A weekend in Romsey
PUBLISHED: 13:41 18 January 2011 | UPDATED: 18:01 20 February 2013
With its market charm and picturesque setting, Romsey is the perfect weekend getaway, as Charlotte Tomlinson-White discovers
Known as the Southern Gateway to the beautiful Test Valley, Romsey nestles between Southampton and South West Hampshire.
Romsey owes existence and prosperity to the waterways. Lying discretely back from the east bank of the River Test, the first inhabitants chose to make their home on a high platform of dry gravel, the area now dominated by Romsey Abbey. Settlers not only found clear water but moat-like protection, plus a bountiful supply of fish. The waterways also powered the mills. Noted in the Domesday Book of 1086, they became a feature of the town and over the centuries were used to power corn mills, fulling mills and paper-making.
Did you know the ey in the ending of the name of Romsey derives from an Old English word meaning island relating to the original settlement area which was an island?
Here and now
Despite considerable development in recent years Romsey continues to retain its relaxed small-town atmosphere. The bustling market town has a small population of just under 15,000 people yet is full of history and culture. You cant fail to notice Romsey Abbey. The exceptional example of Norman architecture stands tall, looking down on the town. A monument of Lord Palmerstone, the 19th Century British Prime Minister who was born and resided at Broadlands Estate on the outskirts of town, stands in the Market Place. The Romsey Agricultural and Horse Show is one of the eldest in England held annually since 1842. Romseys summer and winter carnivals are ever popular and hold firm on the social calendar, bringing the community together as droves line the streets to show their support.
Theme Park Fun
Thrill seekers will love Paultons Family Theme Park. Home to over 50 fabulous rides and attractions, take the family for a day of fun and choose between museums, animated shows, dinosaurs and play areas. There are over 80 species of exotic birds and animals to discover as well as a lake, gardens and working Victorian watermill! Dont forget to check out the new daring ride EDGE featuring the UKs first camelback creating a floating sensation. Be sure to pop back in the Spring when Paultons launches Peppa Pig World a world first and another UK exclusive.
Tel. 023 8081 4442
Fit for a King
King Johns House and Heritage Centre offers three attractions in one place King Johns House, Tudor Cottage and a Victorian Museum. Covering 750 years, visitors can witness many original features, including the roof timbers and rare bone floor. Learn about Romsey life during the Victorian and Edwardian period and see Pre-18th-Century plants flourishing in the beautiful main garden. Why not enjoy tea in traditional bone-china teacups in Miss Moodys Tudor Tea Room. Open all year round. Entrance to the Garden is free. Tel. 01794 512200
Water babies will adore Romsey Rapids where you can experience a world of water fun and adventure! Offering three pools, including a features pool and teaching pool, there is something for everyone so whether you want to zoom down the flume, ride the rapids, explore the pirate galleon or dodge the tipping bucket, you are bound to be entertained! Alternatively, sit back and relax in the bubble seats. Dont worry there is a shallower pool for younger children and novice swimmers. If all that splashing around has made you thirsty, why not grab a drink in the caf? Tel. 01794 830333
Leisurely wander through the mists and mellow fruitfulness of the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens where Japanese maples and Liquidambars are ablaze with the fiery hues of autumn colour. Set in 180 acres, there are more than 42,000 plants from temperate regions around the world, grown in a variety of themed landscapes set to amaze. Dont forget to check out the special exhibition. Along These Lines is wonderful display of drawings and prints using pencils, pens, charcoal and pastels showing until October 27. Open all year round. Tel. 01794 369318
Escape to the Priory
Set in glorious grounds alongside the famous River Test, Mottisfont has 800 years of history to explore, from the Gothic remains of its 13th-century priory to the glamorous party rooms created by a 1930s society hostess. Manicured lawns give way to colourful borders, a walled garden which includes a national collection of old-fashioned roses, and miles of walking routes that extend to meadows, woods and river perfect for a gentle stroll. Be sure to investigate the programme of events. Be quick though the House is only open until October 31, the garden, shop and restaurant remain open until December 19. Tel. 01794 344018
Back to Nature?
