Tuesday 16 February 2021

Planning a Short Break in Hampshire - The Test Valley or South Downs National Park?

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay 

I absolutely love going away for the weekend, or any other time to be truthful; a short break is my idea of heaven. I don't even mind who I'm away with - my husband, mum, daughter or a friend. As long as there is great food to eat, new places to explore and a cheeky Baileys in the bar before bed I'm a happy girl.

When I go away for the weekend I like to head somewhere new but to be honest, I don't particularly like travelling too far, so anywhere within about a 150-mile radius works for me. For some reason, I have been conditioned to believe that you either go to the coast or to a big city like London or Bath for your short break, but in recent times I've been questioning this.

I think the last year and the lockdowns particularly, have taught us all there is so much beauty and unexplored places on our doorsteps and as such, I am keen to explore some new places closer to my home, rather than spending lots of time in a car or on a train. Hampshire isn't a county I have explored much before and having lived in Surrey all my childhood/ teen years and now Sussex for the last seven years I'm not sure why, as it is pretty close-by.

I'm trying not to dwell too much on how much we have missed out on in the last year or so, but instead, focusing on the future and the excitement of new trips away. Last April I was chatting to a PR Manager acting on behalf of two areas of Hampshire - The Test Valley and the Hampshire area of the South Downs National Park and we were planning that I'd take a couple of short breaks to try out what these areas have to offer.

Of course, the trips didn't happen, but I am feeling much more positive that short breaks will be back on the agenda later on this year. As such I've been having a virtual search to see which area might suit me best to go and visit. My Mum and I will have our annual London trip this year and therefore this trip will be for my husband and me.

The Test Valley

Image of Romsey Abbey from Visit Hampshire

This is in the West of Hampshire and is most famous for fly fishing on the River Test, but it won't be fishing that attracts me there, it is more likely to be the picturesque market towns like Andover or Romsey, and the 44 mile Test Way that you can walk along through countryside, woodland and beautiful quaint villages. 

My husband and I will happily stroll around the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, or the Longstock Park Water Garden and my highlight will be a visit to National trust Mottisfont as I adore National trust sites and my teenage girls never seem to grow out of enjoying all that outdoor space. I am hoping that by the time we visit the house and gallery will be open again 

I'm also hoping we can stay at Michelmersh Manor Farm in Romsey. Their strapline is 'enjoy the farm life' and I know my girls will, they adore getting up close with animals and it sounds as if they can help with the twice-daily calf feed whilst we are there. They have a variety of self-catering options on the farm, all with parking and free Wi-Fi, so they sound perfect.

We've stayed in self-catering or Air BnB type accommodation a lot in the last few years as it works so well with a family with older children. Trying to cram us all in a hotel room leads to a few tense moments I can tell you! lol

Image Credit: Michelmersh Manor Farm

The attraction that my husband has picked for our stay is the Hawk Conservancy Trust, as he is a keen wildlife photographer and will take great joy in spending a few hours there observing the birds as they fly.

For more information check out the Visit Hampshire website and you'll find loads more things to do in the Test Valley, like visiting the Bombay Sapphire distillery, heading to Paultons Park or visiting Whitchurch Silk Mill. 

South Downs National Park (the Hampshire end)

Photo by Keith Potts on Unsplash

We live in East Sussex and thus the end of the South Downs way is pretty close to us and somewhere that we visit regularly. I have to admit though, that I don't have any plans to walk the full 100 miles of the Way and as such, we'll probably take the car when we head over to Hampshire to explore more of the beautiful South Downs National Park.

The hilly terrain of the national park makes for amazing panoramic views that take your breath away. I can just picture us on a late Spring day walking and exploring the area stopping at a village pub along the way for a home-cooked meal or maybe a cream tea. This area really is a dream for amateur photographers like my husband and me, as we can potter at our own pace and enjoy what we see.

Winchester Cathedral Image by Marius Mangevicius from Pixabay 

I've never explored the historic city of Winchester and this is where the South Downs Way starts, so it will be a good place for us to start our trip. As Christians, the Catherdral is a big pull and if we bring the children I know they'll enjoy the Science Centre & Planetarium as well as Marwell Zoo, which we have visited before.  A spot of shopping, taking in the local art and street theatre scene and enjoying the ancient architecture will all be highlights for me on this trip. 

Another delight for me would be visiting a National Trust site, as I love the combination of history and beautiful grounds. I have Uppark and Hinton Ampner to choose from, or maybe I'd make it to both during our short stay.

I've enjoyed looking at the options for places to stay in this area, but I've fallen in love with the 2 bedroom apartments at Old Thorns overlooking the golf course at this luxury 4-star hotel and spa. With super modern furnishings and floor to ceiling glass windows, they are the height of luxury for a night away with the family.

Image Credit: Old Thorns

Do have a look on the Visit Hampshire website for all sorts of ideas for places to stay, visit and eat if you head to the South Downs National Park area. 

I might not be at the point to book anything as yet but it is thoroughly enjoyable for me to while away a couple of hours planning where we might go once life becomes more normal again. I've been impressed with what I've seen online for the county of Hampshire and I'd happily take a visit there. 

I'm ready now, goodbye Covid and roll on normality!!

Where are you planning to go once things start to open up again?

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