Some of the best things to see and do in Andover
- Credit: Emma Caulton
Who knows an area best? Those who live and work there. In the first of our new series, locals tell us why Andover is a bit of a gem
King John, Edward I and II, and Henry VII are all said to have stayed at The Angel, an historic inn nearly as old as Andover itself. Look around and you can see evidence of the town’s history, a Norman arch, wonky timber-framed buildings, old watermills and elegant Georgian facades round the market square where an impressive cube of an English Renaissance Guildhall takes centre stage.
Efforts have been made over the years to create experiences. A footpath meanders beside the River Anton, trails pass sculpture and poems on plaques. On the High Street a circle of mosaics retells Andover’s story. Yet, good looks and long history do not necessarily a destination make.
In the 1960s, this old market town became an overspill town for London and its population more than trebled. Today development continues; particularly to the north-east of town, adjacent to Finkley Down Farm (award-winning family farm park). But where is everyone? Despite such a significant influx of people, the town centre doesn’t reflect that growth and vibrancy.
There is affluence. In Coffee #1, with urban industrial styling and views over the market square, couples in country clobber, presumably from the chocolate boxy villages round and about Andover, sit reading the papers. And The Chantry Centre is home to that stalwart of the comfortable classes, Waitrose. There’s also a good showing of quality local independents. A prime example is David Mellor Jeweller, named Independent Fashion Jewellery Retailer of the Year at the 2018 Professional Jeweller Awards. This is still very much a family-run business. When David retired from market trading after 30 plus years of being a regular face on numerous markets, including Andover’s, the family decided to open a branch in Waterloo Court.
Amy Mellor says: “It was a no-brainer to stay in Andover as he’d built such an enviable rapport with the local community and felt a strong attachment to the market town and the people within it. Nearly a decade later, we made the decision to relocate from our ‘off the beaten track’ premises, to a larger and more-prominent position in The Chantry Centre. That was just over a year ago and we’ve flourished, investing in an additional goldsmith for our increasingly busy workshop and taking on more sales staff to accommodate increased footfall.
“From silver designer pieces to fine diamond and gemstone jewellery, we aim to have something for everyone. Our pre-owned collection of jewellery is the most-popular among our customers, as we have high-quality and thoughtfully considered pieces for a fraction of the new retail price.
Lis and her husband Chris live in Andover. Their business, Haydown Kitchens, was set up in 2011 with a boutique showroom housed in a former farm building in East Cholderton, where they sell made to order German kitchens, as well as undertaking the design and fitting work.
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“Neither of us are from Andover originally, but we like living here. Andover is a great location - you are not far from anywhere!”
• Walk - “Andover is surrounded by beautiful countryside and has many pretty villages to visit, such as Wherwell, with thatched cottages and the River Test running through it. Not far from where we live is Rooksbury Mill nature reserve, with lakes and beautiful scenery. It is very peaceful and the lakeside paths are popular with families, dog walkers and joggers. If you look, there is plenty of wildlife to be seen, including water voles and occasionally otters.”
• Entertainment - “Andover has a fantastic theatre called The Lights. Even though it is small, it attracts big names from the world of entertainment, such as comedians Michael McIntyre and Jo Brand.”
• Pub: “Hare and Hounds at Charlton Down is well known for its varied menu, friendly staff and excellent service.”
• Family: “The Hawk Conservancy is right on our doorstop. It is really interesting and educational and great for the young and not so young!”
Meet Jess, the resident cat at Andover railway station, who proprietarily stretches out on a big comfortable bed above the automatic ticket machine and happily sits on people’s laps while they sit waiting for trains.
He is looked after by Tracey Jones, ticket clerk, who explains: “He has been here for 10 years. He used to live in a house over the road, but when the owners moved he just kept coming back - so we sort of adopted him.”
Tracey initially paid for vet bills and food, but now locals generously donate enough money to pay for a monthly pet plan and some food.
“He sits on the counter. Kids love him. Everyone loves him, and people make a fuss of him as they pass through. We often have battles as he wants to sit on my lap when I’m trying to serve, and then he sits on the keyboard!
“I’d be broken-hearted if anything happened to him; I spend more time with him than with my own cat at home. He went missing when we had the snow at the beginning of 2018. We were frantic, but I think someone had taken him in because of the cold.”
• Enjoy a North Hampshire Downs walk near Kingsclere - A walk through the North Hampshire Downs from Kingsclere via Hannington offers fine views