Things to do in Fleet
- Credit: Emma Caulton
Originally popular with day trippers to Fleet Pond, the town may now not be an obvious choice for a break… but look a little closer and you’ll find much to charm says Emma Caulton
Take a walk around Fleet Pond (accessed from the station, Pondtail residential area and an alarmingly pot holed lane off Cove Road). This is the largest freshwater lake in Hampshire and is thought to have been created as a fishery as early as the 12th century. Certainly by the 15th century there are records of fish being delivered to the Bishopric of Winchester. Centuries later, following the building of the London to Southampton railway, a new station, Fleet Pond Halt, enabled Fleet Pond to become a popular spot for day trippers with picnicking and swimming in summer and ice skating in winter. Latterly Fleet Pond has become valued as a nature reserve. It was one of the first sites in Hampshire to be designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, back in 1951, and recognised as a Local Nature Reserve in 1977. Its 141 acres include heathland, woodland, reedbed and marsh, as well as the Pond itself, and it is home to various birds, butterflies, dragonflies and wildflowers. Last year the Fleet Pond Society, working in partnership with Hart District Council, Natural England and the Environment Agency, achieved Green Flag status for the Pond, and this year the Society celebrates its 40th anniversary.
Take a break
It may lack aesthetic charm, but Fleet Road (Fleet’s high street) is stuffed with eateries. Inviting cafes include Daisy’s Tea Room in Serendipity (a mix of collectables and antiques from over 30 dealers), Loaf bakery, newish Cafe Amici and Caffe Fratelli (for an authentic Italian experience) – all worthy of a mid-morning break. While here, browse Fleet’s independent fashion and homeware boutiques – such as Experience, Sugarplum and What-Not’s.
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You can follow the towpath beside the Basingstoke Canal which runs from the top of Fleet Road towards Church Crookham and Crookham Village and beyond to Greywell village, meandering past traditional narrow boats and quaint cottages. Make the experience extra special by taking to the water. Rowing boats, kayaks and canoes can be hired by the hour between March to October from Galleon Marine in Odiham. This historic old market town is also worth discovery. It has a fabulous selection of independents with antiques, jewellery and fashion boutiques scattered among historic buildings.
Discover one of the gastro country inns in the area. Two or three are close to the canal, such as The Water Witch at Odiham and The Exchequer in Crookham Village – described as a local gem. Other country inns to try include family-friendly The Foresters in Church Crookham, The Hampshire Arms in picturesque Crondall and 14th century The Chequers at Well – delightfully hidden down narrow country lanes.
Learn a new skill
If you have been inspired by BBC TV’s The Great British Sewing Bee, what about learning to quilt and applique? Book into a class run by The Crafty Nomad, held at Sew Busy, just off Fleet Road. If you’re keen to improve your cookery skills, then head to Newlyns Cookery School, above Newlyns Farm Shop, North Warnborough. Their popular classes cover the basics through to specialist menus and include barbecues, baking bread, weekday suppers and knife skills. Or what about learning to play golf? In Crondall Bowenhurst there’s a nine-hole parkland course suitable for beginners, floodlit driving range, two practice putting greens and a practice bunker. Nearby Oak Park offers one to one lessons for beginners and improvers, 27-hole golf course, driving range and practice area. There’s also Southwood Golf Club, a public golf course near Farnborough airport, ideal for beginners, or for the more experienced there’s the North Hants Golf Club - where US Open Champion Justin Rose learned his golf as a junior.
Eat & sleep
Fleet has quite an active nightlife. There are numerous restaurants including Italian trattorias like La Casa and El Castello and familiar names like Prezzo and Pizza Express. A variety of bars includes wine bar Cellar Magneval, ‘music canteen’ Propaganda and a couple of nightspots – Moo Moo and Jaxx. The Harlington offers a jazz and comedy club and regular tribute bands. If you’re looking for somewhere quiet to sleep, The Four Seasons Hampshire is a luxurious bolt hole in Dogmersfield. The restored manor house is set in a 500-acre estate and offers a spa with pools, tennis courts, horse riding, and plenty more to tempt you in to extending your visit.
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