2021 got off to a slow start, with months of lockdown and not venturing far from our front door. Which is exactly why Ant and I were so excited to go on our first staycation of the year, to the nearby county of Hampshire. As a northern lass I have never explored this part of the world, so I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
We stayed in a gorgeous treehouse near Fullerton, overlooking Black Chalk Vineyard, and spent a rainy windy weekend exploring the Test Valley. This picturesque area focuses around the River Test, with quaint villages, thatched cottages, country estates and rolling hills. It is quintessentially British and an absolute gem of a spot. I feel like we only scratched the surface and I would love to come back with my hiking boots to explore more on foot.
If you are visiting the region, here are 7 things you need to see and do!
Perhaps the most highly recommended town for us to visit was Stockbridge. It has a gorgeous little high street packed with independent shops and cafes, including Coffee Lab which serves up an epic oat milk latte and has great vegan brunch options. Explore on foot and discover the trail of 10 poems hidden around town! The nearby Mayfly pub was also highly recommended by a friend of mine, as it has a perfect location right on the river.
Houghton Lodge Gardens.
If you’re like me then you love a good garden, us Brits do know how to create a beautiful outdoor space. The Houghton Lodge grounds feature everything from a traditional kitchen garden through to an apple orchard and an orchid house. There are also 15 acres of meadows and walks to explore, with resident alpacas you can befriend! It is the perfect place for a wander.
While we didn’t get a chance to visit Winchester, it is definitely at the top of our hit list for when we make a return visit. It was recently voted the UK’s best place to live, so there must be something charming about it! It is home to a beautiful cathedral, a medieval church, a bustling food scene, riverside walkways and narrow streets packed with independent shops; so there is a lot to explore!
Otherwise known as the Waitrose & Partners Farm, this estate was purchased by John Lewis and reminded his home throughout this life. It is now open to the public with a range of activities available. You can pop to the farm shop and nursery for a browse, and grab some lunch at the cafe. However, my top recommendation is to visit the Longstock Park Water Garden. It is such a unique place, with the gardens scattered across a series of islands linked by wooden walkways. It is not only beautiful but peaceful, a little tucked away escape to calm your mind and connect with nature.
Lace Up Your Hiking Boots.
You guys know me, my favourite way to explore is always on foot. However during our visit Ant was in ankle surgery recovery so we couldn’t get out on the trails. However, that just gives us a reason to return! I did some research on the best areas for walks in the region and ones which came up again and again were Farley Mount, Beacon Hill, The Test Way (alongside the river), Danebury Hill Fort and the Stockbridge Downs. The scenery in the valley is absolutely stunning so I have no doubt that the walking would be incredible. The best thing to do, and what I plan to do next time I am in the region, would be to hit up AllTrails and see what routes there are near your accommodation.
Now this is definitely a spring specific activity but I just have to mention it. Hampshire is home to some of the most stunning bluebell woods I have ever seen! It is like the forest floor is covered in a blanket of flowers. The best spots to see the bluebells in all their glory are Micheldever Woods and Harewood Forest. Trust me, they won’t disappoint.
This National Trust owned house, gallery and gardens was one of the highlights of our trip. The country house dates back to the 18th century and the surrounding grounds provide numerous things to see and do. We loved the river walk and beautiful walled gardens, but there are longer walking routes you can take as well as cafes and kiosks to grab a bite to eat. Family friendly and dog friendly heaven!
Stay In A Treehouse.
Our accommodation was what inspired our whole trip to Hampshire, we found our incredible treehouse on Canopy and Stars and just had to visit. We had pretty rough weather during our stay, so it was the perfect spot to cosy up away from the rain. Complete with a log burner, floor to ceiling windows, an outdoor bathtub and a balcony with stunning views – it was the perfect wild escape.
If I am honest, I had zero expectations for Hampshire and the Test Valley as I had never heard of the area before. It absolutely blew me away and reminded me that there really is so much beauty here in the UK.
Have the best time and do let me know about your adventures in the area over on social media @zannavandijk.