Things to see and do in Overton
PUBLISHED: 10:19 08 September 2014 | UPDATED: 11:46 02 May 2018
Lining the banks of the river Test with its picturesque surroundings and vibrant village shops, Overton is the ideal place to spend a sunny weekend
A Potted History
Overton was first mentioned in 909AD when King Edward the Elder granted the estate of ‘Uferanton’ to the then Bishop of Winchester. Then again in the Domesday Book, where records state 11th century Overton had a church and four mills.
The village was located north of the river until the 13th century, when a new community was founded in the south. The famed Overton Sheep Fair was given a charter in 1246 and continued well into the 20th century. The tradition was resurrected in 2000 to mark the Millennium and is now held every four years.
The Harroway, one of the most ancient roads in England, passes close by and runs from Seaton, on the Devon coast, to Farnham in Surrey. As the stagecoach route from London to Exeter became established, Overton catered for many weary travellers. In 1854 the railway opened between Basingstoke and Andover, giving villagers a direct link to London.
The 15th century White Hart Inn (which is currently closed but rumour has it that Upham Brewery have brought it) at one stage had its own mint, stamping out half-pennies with the inscription ‘HART INN OVERTON 1670’. The story goes that, during the civil wars, the Royal Mint in London was in the hands of the Parliamentarians. King Charles responded by setting up mints in several locations around the country however, they didn’t make small coins. This led to problems paying labourers’ wages and buying essentials such as bread. Entrepreneurial Button makers started to mint their own coins which were exchangeable for the real thing.
Henri de Portal, a French paper maker produced paper for banknotes in Overton. In 1724 Portals Mill acquired the contract to make banknote paper for the Bank of England. The mill is currently owned by De La Rue, producing currency paper for 150 countries around the world.
Twenty years ago, the Tour de France came to Hampshire. Alec Smith, a local man in his eighties trundled down Overton high street ahead of the main peloton to ‘win’ the race, much to the delight of 3000 cheering villagers.
Shop till you drop
Jonathan and Laura will help you select the perfect table arrangement or bridal bouquet from their range of fresh flowers and foliage at Ikebana; and a few steps away you’ll find Bridal gowns and children’s wear at Fantasia Bridal.
A Greengrocer is a rare find these days, David from Wilson & Son’s will help you choose from mouth watering organic fruit and vegetables such as local watercress, artichokes and freshly picked garlic.
Gifts, satchels, wrapping paper, cards, candles and picture framing can all be found at Overton Gallery; and a collection of antique arms and curios adorn the windows of The Test Valley Gun shop.
Sodas, bloomers, buns, baps and cakes will have dieters falling off the wagon in the Village Bakery. And whether you’re planning a Beef Bourguignon or a summer BBQ, Turner’s Butchers next door, supplies locally sourced meat and poultry. The only thing missing in Overton, is the candlestick maker.
Out & about
Whitchurch Silk Mill is the oldest working in the UK and well worth a visit. They still weave silk in the traditional way using some of the original 19th century machinery - the iconic Burberry raincoat linings were woven here.
Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, two of Jane Austen’s much loved classics, were penned in the neighbouring village of Steventon where she was born and spent much of her 41 years. If you wish to walk in Jane’s footsteps, guided tours can be arranged locally.
Walks along the river Test to nearby villages and the river’s source in Ashe can be enjoyed. Or stroll shorter loops with a stop to feed the ducks. Perhaps try and tickle a trout as you tootle along Flashetts footpath! Designated as an area of outstanding beauty, it’s perfect for biking, hiking and horse riding.
Venture into the grounds of St Mary’s church on a moonless summer night and you may see a glow-worm colony. Twinkling like a thousand mini LEDs, it is a mesmerizing experience.
Food & drink
For a Mediterranean ambiance, try Overton Gallery’s Tea Rooms and Courtyard. Blue furniture, a climbing fig tree and intimate dining spaces will give you that Shirley Valentine feeling.
Purple Olive, the café deli, serves waffles and crumpets in addition to tasty baguettes, quiche and the daily pasty. While Hampshire chutneys, jams and cordials can be purchased for home enjoyment.
Fancy some tapas with a full bodied Rioja? Caviste, the wine merchants have both, with tables by the windows where you can watch the world go by. Or if Baltis and Biryanis whet your appetite, then Redfort Tandoori and Overton Spice both offer Indian cuisine.
No village would be complete without a pub and Overton has three distinctively different venues. The Old House at Home, with Thai restaurant; The Red Lion specialises in steaks with alfresco dining or The Greyhound serves cask ales and cider in a traditional pub setting.
My weekend in Overton
Joan Fabian and her husband Tony moved down from London twenty three years ago to the nearby village of Steventon. She says: “I come to Overton to do my shopping. Apart from being very picturesque, the people are incredibly friendly. It’s got everything you need from a living point of view; doctor, vet, wine shop, chemist, bank, Post Office and Co-op; and having a train station is wonderful. We can easily connect to the West Country or London. There are beautiful walks around the village and Watership Down is just up the road. There are glorious countryside drives in the area too. I have very happy memories here. It’s a fabulous part of the world. We love it.” Tony added, “The River Test has some of the purest chalk streams in the country, people come for miles to fish here. It’s probably why Mr Bombay Sapphire Gin has put his new plant here! It’s got everything a village needs without being crowded. It’s remained a village with a real village community.”
The village lies north of Winchester and to the west of Basingstoke. Served by a railway station from which London Waterloo can be reached in 59 minutes. Basingstoke and Winchester are eight and 30 minutes away respectively. It’s a leisurely and pleasurable drive through narrow tree lined lanes and lush green countryside if you come off the M3 at junction 7 for the A30 and through the village of North Waltham. Otherwise drive from Winchester via the A34 and A3400. Parking is free. Satnav postcode: RG25 3NW