Arriving at Odiham, a handsome village in Hampshire’s Hart district, feels as though you have travelled further in time than distance. There’s a wide High Street mostly of colour-washed Georgian cottages and townhouses. Many of the elegant exteriors, however, hide much older timber-framed structures. In fact, Odiham, which dates from Saxon times, is recognised for having one of the most outstanding collections of historic buildings in the county.

History and architecture nerds like me will walk around drooling. Treasures include The Cross Barn, built in 1532, during the reign of Henry VIII. This is one of the earliest agricultural buildings built in brick in Hampshire and is now a hub for the community. Tucked behind the north side of the High Street is The Bury a charming time slip of a square with 16th century jettied cottages, a rare example of a Pest (or Plague) House, built in 1622, original 18th century stocks, and the Bridewell, a house of correction built in 1743, which housed Odiham Library until its closure in 2020, and is now a community-run book exchange. The Bury was once at the heart of the village with fairs held here from the 15th to 19th centuries, and today it is still a venue for community events.

Characterful old inns include The Bel & Dragon at The George, originally built in 1473, which features a magnificent carved oak fireplace in the bar, thought to have come from Basing House after it was besieged in the Civil War.

Back in the 21st century, Odiham’s shopping experience is all quality and individuality. Discover artworks, antiques and vintage, plus a glamorous florist. Don’t miss Libelula, a colourful Aladdin’s cave of beautiful clothes and shopfront for acclaimed local designer Sophie Cranston; plus there’s a tasty choice of cafes and restaurants.

Great British Life: The hanging baskets of OdihamThe hanging baskets of Odiham (Image: Philip Pleass)


This High Street thrives in part thanks to InOdiham, established in 2012, and comprising a friendly group of volunteers committed to promoting Odiham’s local businesses, shops and restaurants by enhancing the High Street, and organising funding events that encourage people to visit the village. The grass verges of springtime bulbs leading into Odiham are their work; so, too, are the hanging baskets and planters on the High Street.

Jon Hale, District Councillor, former Chair of the Parish Council, and current Chair of InOdiham, recalls: ‘InOdiham came about before my time - out of a desire for many in the community to support our High Street and what makes our community so wonderful. There is a whole load of passion, enthusiasm and skills in the community among people who don’t want to be elected as part of the Parish Council, but do want to invest their time and energy into the local area.

‘A brilliant event was held at The Cross Barn with hundreds of people feeding in what they wanted and needed, such as food markets, keeping the Christmas Extravaganza and introducing hanging baskets, and the InOdiham team were delighted to work with that feedback.’

The Parish Council are a major support with grant funding which gives InOdiham foundational confidence. Every month the committee of 15 gathers in the snug of The Bel & The Dragon at The George for what are described as ‘fun’ meetings. This is just as well as committee members concede in organising InOdiham’s programme of events, which takes an unbelievable amount of work.

Great British Life: Community volunteersCommunity volunteers (Image: Philip Pleass)

At present InOdiham focuses on holding Friday markets and three key annual events. The Friday markets take up a small area of the High Street and attract lots of people. There is a fruit and vegetable stall which has been attending since the beginning, a cheese stall, a very good bread stall, while Woodland Pig and Butler Country Estates (for Hampshire trout pates and fillets) attend alternate weeks, plus there’s the occasional pop-up.

The three key annual events are Bands in The Bury (Saturday, 29 June), a family-friendly afternoon and evening of live music, dancing, and food and drink; Odiham Food Fayre (Bank Holiday Monday, 26 August), a feast of market stalls and street food; and The Odiham Extravaganza (Sunday, 24 November), InOdiham’s biggest event of the year with food, drink and gift stalls, plus entertainments and fun fair. Staging each event is a massive task, however it is a case of many hands make lighter work. On InOdiham’s committee are a lot of people who know what they are doing, while supporters and sponsors kindly go above and beyond to facilitate InOdiham’s work – too many to thank, but just one to mention is RJA Security who undertake the marshalling at every event and are usually the last to leave.

Any money made from these activities is used to the benefit of Odiham. This is community action at its best and most vibrant.

Great British Life: The Stitching RoomThe Stitching Room (Image: Philip Pleass)


A relatively new addition to the High Street, The Stitching Room was opened by Vivian Raven in November 2021, in response to friends’ requests for help sewing badges on cubs’ jumpers, turning up trousers, mending clothing or advice on using a sewing machine.

Vivian comments: ‘I was surprised at how many parents couldn't sew and began wondering how children would pick up this skill if sewing isn't taught at school.’

She started by running a sewing club at her local village primary school and was overwhelmed by the children’s enthusiasm.

‘My background is in the fashion industry. Both my nanas were tailors and my mum taught me to sew when I was nine. Sewing has been a big part of my life, and I wanted to pass these skills to everyone who wants to learn.’

Through The Stitching Room Vivian offers a range of sewing skills courses alongside fabric and haberdashery supplies.

‘We are currently working on new courses for after Easter, including two bags and a trouser course, and Sophie Long, who trained at the Royal School of Needlework, is returning to teach an embroidery heart course on 26 April.

‘We were very well received when we opened and there are a lot of excited ooohs and ahhhs when customers visit, as sewing shops are few and far between. Sewing is really good for our mental health, it's relaxing and calming and forces us to concentrate and lose ourselves in a project away from the temptation of electronic devices.’

Great British Life: Newlyns Farm ShopNewlyns Farm Shop (Image: Philip Pleass)


This April Newlyns Farm Shop, North Warnborough, on the outskirts of Odiham, celebrates its 20th anniversary. What started as a family enterprise is now a semi-rural food hall, café and cookery school, its growth reflecting our own changing shopping habits and growing interest in local produce. This farm shop is the real deal – run by a local fourth generation farming family who rear their own beef, lamb and outdoor pork, providing full traceability from field to shop.

The family’s food sourcing policy is straightforward: own produce, local produce, regional produce and then national produce. Above all quality comes first.

Newlyns have always kept ahead of the curve. In 2008 they built a cookery school offering courses for all abilities and interests. In 2014 they created a café, showcasing produce from the shop and Newylns’ farm to fork ethos. In 2018 they introduced both a cheese room and a fish room. The cheese room stocks probably the finest range of artisan cheeses in the area, all in prime condition, among them Tunworth and Winslade cheeses, produced just down the lane, while the fish room has deliveries five days a week from a fleet of day boats on the south coast. This year the butchery department has been extended with a new purpose-built beef hanging room, new meat counters and dry-aging chambers.

Emma Higgens, one of the family owners, reflects: ‘There’s a need for food you can trust. People have become used to supermarket shopping and are confused about what to ask for. They like coming in to see the butcher and chat, and our butchers are able to share their wealth of knowledge to help customers choose.’

Shoppers can also pick up Newlyns’ own homemade ready meals (their core range includes favourites lasagne, shepherd’s pie and fish pie), fresh fruit and vegetables, deli goods, and much more. Twenty years shopping local and counting.

Great British Life: Odiham CastleOdiham Castle (Image: Philip Pleass)


Reflect on the origins of our democracy with a visit to the atmospheric ruins of 13th century Odiham Castle built by King John. It was from here in 1215 that he rode out to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede; the castle is now at the start of the Magna Carta Trail.

Great British Life: Basingstoke CanalBasingstoke Canal (Image: Deeayem)


Footpaths criss-cross the royal deer park to the Basingstoke Canal where families stroll along the towpath or take to the water, hiring rowboats, kayaks or even a narrowboat. Alternatively, the Old Ford on Mill Lane is a great spot for a paddle on a sunny day.