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Things to see and do in Odiham

PUBLISHED: 15:50 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:50 20 February 2017

The atmospheric ruins of Odiham Castle, once the scene of sieges and now popular with picnickers

The atmospheric ruins of Odiham Castle, once the scene of sieges and now popular with picnickers

Emma Caulton

Looking for a quiet retreat? Odiham is so near and yet so far from modern life. Emma Caulton takes some time out there and relaxes...

There’s not a huge amount to do in Odiham, and that’s the beauty of the place. Time out here is about taking it easy. Odiham feels well away from the hurly burly of modern life, yet is within easy reach (just off junction 5 of the M3). Arriving here feels as though you’ve travelled further in time than distance. The past brushes up against you. It’s in the architecture – one of the most outstanding collections of historic buildings in the county with a particularly handsome high street, mainly Georgian in appearance, but concealing much older properties behind. It’s in the social history with original stocks and one of the last surviving pest houses in the country. It’s also in the old fashioned hospitality. The past seeps into your spirit, and it’s lovely.


Morning

Browsing the independent shops is the order of the morning. Libelula is a favourite – the shop front for acclaimed designer Sophie Cranston (as worn by the Duchess of Cambridge) which has evolved into an Aladdin’s cave of beautiful things including other selected labels and an eclectic range of jewellery and accessories. Another is Originals which specialises in handmade jewellery collections from British and European designers. Look out for Endless leather wrap bracelets, rings inspired by tropical rainforests, and pieces from their own workshop. The Framing Gallery has a selection of artwork from quirky ducks using elements of collage to exuberant splashes of colour evoking wild flower meadows. Antiques of Odiham is a treasure trove of the covetable and curious from Gothic candlesticks to a collection of antique corkscrews. Allsorts @ 75 offers a more ‘shabby chic’ mix including assorted vintage glasses, old maps and chalk paints. Katharine Jane has a maximalist clutter of gifts and homeware, such as Emma Bridgewater’s distinctive pottery and Heyland & Whittle’s luxurious lotions. Then there’s Moutan, a florist heady with the fragrance of blooms, including Valentine’s bouquets.

There’s a bevy of beauty salons in Odiham.What about a Décleor facial for a younger looking complexion at Beautique, Indian head massage at Let’s Face It, or skin rejuvenation using intense pulsed light at The Skin Clinic (in North Warnborough).


Lunch

There’s Fountains Coffee Shop with a tempting table of cakes and Le Creperie for classic croque monsieur. There’s also El Castello, serving everything from coffee with homemade pastries to traditional and modern Italian dishes. Or head to Newlyn’s Farm Shop in North Warnborough for a waft of ripening cheese and garlicky olives. Its cafe features local produce such as baked Tunworth cheese and their own burgers.


Afternoon

From the High Street, take Stoney Alley, a medieval passageway between original burgage plots, to The Bury - a square held in a time slip with 12th century church, 16th century jettied cottages, 17th century inn, pest house and almshouses, and 18th century stocks and ‘prison’, now the library.

North of the High Street footpaths criss-cross the medieval deer park leading to Basingstoke Canal towpath. Heading west, the canal meanders before cutting through what was the outer bailey of Odiham Castle. This 13th century palace was built by King John on a bend in the River Whitewater and it is from here that he rode to Runnymede to sign the Magna Carta. These atmospheric ruins are popular with families and walkers.

Head east and you pass The Waterwitch, a country pub with waterside gardens, before reaching Galleon Marine where you can hire (from March to October) rowboats, kayaks, canoes or a narrowboat for a canal adventure.


Evening

El Castello continues into the evening. As does The Grapevine, a long-established restaurant with a good value lunch, early evening set menu and a la carte with the likes of Cornish crab fritters and Barnsley chop. There’s Next Door, a bistro with comfy rooms open from breakfast through to late night cocktails. Next door to Next Door is Bel & The Dragon at The George, an historic inn that’s all patina and character and style. General Manager Andrew Compton welcomes visitors into the flagstoned hallway. On the right is a snug with exposed beams and brickwork, to the left a bar with a magnificent carved oak fireplace thought to have come from Basing House (razed in the Civil War). Upstairs are cosy en suite rooms with sloping eaves and more exposed timbers, individually styled by interior designer Nicola Harding, herself Odiham born and bred. For Valentine’s Day, take advantage of a ‘Getaway’ package including stay, fizz and sumptuous supper. Romantics could make the experience even more exceptional by staying in the bedroom adorned with a 16th century wall painting of the Parliament of Fowls – the Chaucer poem considered the first to reference Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers. So, Odiham – a place for lovers and for those in love with Hampshire, past and present.


My Odiham - Sophie Cranston, Fashion designer, Libelula

We moved from London to South Warnborough nearly six years ago to find space for our growing tribe of boys and my fashion business, Libelula. We bought the oldest house in the village, an old thatch that we since found out was the plague house hundreds of years ago. South Warnborough is a small and cosy village where everyone looks out for each other and the pub, The Poacher, and the village shop and café are regular meeting points. There are wonderful walks from our front door and one of our favourites is across the fields to neighbouring Long Sutton.

Two years ago, needing more space for Libelula, our wonderful postman Neil pointed me in the direction of 74 High Street, Odiham, which had just been vacated. Running the shop has been a source of total joy to me and Laura and Sophie who work with me. Odiham is very special and has a small and close knit community. We now have a lot of loyal local customers and others who travel from far and wide.

Odiham is filled with treasures. One of my favourites for a sneaky browse is the antiques shop and the co-operative antiquities shop beside it. I have found many a gem for our home in both. Odiham Castle and the canal are wonderful for a walk and some peace and quiet. There are hidden gems such as the Cross Barn [originally built in 1532] with its film nights and the library near The Bury. The boys’ favourite shop is Mccoll’s the newsagent with its Match Attax and sweetie selection. My husband loves El Costello, Kings (Peking and Szechuan) and Odiham Spice (Indian) for a takeaway.


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