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What the Dickens?

PUBLISHED: 15:43 15 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:17 20 February 2013

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From its Saxon roots to its contemporary charm, Charlotte Tomlinson-White explores the north Hampshire town of Andover

What's in a name?
Andover originates from the word 'aet Andefers'; a name given to one of the Kings of Wessex's hunting lodges in 962.


Location, location, location
Situated on the River Anton, Andover lies within the north west of Hampshire and contains numerous villages including Appleshaw, Grateley and Vernham Dean.


What's it got going for it?
Andover is steeped in history. Dating back to Saxon times, the majority of its buildings are from the 18th century. Narrow walkways lead you down the High Street to 'The Andover Time Ring', many trails - including two poetry trails - and inspiring museums.
Andover is brimming with natural beauty with Anton Lakes, Harewood Forest and numerous parks right on its doorstep. For the best panoramic views of Andover head to 'The Ladies Walk'.
Andover is in the enviable position of being surrounded by several major historic sites such as Stonehenge and Winchester, pretty villages such as Wherwell and Stockbridge, great shopping in Basingstoke or Southampton and places of natural beauty such as the New Forest - all within easy access.


The case against
Visitors and locals alike don't seem to appreciate the cultural significance and wealth of local amenities Andover has to offer. Poor support of local events, such as the Andover Carnival, has been said to hinder the town's potential.
The traffic system is a perennial issue, particularly around the new Asda supermarket complex which seems to bottleneck, especially during rush hour. With seemingly endless roundabouts and a convoluted one way system the average driver can be forgiven for getting confused.


The lows
During the Victorian times Andover was at the centre of public outrage. The Andover scandal of 1845-6, reported extensively by The Times and followed passionately by the public, brought to light the hardship of the workhouse regime.
Starvation, brutality and sexual abuse were daily occurrences at the hands of McDougal (The Master of the Workhouse) it revealed. This notorious scandal is said to be one of many that inspired Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.
During the 1960's Andover became an overspill town for London. Thousands of poor quality houses were built, as well as industrial estates, a bypass and a new shopping centre (the Chantry Centre). Although it brought economic growth, this altered the town's quaint charm.


The highs
As well as being situated on the ancient Harrow Way, Andover was an important rest stop for coaches on their way to London, Southampton and Oxford during the 18th Century.
It also had its own canal - the Andover to Redbridge Canal - providing essential transportation for coal, manure, slate, stone and architectural goods to and from Southampton.Andover received military acclaim when the RAF opened an airfield there during World War I; it was the birth place for the first viable long-range electronic navigation system. Andover Airfield was also home to the first European helicopter pilot training school during World War II.
Rooksbury Mill Local Nature Reserve, one of the town's most scenic locations, has recently been awarded the esteemed Green Flag status.


Top 5 things to do in and around Andover
1. Adrenaline junkie? Satisfy your need for speed at the Thruxton Motorsport Centre (01264 882222).
2. Pop along to Whitchurch Silk Mill and learn all about the ancient art of weaving silk at this working 18th Century water mill. 3 Bird lovers will jump at the chance to get close to birds of prey at The Hawk Conservancy Trust (01264 773850).
4. Explore the gallery at the Fair Fairground Craft & Design Centre (01264 77343), or even commission an art piece.
5 Andover Museum & Museum of the Iron Age (01264 366283) is a must for history enthusiasts.

Where to...
Have a coffee: Head to Coffee Carousel for your caffeine fix and sit back and relax in this comfortable coffee shop (01264 368849).
Do lunch: Enjoy a traditional family lunch at The Copper Kettle, (01264 351175) with delicious home cooked food.
Eat dinner: Tickle your taste buds at The Black Swan at Monxton (01264 710260) known locally as the 'Mucky Duck', it has a reputation for great food sourced locally.
Go for a drink: With a stage for live music, a roaring log fire and a wide range of fine ales and lagers, you'll savour a drink at the Hare and Hounds at Charlton Down (01264 735672).

My Andover
Phil Evans, Professional Wedding Photographer and the UK's very first qualified Master Craftsman with the Guild of Wedding Photographers.Phil is also a member of Andover's Carnival Committee.
How long have you lived in Andover?
I've lived in Andover for most of my life, having come down from London as a very young child, and though I now travel quite a bit in the course of my work, Andover will always be home.
Where do you like to go out?
When I'm out and about in Andover, I like to visit the farmers market in the High Street as it's very attractive to look at with the Guildhall as a backdrop to the green and white market canopies, and there's a real nostalgia
about it.
What does Andover do best?
Andover does community best: It may have grown in size but has still managed to retain its market town feel - and people are warm and friendly wherever you go.
And the worst?
The only real downside to the town is the sad loss of many of our independent traders. Few remain, but many have now disappeared.
When you have visitors - where do you take them in the area?
There's something for everyone in Andover: From the Flying Army Museum, Finkley Farm and The Test Valley Tapestries to shopping, cinema and pubs - there's so much to choose from, you can find something to suit all ages and interests.
Describe Andover in one sentence suppose if I had to describe Andover in a single sentence it would be as a charming market town, comfortable and friendly with lots to see and do.

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