Christmas spirit in Whitchurch
- Credit: Archant
If you want to get into the Christmas spirit in style, look no further than the North Hampshire town of Whitchurch
Shop till you drop
Whitchurch has some lovely independent shops and local markets – ideal for the Christmas present hunt. Check out Rosie’s Gifts on London Street for a treasure trove of cutesy presents, from preserves to Isle of Wight Lavender products, candles to glassware (www.rosiesgifts.org.uk). The Handbag Shop on Church Street has beautiful Italian leather bags, ballerina pumps and jewellery (www.handbagshop-whitchurch.com). And after last year’s success, Whitchurch Silk Mill’s Christmas Market will be spilling outside onto the lawns on Thursday 5th December, 5pm – 8pm. Weave your way through fairy-lit stalls, accompanied by a backdrop of carol singers to discover a range of artisan gifts (www.whitchurchsilkmill.org.uk).
Food & drink
The Red House on London Street has a great Christmas party menu from £18 for two courses, offering both traditional turkey with all the trimmings and delicious alternatives such as slow cooked, crispy Wiltshire Pork Belly served with creamed potatoes, haggis and leeks in an apple and calvados sauce (www.theredhousewhitchurch.com). If it’s a celebratory Christmas tipple you’re after, the 15th Century Bell Inn has, yet again, been included in the 2014 CAMRA Good Beer Guide. Offering a good selection of real ales on tap including Gales Seafarer Ale, Sharp’s Doom Bar and London Pride (www.bellwhitchurch.co.uk).
The main event
One evening you can’t miss is the town’s Christmas Fair on December 5, explains Sarah Castle, Manager of the Gill Nethercott Centre: “It’s an all-town event, with all the local shops staying open until 8pm for some Christmas shopping and the Mayor switching on the Christmas Lights.”
“There will be singing and bands playing in front of the Town Hall,” she continues. “The Gill Nethercott Centre lights the riverside with tea lights and we have a huge variety of craft and gift stalls for those unique gifts as well as some fun activities for children.
“We also offer hot food and cakes for hungry visitors and the library will be open, offering free crafting for children.
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“It’s a very busy and fun night and everyone in Whitchurch attends whatever the weather!”
Testbourne Community School will be sprinkling a little festive spirit over the town with two Christmas concerts. The first, a community Carol Concert at All Hallows Church on December 12 at 7pm featuring music from Bella Voce choir and soloists, plus traditional carols and readings. Whilst the grand finale is the school’s Christmas Concert on December 17 at 7pm, featuring all of Testbourne’s musical ensembles including percussion, guitar, strings, brass, the Concert Orchestra and Flute Choir – as well as the Testbourne singers.
Whitchurch railway station provides easy links to London and Southampton and there are regular bus services to Basingstoke, Andover and Winchester. Situated on the A34, it is just three miles north of the M3, providing easy access from most parts of the county. There are three main public car parks, all free but with various time restrictions. These are in Winchester Road, in Church Street and in Bell Street. There is also some limited on-road parking on the roads off the Square.
My Christmas in Whitchurch
“I love the fact Whitchurch is compact as it creates a really cosy, homely feel to the town – which you really feel a part of,” says Mayoress of Whitchurch, Rosemary Crumplin. “It’s such a happy and pretty place and Cllr John Clark (Town Mayor of Whitchurch) and I love going around meeting everyone.
“It’s particularly lovely at Christmas with the lights. The whole town comes together for the Christmas Fair and we’re really looking forward to soaking up the magical atmosphere, enjoying a mince pie and mulled wine and listening to Whitchurch Primary sing a few carols and Testbourne Community providing the music in the square. We may even have a celebrity joining the celebrations too, but my lips are sealed at this stage.
“This year John and I hope to join the Christingle Service at All Hallows – it’s such a lovely service for everyone.
“We are also very much looking forward to judging the ‘Best Dressed Window’ competition on the 5th December. We’ve worked hard to visit all the local businesses in Whitchurch in a bid to boost their presence in the town and competitions like this just help to keep them active and create a buzz in the community. The winning window will be presented with a plaque, which they can put on display for the year.
“In addition to Christmas, New Year is always something very special as all the locals come out in to the Town Square to see ‘the old out and the new in’. The atmosphere is wonderful, shaking hands, a little kiss here and there and just wishing everyone all the very best of health and happiness for another year.”