What’s on offer in the village of Sherfield on Loddon

St Leonard's Church (Photo by Shani Thorpe)

St Leonard's Church (Photo by Shani Thorpe) - Credit: Archant

This ‘bright, open’ village is excelling at 21st century living whilst maintaining its lovely Hampshire history

Potted history

It’s grown many hundreds of times to more than 1,500 residents since it was first recorded as ‘Scira feld’ meaning ‘bright, open land’. Yet Sherfield on Loddon has somehow managed to retain the charm of its origins as it has blossomed into a thriving 21st century village.

Twelve miles south of Reading, six miles north of Basingstoke, Sherfield on Loddon started life as part of the manor of Odiham. But during the 12th century King Henry II granted the manor to his Marshall, William Fitz Aldelin, kick-starting a chain of events which saw the manorial estate sold to the Duke of Wellington in 1838.

Most of today’s village is grouped around the green, which used to support the grazing of livestock. This included a heifer recorded as belonging to ‘Mr Brown of Rose Cottage’, which ‘bellowed constantly’ and was known as ‘Bugler Brown’.

By the 1920s the Green had fallen into neglect so, in 1972, the parish council took a stand and transformed the area into a haven for sport including cricket, football and tennis, as well as providing play areas for children.

Thanks to the River Loddon the village was able to support a number of mills – the first mention of a water mill was in 1316, with two recorded in 1332 and four in 1601. In the early 20th century Longbridge Mill had one of the largest water wheels in Hampshire, with a potential capacity of 100 horsepower to work four pairs of stones. The miIl building has become a pub and restaurant now symbolising, perhaps, the way Sherfield on Loddon has constantly managed to gather up and care for its past, taking it to a future as bright as its original name suggests.

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Sherfield’s hero

Captain John Aidan Liddell VC was born in Northumberland. But because he lived most of his life in the Manor House (now Sherfield School) he was honoured with a memorial stone via the Department for Communities and Local Government, to mark his heroism with the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. As a soldier with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Capt. Liddell served in France where he was awarded the Military Cross. But in 1915 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, serving as a pilot with 7 Squadron at St Omer, France, and whilst flying a reconnaissance mission on July 31 he suffered horrendous injuries from an enemy aircraft attack, which partially destroyed his plane. In spite of this, and under fire, he safely landed, saving the life of his Observer/Gunner. Capt Liddell died on August 31 1915 and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valour.

A bite to eat

Like the rest of the village, it seems, the food and drink scene in Sherfield on Loddon is the perfect blend of tradition and the new. If you’re looking for the kind of coffee and food experience normally found in the chicest areas of town, head to House Twenty8 on Reading Road. Eat in for delicious smoothies containing coconut or ginger, scrummy vegetarian and vegan breakfasts, lunches and cakes, or inquire about their organic cold-pressed juices and detox packages. Talking of packages, you can post a letter or a parcel too, because they’re also the village post office!

If you want to dine with history, make your way to The Longbridge Mill pub and restaurant close to the River Loddon, whose history stretches back 800 years. Wednesday is Pie Night and Sundays see a grand variety of roasts, including beef sirloin, pork, lamb and turkey. Book a table on 01256 883483.

The White Hart on Reading Road does seasonal menus – wild boar sausages, sweet potato fries – and their light bites include smashed avocado and poached duck egg. The Four Horseshoes also on Reading Road, is now doing Saturday breakfasts, as well as stonebaked pizza, and you can bring your dog too.

What’s going on?

Almost everything you can think of! In theatre, The Loddon Players maintain a strong programme of productions, staging the works of Alan Bennett and Ayckbourn, as well as plenty of murder mysteries and, this spring, a new play written by Peter Cook.

The village WI is preparing to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2019; there is a thriving allotment association (with ambitious plans to install a compost loo) a Gardening Club and a group of volunteers who care for the green.

The Happy Faces playgroup in the village hall has been going for more than three decades and the Wild Child group meets at the hall and on the green on Mondays in term time.

Sherfield prides itself on its community activities – every second Saturday of the month there’s a village coffee morning and each summer the village fete draws in large numbers – 2018’s takes place on June 9.

Sherfield Show is on Sunday September 2 2018, followed by the annual Beer Festival on Saturday September 15. Look out, too, for a new event that’s sure to become a firm favourite – a Family Reindeer Trail around the village and green, taking place on December 15 2018.

Did you know?

Mystery surrounds the parish church of St Leonard which appears to be on the outskirts of the village. Architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner noted its early 14th century stained glass but didn’t comment on the theory that the Black Death – thought to have come from Southampton and which may have manifested in an original settlement round the church – perhaps caused villagers to move a mile away, towards the green.

Village life

Parish council chairman Venetia Rowland moved to Sherfield 14 years ago with her husband and children, as it seemed the ideal place to bring up a young family.

“Sherfield seemed to have a real Hampshire village feel about it,” she says, which she attributes to a community spirit she believes is directly fostered by the two pubs, a café, shops and the vibrant presence of the village green.

“We have amazing volunteers who help maintain the space – their work saves the parish council more than £20,000 a year,” she says.

“We hold the summer fete there, which attracts a huge number of visitors and this Christmas, the volunteers put together a Reindeer Trail – one of the villagers made these lovely wooden reindeer and we put them round the village with clues attached.” The event was planned at very short notice but attracted 200 eager children and is, says Cllr Rowland, a great example of how Sherfield excels as a modern village community.

Another flourishing organisation is the 60-strong allotment holders group.

“They are a great bunch, they hold an annual barbecue and they contribute a lot to village life. Recently, some raised allotment beds were added to allow older allotment holders to carry on enjoying the facility, and we also made the annual open-air Remembrance service more age-friendly, by placing chairs in the road, which is cordoned off for the ceremony.”

When her family first arrived, she says they didn’t do so much in the community. “But as we walked our dog we started to meet people and find out more,” she says. “The more you find out, the more you realise what a fantastic place this is to live.”


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