agents, and it is possible that it was she who gave Fleming the idea to write spy novels.
In Romsey itself, the majestic Romsey Abbey, built in the Norman style in 1120, and King Jonh’s House (a Tudor house, built around 1250, a medieval cottage and a Victorian museum) are must-sees.
Romsey is known for its award-winning pubs and restaurants. Here you can safely indulge in the national English fun pub crawl (crawling through pubs), moving from one pub to another, for example, along the path of your walking route through the Test valley.
It is also worth stopping by Stockbridge, between Romsey and Andover, and along the way visit the tiny quiet village of Nether Wallop, with its narrow cobbled streets and old thatched country cottages. The shooting of the series Miss Marple took place here, it was here that the legendary old woman lived (her village is called St. Mary’s Mead in the series).
But you will not read about this in more than one guidebook, because the locals protect their peace and quiet in every possible way. I advise you not to make too much noise, because the silence in the English villages is simply deafening, it seems that you can hear the beating not only of your own heart, but also the heart of your neighbor.
In Stockbridge, be sure to dine at the Greyhound-on-Test pub on High Street (in England, the main street in every town and village is called High Street). This cozy pub with 500 years of history has been named the best English pub by the Michelin guide. Here, on the main street, there are three galleries of modern art, many shops and cafes.
Wine lovers can visit Cottonworth Farm (Cottonworth Farm), where sparkling wine is made from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier using traditional champagne technology. The climate of the south of England, thanks to global warming, and the limestone soils of the Test Valley make it possible to produce excellent sparkling wines here.
If you’re not in a hurry, you can stay at one of the small family run B&Bs in Stockbridge or Romsey for a week and go on a hiking trail through the Test Valley. The route of 70 km is divided into 8 parts, each of which is perfect for one day of walking. The route passes through all interesting villages, picturesque hills and fields, churches and pubs. Where without pubs in England?