Things to see and do in Wickham
PUBLISHED: 11:02 17 November 2014 | UPDATED: 11:02 17 November 2014
Nestling in rolling downland, historic Wickham is one of the Meon Valley's shining jewels. Alive with festivals, fairs and friendly locals, all roads lead to its famous Square
A Potted History
Wander down Bridge Street and the watery ‘dip hole’ nearby shows not only why the Anglo Saxon settlement of Wykeham - from ‘wic’ meaning ‘creek’ and ‘ham’ meaning ‘home, but later both tanning and brewing was drawn here. However, it’s the legacy of commanding the junction of two major Roman trade routes leading from Winchester and Southampton, that survives, with Wickham’s medieval square (at two acres, the country’s second largest no less) a flourishing focal point.
The impressive tapestry of buildings from picture postcard 15th century cottages to handsome ‘new’ Georgian villas thankfully overshadow 20th century additions. And permission granted in 1269 to hold public markets including an annual horse fair, has seen seasonal traditions remain intact. Not so the now defunct London to the Isle of Wight railway line that once carried produce from Wickham’s Victorian strawberry beds.
However, 19th century ‘improvements’ to the Norman St Nicholas Church failed to dislodge its ancient layers. Notable for the tomb of Sir William Uvedale, the turncoat Sheriff of Hampshire, he vies for celebrity status with the former Bishop of Winchester William of Wickham (b. 1320), the founder of both Winchester College and New College Oxford.
Shop till you drop
For relaxed retail therapy, Wickham’s narrow shop fronts and malls conceal hidden gems. In Warwick Lane, fans of Inz.Pired boutique’s distinctive fashion collections or of owner Denize Lloyd-Wickens’s limited edition jewellery, will not leave disappointed. While Tazoya’s shimmering eveningwear has that belle of the ball look zipped-up. AbbArt specialises in paintings, ceramics and unique gifts from local artists, with November’s Making Merry Open Studios another showcase. While back on The Square, gilding and stencilling workshops have upcyclers and amateur crafters flocking to J’adore La Maison, which also stocks Annie Sloan Chalk PaintTM. And make sure you look out for Bridge Street’s extraordinary Chesapeake Mill, where Hampshire’s maritime heritage jostles for attention with the maze of antiques and collectables.
Out & about
Autumn strolls through the Forest of Bere (www.forestry.gov.uk/westwalk) or the circular Heytesbury Farm Ramble are just two of Wickham’s glorious rural walks. Alternatively head out towards the local vineyard through the tranquil water meadows or take-in the ever popular Meon Valley Trail, which is easily extended along the South Downs Way and the Wayfarers’ Walk. A course of golfing lessons (www.wickhamparkgolf.co.uk) in Titchfield Lane might help to get your eye in, while if you’ve still to master fly fishing, the trout are biting off the Droxford Road (www.chiphalllake.co.uk). If it’s the chillout vibe of a family friendly music festival that sees you packing the pop-up tent, then 2015’s Wickham Festival (www.wickhamfestival.co.uk) is a date for the diary.
Food & drink
2014’s Taste of Wickham festival proved there’s plenty to savour. Tulls Fine Foods’ blackboard draws attention to where ‘this week’s free-range chicken’ comes from, with the aromatic infusions at the Wonky Pot Tea & Herb Company also guaranteed to stop you in your tracks. Eggs Forager leaps off the breakfast menu at Lilly’s, although their Wickham Waffle sounds tempting too. Belgium chocolates at Baytree Walk’s family-run Confiserie Verdonk signal more decadent treats, and the arrival of Mena James’s Silver Pumpkin Cake Company in Warwick Lane is worth celebrating. Wickham Wine Bar’s beamed rooms serve up peeks of the past but its tapas platters are bang on-trend, with Thursday’s specials at Greens Restaurant including fish bought fresh at Johnson’s market stall outside.
My weekend in Wickham
“I’ve always felt it’s a very welcoming village,” says Kate Martin who runs The Wonky Pot Tea & Herb Company with mum Diane Owen. She has lived locally for 18 years and, according to her, despite the village having grown in size it’s lost none of its charm.
“Things are always changing,” she says. “The new Café Meon at Chesapeake Mill is doing really well, Heming hardware is making updates too and the local butcher even stocks Ossobucco. We often eat out and there’s lots of variety here; Veranda curry house is good for lunch and dinner, while Westlands Farm Shop in nearby Shedfield, is wonderful; they rear all their own meat and grow their own vegetables. “We’ve got a really energetic Labrador that needs walking all the time and the old railway line is lovely. You can go over to Soberton, where there’s The White Lion pub, or stop off for a picnic along the way. It’s very much country living here. I’m definitely not a town girl; I like the slower pace of life”
For the scenic route follow the A31/A32 from Alton, otherwise Wickham is two miles north of the M27 (Jct 10) and under ten miles from the M3 (Jct 11). The Square has pay and display parking or Mill Lane’s Station Close has free spaces. The nearest rail station is Fareham (London 90 minutes), and the number 20 bus goes to Wickham Monday to Saturday, or there’s a service from Winchester.
Satnav postcode: PO17 5JQ