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Things to see and do in Bishop’s Waltham

PUBLISHED: 14:58 25 September 2014 | UPDATED: 14:58 25 September 2014

Bishop's Waltham

Bishop's Waltham

Archant

Medieval charm meets modern living in this vibrant, relaxed and cheerful town

Bishop's PalaceBishop's Palace

A potted history

The earliest record of a settlement here is a reference to a church built around 640AD. Waltham became Bishop’s Waltham in 904AD, when King Edward the Elder granted the land to the Bishop of Winchester. It was mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086 as having a population of 450, making it one of the largest villages in Hampshire at the time. An imposing romantic ruin is all that remains of Bishop’s Waltham Palace, Bishop Henry de Blois’ 1136AD building project. Cromwell’s army destroyed the Palace in 1645 and it is rumoured that the Bishop escaped capture by hiding under a cart of manure! Much of the building material from the ruins have been incorporated into the town’s properties.

An Act of Parliament known as The Black Act was passed in 1723 as a direct response to a gang of deer poachers who carried out raids in the area. Known as ‘The Blacks’, the gang obtained the name due to their habit of blackening their faces before a raid. The Act introduced the death penalty for over 50 criminal offences, including being found in a forest whilst disguised.

Bishop’s Waltham was an important local market but was not given a formal grant to a fair and market until 1602. Winner of ‘Southern England in Bloom 1998’ in the “Small Town” and “Best Kept Village” categories, it remains blooming lovely.

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Shop till you drop

You can buy just about everything you need in Bishop’s Waltham, whether it’s upcycled furniture from rethunk interiors or pre-loved knick knacks from the Country Attic. Hunt for designer label bargains at Labels Dress Agency and select your five a day at Hylands Fruiterer and Vegetable Merchant. Meat from the butchers, bread and cakes from the bakery and fresh fish from a proper Fishmonger with smokehouse can all be bought here. When you’re craving a helping of nostalgia, sugar bonbons and flying saucers can be found at the corner sweet shop. Knitting fans can satisfy their haberdashery needs at New Wool & Footwear and if special mementoes lie languishing in a drawer, Chris Greenfield at Hampshire Framing can create an exhibit you’ll be proud to hang at home. He shares studio space with Tashinga, who stock art, sculptures and ethically sourced African giftware. Art, Design, Antiques and Vintage markets take place throughout the year. September 29th is the next date for your diary.

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Out & about

Discover local information and artifacts from bygone days at the Bishop’s Waltham Museum, which is housed in The Farmhouse at the Palace. Open on weekends with free admission. The town’s three mile looped Nature Walk will take you through Moors Nature Reserve, a nationally important wetland which is situated between the town and Waltham chase Mill. It includes the sand boils, where the River Hamble bubbles up through sand giving the appearance of water boiling. The Heritage walk follows the old railway line and part of the Mediaeval Pilgrim’s Trail from Winchester to Mont St Michel in Normandy. A looped 20 mile cycle route, starting at the Palace ruins takes you through rolling chalk hills and woodland of the South Downs National Park. Just three miles away, Marwell Zoo awaits the arrival of an Amur leopard cub - one of the world’s most Critically Endangered species of big cat. Spread over 140 acres, the grounds are as impressive as the animals.

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Food & drink

Macarons from Josie’s Wine Coffee Deli will have you dreaming of a Parisienne Tea Salon while Giorgio’s Mediterranean influenced menu tempts the tastebuds with tapas of arancini and grilled sardines. Piccola Roma is well known for authentic Italian dishes and Banks Bar Bistro’s twice baked cheese soufflé should rise to any occasion. The quirkiest place to eat is The Anvil – Just in Case, housed in a modern Tudor style building with Fred, the owner, known for bursting into song. The Crown is a coaching Inn dating from the 16th century offering boutique style accommodation and the 17th century Barleycorn Inn is a traditional country pub serving cask ales and locally sourced food. Two Indian restaurants, Friends Refined and Bishop’s Waltham Tandoori, are popular with large groups and Golden Boat R2’s Chinese menu rounds up the cosmopolitan collection of culinary offerings.

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My weekend: Bishop’s Waltham

Daphne Bath, a yoga teacher from Shawford near Winchester comes to Bishop’s Waltham regularly. She said, “My mum lives here now. And although she’s on her own, I know that she’ll never be lonely here. Probably on account of the people who live here. I’d come more often but I have to fit the visits around mum’s dancing and social calendar. My daughter often joins us. One thing we never miss is a visit to Josie’s. Their pancakes with fresh fruit, maple syrup and a dollop of crème fraîche are totally divine. I buy all my fruit and veg at Hylands because most of it is sourced locally. At Christmas time, I come here for my turkey. The butcher puts on entertainment for the queuing customers. Last year we had a banjo player! There’s a real community feeling, just like community life used to be. I love it. It’s easy to see why people never leave or always come back.”

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Getting there...

Lying roughly halfway between Winchester and Portsmouth on the B2177, Bishop’s Waltham is served well by buses from Winchester, Southampton, Petersfield, Fareham and Portsmouth. It is approximately 10 miles northeast of Southampton along the A334 and B3035. There are pay and display car parks at Basingwell Street and Lower Lane and some on street parking. The nearest train station is three miles away in Botley. Satnav postcode: SO32 1AF

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