Covering an area of 12 acres, Tadburn Meadows Local Nature Reserve is the ideal place to connect with the outdoors. Stroll through the Reserve observing the some of the countrys best loved species including the green woodpecker, kingfisher, water voles and common spotted orchids. It is also home to an array of fascinating habitats from wet woodlands to grazed meadows. There is even a river which runs through centre of the Reserve. Why not pack a picnic and savour the beautiful autumn views? Tel. 01264 368000
Somewhere to stay/eat
The White Horse
The White Horse Hotel & Brasserie has undergone extensive refurbishment and is now a beautifully restored boutique hotel. Old world charm and classic modern chic combine to create a haven of warmth and serenity. The hotel has 31 individually designed en-suite bedrooms with wonderfully comfortable beds and White Company toiletries. The Brasserie offers a mouth-watering menu and has recently been awarded its first AA rosette. Tel. 01794 512431
Situated in the heart of Romsey, opposite the gates to Broadlands, Berties resides in a former womes workhouse. Renowned for its quality food and comfortable rooms, Berties offers three star accommodation. All rooms are en-suite and complete with television and tea and coffee making facilities. They have gained entry into the Good Food Guide and Good Hotel Guide as well as the AA recommended restaurant guide. Tel. 01794 830708
The Mortimer Arms
The Mortimer Arms is a four star Victorian inn that has been creatively refurbished to combine old world charm with modern sophistication. With its comfortable and relaxed atmosphere, it is warm and welcoming. Enjoy a drink by the log fire, a light summer
lunch in the garden or intimate dinner before sinking into the comfort of one of their 14 en-suite rooms for a good nights rest.
Tel. 023 8081 4379
Romseys Grand Abbey
Explore Hampshires best preserved market town and the Test Valley Walks in Hampshire & Isle of Wight, AA Publishing
Distance: 5 miles (8.8km)
Minimum Time: 2hrs 30min
Ascent / Gradient: 120ft (40m)
1. From the market square head east along the Hundred and continue into Winchester. At the roundabout, turn left up steps to join a footpath to Timsbury. Walk alongside the old canal as it passes under the railway and then a road bridge, and leave town into open meadowland.
2. At the crossing of paths (with a bridge right), turn left and walk along the left-hand field edge. Bear right across bridges in the corner and follow the bath beside a stream to the River Test. Turn left along the river bank, cross a wooden bridge and walk alongside the opposite bank to a stile and track by a bridge and house. Turn right to the A3057 and turn right.
3. Follow the pavement and cross the Test, then take the footpath immediately right alongside the river. Pass a bridge, then follow the official diversion left around a house to a track. Turn left to the main road and the Dukes Head on the left.
4. Cross the road to join the B3084, signed to Roke Manor.Carefully walk along this often busy road (some verges) for mile (800m), then just beyond the railway bridge, fork left for Roke Manor. Pass the entrance to the Manor and take the drive on the left.
5. Pass Roke Manor Farm, then on nearing the Manor, bear half-right along the road for 100 yards (91m). Take the footpath right (can be overgrown) and shortly bear right through a hedge, then left around a field. Skirt the copse on your left to locate a Test Way sign and turn left through a gate.
6. Walk into Squabb Wood on a bracken-lined path, cross two plank bridges and reach a junction of paths. Keep left with the Test Way and proceed through the wood, via plank bridges and stiles, looking out for the Test Way markers.
7. Leave the wood and bear half-right across the field to stiles and a footbridge. Keep to the left-hand edge of the field, pass through two kissing-gates and walk along a track to a gate. Turn left between houses to the River Test by Saddlers Mill.
8. Bear left by the mill and leave the Test Way. Cross the river, follow a tarmac path and soon pass the War Memorial Park. Continue along a road close to the Abbey back into the Market Square.
You can leave the M27 at junction 2 or 3 and Romsey is approximately 4 miles north. From the north, if you wish to go cross country, leave the M3 at junction 11 and get onto the A3090 through Hursley, Ampfield, Crampmoor and in to Romsey. Sat nav code for the town centre: SO51 8ZJ