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Beyond Winchester - Villages Sparsholt, Twyford and Stockbridge

PUBLISHED: 08:33 18 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:33 20 February 2013

The Leckford Estate is owned by Waitrose. It's a working farm and is positioned closeby to the Longstock Park Nursery and Water Gardens

The Leckford Estate is owned by Waitrose. It's a working farm and is positioned closeby to the Longstock Park Nursery and Water Gardens

Liz Barnett takes a look at life in Sparsholt, Twyford and Stockbridge

Situated to the west of Winchester, Sparsholt may be most commonly known for its prestigious land-based college and as being the home of the BBCs Gardeners Question Times potting shed but this village has much more to offer.
The name Sparsholt is an Anglo-saxon word meaning woods where shafts were found and is a nod towards its historical wealth as a provider of timber for construction.
Today, this heritage can still be seen on a beautiful stroll through Crab Wood and West Wood and with Farley Mount Country Park only a short walk away, Sparsholt is the perfect place to explore the South Downs.
Although the village is no longer known for its agriculture or forestry, one thing that has always remained intact is its community spirit. After its renovation in the mid-19th century by vicar E.D. Heathcote, St Stephens Church has become the village focal point and hosts a whole range of fetes, suppers and services making it a real tribute to its parish. Just last year the villagers pulled together to purchase their post office.
Once the old Well House and most definitely one of the smallest in the country, the post office was at financial risk and so investments were made in order to safeguard its future, a true testament to community spirit.

St Stephens Church has become the village focal point and hosts a whole range of fetes, suppers and services

If youre looking for a place to stay near Sparsholt then Lainston House should be at the top of your list. Its lavish decor and beautiful exterior is one thing but its long history within in the village provides an excellent atmosphere. Work was started on the site in 1683 after a palace was commissioned by Charles II, he wanted it to be impressive yet classical and the man for the job was none other than renowned architect, Sir Christopher Wren. Once built, Lainston House became known as Charles and his mistress, Louise de Keroualles love nest before his death in 1685 and came under further scandal in 1744 after socialites Elizabeth Chudleigh and Augustus Hervey were married there in a secret late night ceremony. Elizabeth then went on to marry Evelyn Pierrepoint and the validity of the Lainston House wedding saw her accused of bigamy until her death in 1788. For further details on Lainston House tel. 01962 776088.

Twyford or Twyforde as it is noted in the Domesday Book is a charming village around three miles south of Winchester. Its main focus is the impressive Twyford Parish Church, St Mary the Virgin, which has been at the forefront of village life since the year 1200, first as a Saxon Church and then as a Norman Church from which original pillars can still be seen today. The River Itchen runs adjacent to the east side of the village and goes on to feed the water meadows below, a site that is now protected by Twyford Parish Council under the Twyford Meads Area.
The meadows were farmed from the late 17th century right through to the 1930s and would have brought great prosperity to the village throughout its growth. They worked by channelling water from the Itchen along ridges running in to the meadows and were controlled by a series of hatches and sluices which managed both the flow of the water and the level, resulting ultimately in the meadows being farmed throughout all seasons. The water meadows are still very much accessible today and are maintained throughout the year. There is a public footpath running through the Twyford Meads that will enable you to navigate your way around the meadows and, at certain times of the year its possible to see the meadows in action when the water levels are raised. If the thought of trekking through lush water meadows is luring you in then the perfect place to stay is Twyford House Bed and Breakfast.

The River Itchen runs adjacent to the east side of the village and goes on to feed the water meadows below

This beautiful manor house has evolved since Queen Annes reign but was ultimately refurbished and rebuilt by local socialite Henry Mildmay in the 1660s. His father, Henry Mildmay Senior, was a good friend to Charles I but eventually betrayed him by supporting Parliamentary reform and when Charles son came to throne after his fathers execution, Henrys assets were taken from him and he was exiled to Antwerp where he later died. Twyford House was the only exception as the deeds were in the name of his wife, who then left it to their son in her will.
The manor passed through several hands before it was inherited by a London stationer named Jonathan Shipley. His son, also named Jonathan, had served as Chaplain-General in the army and was extremely pro-American during the days of the revolution.
It was through Jonathan that Benjamin Franklin, a good friend of his, came to stay at Twyford and is said to have written part of his autobiography there. For further details on Twyford Manor
tel. 01962 713114.

Lying on the banks of the River Test within perfect reach of some of the most delicious trout, Stockbridge is most definitely the foodie of these three Winchester villages. Just last year it was awarded the Google Foodie Award for its high street treats and with the award-winning restaurant at The Greyhound to boast, this village is a hidden haven for lovers of fine dining and good food.
If this has got your mouth watering then make sure you visit Stockbridge on one of its markets days. The village plays host to various French and local markets throughout the year and its annual festival, Trout and About (this year held on the August 1st) is a spectacle not to be missed.
After indulging in all those local delicacies, youre going to need a good stroll to walk off the calories and the perfect place to do this is Houghton Lodge Gardens and Hydroponicum. The lodge is an 18th century, Grade II Listed cottage originally built as a fishing lodge or holiday retreat and is now owned privately but is open to the public from the March 1st to the October 31st.
When the house was built, fashions were changing and many designers were starting to favour the more natural and rustic looking gardens. Houghton Lodge is the perfect example of this new trend, most of its borders, trees and shrubs are the original plantings from the 18th century and as you breathe in the fragrance you can transport yourself back to a time of romantic novels and garden parties.

Last year Stockbridge was awarded the Google Foodie Award for its high street treats

Jane Austen lived fairly near to Houghton Lodge and probably would have been familiar with the area and its fashionable cottage; her description of a house in Sense and Sensibility is thought, by the owners, to be an almost perfect representation of Houghton.
At one time Stockbridge was considered a town and although small, the hive of activity surrounding this village pays tribute to its days as a much larger settlement. Its a real hidden gem and one that is most definitely worth the visit.
For further details on Houghton Lodge tel. 01264 810502.

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