Things to see and do in Wickham
PUBLISHED: 10:57 03 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:31 05 July 2018
© Paul Carter
With festivals aplenty and foodie delights, Wickham is buzzing
With its plethora of restaurants, cafes and independent shops grouped round its generous square, no wonder Wickham has become a favourite destination.
Not that it’s anything new for this south Hampshire village, because visitors have been flocking here since the Stone Age when, it’s believed, early settlers found it a convenient place to cross the nearby River Meon.
Ever the opportunists, the Romans utilised this facility themselves from around 43 AD onwards, with the first official mention of the village in a Royal Charter, dated 826, and later, in the Domesday Book.
What really put Wickham on the map, however, was the granting of a charter by Henry III in 1269 to hold a weekly market. The market is long gone, replaced by the annual Wickham Fair, but there’s been no stopping Wickham ever since.
Drawn by its plentiful water supply, tanning and brewing industries set up adjacent to the Meon at the Chesapeake Mill, which was built in 1820 from the timbers of an American frigate captured by The Royal Navy. The timbers and a historical display can be seen in the building, which is now an antiques emporium and café.
Chesapeake Mill caught the eye of the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, and so did the rest of Wickham. “The scale and disposition of the buildings in relation to the spaces are exceptionally happy,” he declared, describing it as ‘the finest village in Hampshire’.
Surprisingly he forbore to mention The Dip Hole, which lies in the Mill’s front car-park. This plain, stepped structure provided a safe place for villagers to collect water before the arrival of the mains.
Restored during the 1990s, it’s a charming reminder of Wickham’s past which – like many other local features and traditions - the parish has done so well to weave into its vibrant present.
The trainline shut down in 1955 but you can still cycle safely to the village on the old route, which is now the Meon Valley Trail, connecting Wickham to a number of long-distance walking trails, including The Wayfarer’s Walk. The 69 bus will get you to Wickham from Winchester (and most villages in between), and the same service brings you to the village from Fareham. Driving? Wickham is on the A32 which means it’s an 11-minute journey from Fareham, and half an hour from Winchester. The village is also a ten-minute drive northwards from the M27’s Junction 10.
What’s going on?
Almost anything you can think of! Every May Day starts with Morris Dancers ‘greeting the Dawn’ in the village square, followed by the Scouts May Day Fayre and the annual fun fair, on May 20. This month sees the annual Duck Race, raising funds for young people’s organisations, and from August 2-5, the 2018 Wickham Festival swings into action again. Based on farmland just to the village’s north, the award-winning, four-day, boutique event sees Squeeze headlining, with appearances by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel and The Undertones.
The second Sunday of September sees another festival – Taste of Wickham, a celebration of everything which makes Wickham special (but especially food!).
Then, in November, Wickham Scouts put on their annual fireworks display, and the year ends with Santa turning on the Christmas lights.
Add to this all the events which take place at the Wickham Centre – from beer festivals to gong baths to spiritual healing and cinema club, Wickham Flicks, and it’s easy to see why so many are so keen to live in this town.
Food and drink
Wickham has established itself as a major foodie destination – and no wonder. Whatever you want to eat and whenever, they’ve got it covered; from sumptuous cakes and coffees at Lilly’s at the end of the Square (their Classic Afternoon Tea is £15), to highly-regarded curries at Kuti’s and Veranda, to high-quality pub food in The King’s Head and Greens (Gourmet steak burger, bacon, melted brie, chilli dip and triple cooked chips £14.95). Then there’s newcomers The Square Cow, and Offbeet in the Chesapeake Mill, whose vegan and gluten-free dishes have attracted some admiring attention from London reviewers.
Wickham’s most illustrious son, William of Wykeham, was actually born William Longe, in 1320? After his education was paid for by benefactors he became a medieval success story, becoming Bishop of Winchester, Lord Chancellor (twice!), clerk of works at Windsor Castle and he also founded Winchester College and New College, Oxford.
Did you know?
Wickham was a veritable military hub during World War II – with an Army HQ in The King’s Head public house, Canadian soldiers at Rookesbury School and Army engineers based in a garage along the Fareham road.
Two decades ago confidence coach Louise Bowditch decided to move to Wickham after she and husband, Mark, left their married Navy quarter. Last year, after living in several nearby villages, she finally achieved that ambition and has spent the past 10 months enjoying every good thing Wickham has to offer.
“We’d been living nearby but as the kids were getting older we wanted to move into a place where we could walk to the shops, or walk back after having a drink– somewhere that had a bit of life,” she says. “The nuts and bolts of a good village are all here, too – doctor’s surgery, Post Office, hairdresser’s, even a proper ironmongers.”
She and her husband now live close to the Square and relish the chance to enjoy village life – from the Wild Gastro evenings held at Lilly’s: “Amazing food!” to the independent shops and the village’s lively Facebook group. “It’s very well-used and gives updates about new companies or events, or just helpful local information,” she says.
They both enjoy Wickham’s flourishing food scene: “We’ve just had a new pub called The Square Cow open up and it’s fast becoming our favourite place,” she says, as well as looking forward to the annual Wickham Festival which takes place just ten minutes’ walk from their home.
Louise enjoys browsing at The Chesapeake Mill, and the couple also enjoy exploring the area, particularly the Millennium Water Meadows, which connect to the Meon Valley Trail.
So inspired has Louise been by her new home that she’s launched a new business, theconfidencequeen.co.uk, giving talks and helping women find the courage to build a happy and fulfilled life.
In the meantime she’s determined to make the most of living in such a diverse place.
“I used to run a florist in the Square and remember looking out one day to see a lady taking a llama for a walk, which kind of sums up this lovely village.”
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