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The central countryside area of the county of Hampshire is around one hours drive south west from London Heathrow airport and immediately north from the port city of Southampton. The ancient city of Winchester is very close by.
The Test and Itchen valley area of Hampshire is one of the best-kept secrets in southern England. It is characterised by its wonderful countryside and pretty villages; the famous Trout filled River's Test and Itchen; and the bustling market towns of Stockbridge, Alresford, Andover and Romsey.
The varied landscape and gentle climate of the area creates a relaxed all year round location for walking, cycling, fly fishing and exploring the history and heritage of Southern England.
The Test and Itchen valleys have some of the loveliest villages in the south of England. Thatched cottages, Saxon and Norman churches and mellow brick houses characterise much of the landscape, with a backdrop of wooded hills, water meadows and clear pure chalk streams.
Walking - One of the best ways to explore Hampshire is to leave the car behind and discover the numerous footpaths and bridleways in the area. Paths wind through beautiful woodland, alongside rivers and travel the hilltops giving wonderful views of the surrounding landscape. Walking will take you deep into the countryside away from any traffic and crowds. Following safe tried and tested routes you'll discover wooded hills, quiet leafy lanes and tranquil views on a variety of trails. The 46-mile Test Way follows the valley of the River Test for much of its length allowing walkers to spend time among the water meadows, and enjoy places such as Stockbridge. The Clarendon Way (24 mls) links Winchester with Salisbury and crosses the Test Valley. It starts beside the waters of the Itchen in the heart of Winchester and ends near the Avon at Salisbury Cathedral. The Keble Way (18 mls) encircles a heritage area of open countryside between Romsey and the Itchen Valley, which once formed part of the ancient Royal Forest of Bere Ashley.
Fly Fishing - The Rivers Test and Itchen are world famous for their Trout fishing and fly fishing methods were developed to new heights on these pure chalk-spring-fed rivers during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Cycling - Hampshire has a number of excellent cycle ways including off-road cycle routes, mountain-bike trails and other routes using mostly quiet country lanes.
There are superb Country Gardens at Broadlands near Romsey, Mottisfont Abbey and at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and Arboretum.
Being both countryside and the home of large numbers of affluent London commuters the area is well endowed with both traditional English pubs and super restaurants. A friendly welcome awaits you at country pubs and inns and each village pub has a special character of its own. Many Inns offer excellent food but the area also has more than its fair share of high-class restaurants.
Too many to list here but highlights include:
Ancient hill forts, the historic cathedral cities of Winchester and Salisbury and prehistoric sites such as Avebury, Old Sarum and Stonehenge (one of the wonders of the world).
The south coast which, as well as having some wonderful beaches, has the ports of Portsmouth and Lymington that are interesting places to visit. Portsmouth is home to HMS Victory and other ancient and more modern ships whilst Lymington is a major Yachting center. Both ports run car/passenger ferries to the beautiful Isle of Wight.
The New Forest is actually very old and is a huge wilderness of heathland and forest that is home to large herds of wild Deer and New Forest ponies. A good area for walking, riding and cycling.
By train central London is only just over an hour away so it's easy to spend a day there shopping or seeing the sights.
Bath, the Cotswolds, Oxford and the beautiful Dorset coast are other attractions only an hour away by car.
Hampshire gets the best of the English weather. Lots of sun and 'hard' weather in the winter is rare. Quiet, even in the summer peak season, but still at its best in the spring or autumn. May and October are two of our favourite months for investigating the area.
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