A visit to Wickham


Wickham - Credit: Archant

Vineyard tours and meadow meanders, just two reasons why you should visit this historic market town

Walking and wheels

There are so many good walks and cycle trails around Wickham, it is hard to know where to begin, but a good place might be the Meon Valley Trail, of which the village marks the start. Stretching north for nine miles along the route of the old Meon Valley Railway, towards West Meon, it connects with the South Downs Way and Wayfarers’ Walk to make an extended circular route. The path is level, so good for cyclists and passes through various hamlets and country pubs for those in need of a spot of light refreshment. For a shorter walk, the five-mile Wickham Wander goes through some pretty woodland, while the Heytesbury Farm Ramble, to the south of the village, takes you along three miles of woodland, farmland and rural lanes. For an even gen-tler ramble through the water meadows and on to Wickham Vineyard, the one-and-a-half-mile Meadows Meander is the one for you.

Marvel at the medieval

If the notion of seeing Winchester cathedral in miniature appeals to you, then Wickham’s village church, St Nicolas, is the place to go. Both edifices were built in the same style at the instigation of one Bishop Walkelin some time between 1075 and 1150. Inside, you can see a black marble font from Tournai in Belgium, carved in about 1150. Also look out for the Norman west door with its unusual zig zag arch. For more details visit: www.stnicholaswickham.org.uk

Pack up a picnic

If you do choose the Meadows Meander, then it might also be a good idea to take some provisions, because, on a warm summer’s day, what can compare to picnicking by a babbling brook (or even a river)? Wickham water meadows, which comprise a tranquil eight-acre oasis in the middle of the village, were once owned by the lord of the manor to graze his cattle, but now they are more likely to be frequented by leisure seekers, chewing things over in the new picnic area which, with paths and benches and a bridge across the River Meon, provides a divine setting for al fresco dining.

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Shop ‘til you drop

Tucked into the bucolic beauty of the rolling countryside of the Meon Valley, Wickham is as old as the hills, having once been a Roman military post and a Saxon settlement. Today, standing proudly at the heart of the village, are the undulating roof-tops of England’s second largest medieval market square (it actually covers two acres) where 15th and 16th century workers’ cottages jostle with well-preserved Georgian villas. Today, bustling under some of those ancient beams, are a number of independent shops selling a wide of range of individual products, from chocolates and crafts to antiques; Chesapeake Mill (more of which later), is another good place to browse

Fancy a day at the races?

Well, the village’s famous duck race, at any rate, which takes place this month. Also materialising (on June 8) is Wickham Village Fete, which this year is taking as its theme 50 years of Dr Who. Should the good doctor dematerialise in his time ma-chine and travel back to the 13th century, he might find that things haven’t changed all that much, since they have been holding fairs and markets here since 1269 when one Roger de Scures was first granted a charter by King Henry III. For more details, visit www.wickham-parish.hants.gov.uk/events

Camp or glamp

One of the highlights of the summer in Wickham has to be its music festival, which takes place from August 1 to August 4, and this year is being graced by top names such as 10CC, Dexys, the Waterboys and The Blockheads, among many more. Taking place over four days of family-friendly fun and music, campsites are available adjacent to the main festival area, just a few minutes’ walk from the village. Should you wish to camp in style, though, Camel Camp luxury tents come equipped with airbeds, rugs, solar lights, full head room and netted ventilation flaps and all Camel Camp tickets holders also get access to the backstage VIP bar, viewing area and luxury loos. For details visit www.festivalglamping.com. For more information about the festival, visit www.wickhamfestival.co.uk.

Follow the history trail

For the heritage hungry, or even the just hungry, head for the tearoom at Chesa-peake Mill, then take a look round this historic building and learn its unique story. Once the flour mill of the village, it was built in 1820 by one John Prior who bought the timbers for his building from a Portsmouth shipyard, which had just broken up the USS Chesapeake, a 44-gun frigate built at Gosport, Virginia in 1799. It had been captured by the Royal Navy after a 12-minute skirmish off Cape Ann, near Boston, in the 1812 war with the US. The battle was short, but not sweet and resulted in more

casualties than in any other single ship action in the history of both navies to that date. The overall dimensions of the watermill were determined by the maximum length of the ship’s deck beams, placed there practically unaltered (it is said that there are still bullets embedded in the joists). Today the war-wearied timbers beam down on a variety of shops purveying an eclectic mix of antiques, home furnishings and gifts.

Wine down

Wickham Vineyard has grown to become one of the most established in the UK, consistently producing award-winning wines. The vineyard holds a series of regular wine courses, tours and tastings. You can pause the tour whenever you like, and take a relaxed stroll around the estate (and the adjoining 7.5-acre woodland and wetland nature reserve), then fortify yourself with free wine tastings. The Vineyard also has a restaurant and tea-room (with fine dining in the evening) and a shop. For more details, visit www.wickhamvineyard.co.uk

Time for tee

You don’t have to be a regular golfer to play a round at Wickham Park Golf Course, as there are wide forgiving fairways for visitors and pay and play facilities available every day (though booking is advisable). Set in the heart of the Meon Val-ley, the l8-hole parkland course also offers challenges for the more experienced, and there’s a 12-bay driving range with six power tees. There are also bars and a restaurant, and all equipment can be hired. For more information, visit www.wickhamparkgolf.co.uk

Pick up a rod

Chiphall Lake Trout Fishery, just to the north of Wickham, is a four-acre lake, fed by the clear waters of the River Meon and is well stocked with rainbow, brown, golden and blue trout. Don’t worry if you’ve never tried fly fishing before, because whether experienced or a beginner (and fly fishing is becoming increasingly popular with women), you can hire everything you need to get started, with advisers on hand to tell you everything you need to know. Formal one-to-one tuition is also available. For more details, visit www.chiphalllake.co.uk