Things to do in Alresford
- Credit: Watercress Line
Watercress and wine in the heart of Hampshire – enjoyed by Emma Caulton
If designer names and individual style is your thing, then shopping in Alresford is a thrill. Visit West Street for fashion and classics. There’s Moda Rosa (daywear and occasion wear from Armani Collezioni to Temperley), Hêtre (shoes and handbags), Franchetti Bond (accessories), Roxtons (specialist countrywear for men and women), and easy-to-wear casual chic at Delilah and No42 as well as children’s shoe emporium Billy Goat. Homeware boutiques are a treasure trove, too. Browse Susie Watson for soft country style, Alresford Linen Company for the occasional exotic, More by Design (covetable patterned lampshades and rugs), Alresford Gift Shop for quirky finds and bespoke furniture and advice from Interior Style, Alresford Interiors and more.
Take a stroll
After retail townscape, explore the rural landscape. The area is criss-crossed with footpaths. There are circular walks around Alresford. These include the Millennium Trail (winding through town and beside the River Arle, past the Fulling Mill and old Eel House), the Arle Valley Trail and Alresford Watercress Trail, passing vivid green watercress beds to Old Alresford and back. If you’re looking for long distance, try the Wayfarer’s Way, a footpath of 70 miles crossing through New Alresford and Cheriton.
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Alresford is known for its cafe culture with an abundance of tea rooms and coffee houses. Award-winning Caracoli was born here. Other favourites include Tiffin Tea Rooms (recommended for yummy home baking), Heidi’s Patisserie (known for friendly staff and good Welsh rarebit) and Mange 2 Deli (great breakfasts). Don’t miss, heading out of town towards Bishop’s Sutton, Long Barn’s Home and Garden Store in the Old Sheep Fair. This traditional green oak framed building in three acres of lavender gardens is an indulgence. You will find Long Barn’s range of natural home, bath and body products made with their own lavender essential oils, a specialist range of lavender plants, stylish cafe with what’s credited as being ‘the best flat white out of London’ and, opening this month (April), a brand new courtyard filled to the gunnels with inspiration for the garden.
Discover a National Trust treat - Hinton Ampner. What appears to be an elegant Georgian house was originally a haunted Tudor house, then a Victorian mansion which was remodelled in a Georgian style. Today’s house was rebuilt in the 1960s following a devastating fire. The gardens are particularly glorious: widely acknowledged as a masterpiece of 20th century garden design with colour themed garden ‘rooms’, views across the South Downs and a restored walled garden. A programme of events includes guided bluebell walks (30 April and 11 May 2016), Tudor Stillroom workshop (14 May 2016) showing you how to make your own soaps and pomanders, and Straw Bale Maze from 27 May 2016 through summer.
Another building worth visiting is The Grange at Northington, the foremost example in England of Greek Revival architecture in a landscaped park, looked after by English Heritage and open daily (exterior only). Otherwise take a ride on the Watercress Line. This heritage railway was saved by volunteers in 1973 and is now a visitor attraction with a fleet of steam locomotives running from Alresford to Alton. There’s a regular timetable, plus special events (such as Days Out with Thomas, 25 March to 3 April 2016, and War on the Line, 11-12 June) and dining trains and real ale trains in the evening.
As well as watercress, the area is becoming known for another harvest – grapes. Award-winning Hattingley Valley vineyard in Lower Wield is producing world champion fizz. You can book a tour (first Saturday of the month – firstname.lastname@example.org) or pick up a bottle from Naked Grape in Alresford.
Eat, sleep, relax
Pulpo Negro has put Alresford on the culinary map as a new entry in this year’s Good Food Guide. This is an area known for its good locals, such as The Cricketers, The Globe and The Horse & Groom. Both The Bell and The Swan are old coaching inns in the heart of Alresford with good food and comfortable rooms. If you want something more idiosyncratic try glamping in a shepherd’s hut or an eco-friendly camping pod at award-winning (adults-only) Two Hoots – in a secluded spot just four miles from Alresford.
• Victoria Geyde - “I live just outside Alresford and during the summer months I cycle to work every day. It keeps me active and allows me to treat myself with a morning Caracoli: their smoothies are simply delicious and set you up for a healthy and energised day. I also treat myself to Hêtre goodies: the best shoe and accessories boutique this side of Bond Street. It’s amazing that I can get everything I need from Alresford.”
• Karen Hazlitt - “Alresford is a picturesque town situated on the River Arle which serves the famous watercress beds. If that isn’t enough to tempt you into your trainers and head outside then maybe the flat terrain and the ease of being in the countryside within minutes of leaving town will persuade you, with easy running on road and trail. A favourite run is to head down Broad Street to Mill Hill. Halfway down Mill Hill take a left and pick up the Wayfarers Way and Millennium Trail. Run beside the River Arle feeling a million miles away from town life. Turn left towards the bottom of West Street. Cross over and continue over the bridge over the Mid Hants Railway Watercress Line, left onto Nursery Lane, down Sun Lane, left into East Street and you are back at Fitique. A perfect lunchtime run of approximately 2 ½ miles.”
• Rebecca Caplan - “My favourite way to spend an evening is with a blow out exercise class at Fitique followed by a rewarding tapas meal at Pulpo Negro just across the road, and a not so healthy glass of wine.”
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