Things to see and do in Wickham
- Credit: Three Choirs Hampshire
Character, charm and veggie delights… Emma Caulton says this quirky market town is a must-visit
Wickham is certainly one for the architectural and social history nerds. Visit just to gawp at the vast medieval market square. It’s the second largest in the country. Pole position goes to Bradworthy in Devon, but our Wickham is far more attractive. It’s edged with period properties including elegant Georgian townhouses and timber-framed cottages. Many have secrets and surprises such as Wickham Wine Bar in a 16th century building with jettied first floor and authentic medieval wall paintings.
The shops around The Square are an eclectic assortment of independents including a traditional hardware store, old-fashioned sweetshop and J’Adore La Maison homestyle boutique specialising in Annie Sloan paints and fabrics with regular craft workshops. Bay Tree Walk, Warwick Lane and Chesapeake Mill (on Bridge Street) are collectives offering spaces for dealers and small retail units. Warwick Lane and Bay Tree Walk are like miniature shopping arcades with a browsable mix of goodies: bespoke chocolates, gifts and jewellery, art and crafts, preloved and upcycled finds for the home, soft furnishings, antiques and collectables.
Chesapeake Mill is extraordinary: once a flour mill over the River Meon, the timbers used in the construction of this Grade II listed building were taken from the US frigate Chesapeake, captured by the Royal Navy in 1812. Today it houses over 40 dealers with a focus on antiques, retro and vintage for the home, such as painted furniture, crystal glasses and floral patterned jugs.
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The Mill is close to the Meon Valley Trail, a path of about ten miles from Wickham to West Meon, running along the old Meon Valley railway line with several stopping off points at villages en route. It’s perfect for walkers and cyclists of all ages, and an easy way to enjoy the delights of the picturesque Meon Valley and work up an appetite.
Wickham is a bit of foodie destination. And, yes, there are the traditional tea rooms, proper pubs, and welcoming wine bars. There’s also a bit of a cool veggie vibe going on. For starters, here is surely one of Hampshire’s best vegan cafes. OffBeet is a hip vegan café - its scrubbed pine tables crammed higgledy piggledy into two or three rooms among the collectables of Chesapeake Mill. It serves up intense coffee, light gluten-free cakes, and veggie fine dining (try the crushed avocado and pesto). The tasty veggie theme continues at many of the cafes, bars and restaurants. For example The King’s Head serves up chickpea, potato and lentil curry, as well as Chalcroft Farm burger and black pudding scotch egg. At Green’s Restaurant and Bar you may find ox cheek bourguignon with slow roasted garlic mash alongside imaginative vegetarian fare such as roasted tofu with harissa, cauliflower, almonds and aubergine. Even traditional tea room Lilly’s on the Square has cream of watercress soup or hot roast Hampshire sirloin sarnies, and Wickham Wine Bar has tasty dishes such as seared scallops on walnut toast with pea puree or roasted shallot and courgette tart with goat’s cheese and herb pesto. Wickham has got flavour and the new approach to healthy eating out sussed.
The foodie theme continues. Try a wine and cheese tasting tour at Three Choirs Vineyard, Wickham, every 2.30pm Wednesday to Sunday with wine experts and chefs paring fine wines from Three Choirs vineyards with local cheeses. Three Choirs took over Wickham Vineyard in 2014 with the intention of creating a destination: the winery has been converted into a barn-style special occasion venue, there’s a restaurant open Wednesday to Sunday, and a shop open for tastings every day.
For something for all the family, visit nearby TV celeb Manor Farm Country Park for a countryside experience. Manor Farm has been a working farm for over 600 years, but visitors may be familiar with it as BBC TV’s Wartime Farm. Today it sets a scene that is as delightful as stepping into a children’s storybook. Come and feed the chickens, help with the milking and meet the farmyard animals.
Eat, relax & sleep
Don’t you love a choice between extremes? The Old House is a boutique B&B in a Georgian town house overlooking The Square. It opened last year as part of the small and select B+B Collection, mixing up stylish contemporary interiors with characterful historic buildings. Sleep in super-king modern four-posters and sleighbeds in garden suites or under the eaves. Facilities include a snug bar, walled garden and restaurant serving contemporary British dishes with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal and local - such as twice baked carrot and Old Winchester cheese soufflé.
Or theres’s the Meon Valley Marriott Hotel & Country Club: a modern hotel set in 225 acres including nine-hole and 18-hole golf courses with tree-lined fairways, putting green and driving range, Retreat Spa with treatments, Leisure Club with gym, pools, tennis, fitness classes and jogging trails. Then indulge yourself at The Broadstreet Restaurant – well-presented, quality British cooking, and smaller plates and grills at Zest bar and lounge.
My Wickham - Peter Chegwyn, Wickham Festival Organiser
“If ever a festival and a location were made for each other then it has to be Wickham. This picturesque village in the heart of Hampshire is a throwback to another era with its olde worlde gift shops and tea rooms, and a friendly, welcoming attitude to all.
It was a natural fit when we were looking for a new home for the festival. We pride ourselves on our family atmosphere: just one reported crime in three years and that was theft of a bag of jelly babies, which says it all!
Our home since 2010 is just a 10-minute stroll from the quaint village where visitors can stock up on food, drink, toiletries and, of course, sun cream!
The historic market square is home to bistros, wine bars and old English pubs, the perfect place to relax and watch the world go by… at a wonderfully slow pace. Set in rolling downland, north of Fareham, the village also boasts scenic water meadows, attractive church and village buildings as well as a host of rural walks through the gorgeous Meon Valley.
Voted Live Music Business Awards Best Festival (Under 15,000) in 2015, Wickham Festival had put the village on the map worldwide with visitors coming from as far as the USA and Australia.
I like to think we have been very good for Wickham, as the festival brings thousands of pounds of business to the village, and the village has certainly been good to us. Long may it continue.”