Here are some suggestions for fun days out in the Hamble Valley (Hampshire)
Whether you are planning a romantic escape to the country, a day in the great outdoors or the perfect afternoon tea, we’ve got ideas galore.
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Spend the Day in the Great Outdoors …
With more country parks than anywhere else in Hampshire, the Hamble Valley is a year-round haven for countryside lovers and a great place for children to explore and take part in regular activities. Planning a Day in the Hamble Valley is a great excuse to get outdoors and enjoy stunning scenery and a more relaxed pace of life.
From the Moors Local Nature Reserve where the River Hamble rises, to the mouth of the river on Southampton Water, the stretching coastline provides plenty of open space and walking trails to connect you with the flora and fauna throughout the year.
Or take in the views of the Solent at Royal Victoria Country Park where the 200 acres of open spaces is perfect for picnicking and games. Explore the park and trails through woodland visiting the military cemetery, sensory garden and duck pond before taking a ride on the Royal Victoria Railway which runs rides throughout the school holidays.
Stop for coffee (and perhaps a tempting cake) in one of the Hamble Valley’s beautiful villages such as Wickham or Bishops Waltham.
Soak up some history at Manor Farm Country Park where you experience the sights, sounds and smells of the delightful Victorian working farm, which was the setting for the BBC’s Wartime Farm.
All this exploring is bound to make you peckish. Why not stop for lunch in picturesque Hamble. The aptly named Water’s Edge is set on the River Hamble with attractive views and it is the ideal place to enjoy a meal and drink. The Olde Whtye Harte on the High Street is the oldest pub in Hamble (circa 1563) and offers a traditional menu and an open fire for cosy Sunday afternoons and for modern European cuisine visit the River Rat Cellar and Kitchen who host a number of events and special menus throughout the year.
You can spend your afternoon meandering through meadows at Lakeside Country Park or enjoy fishing and water-sports on the lakes before taking younger children on the Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway.
Finish your day back by the water at a riverside pub such as the famous Bugle (remembered for its starring role in the 1980s BBC hit show Howard’s Way) or check out the menu at the Boat House at Swanwick Marina. Exploring nature in the great outdoors Experts agree the Hamble Valley is an important natural oasis. Within the Upper Hamble Estuary & Woods (Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)), a dozen different types of ancient broad-leaved woodland can be found.
Where the Hamble River joins the Solent you will find extensive intertidal muds with a fringe of grassy shingle, saltmarsh, reedbed, marshy grasslands, soft rock cliffs and deciduous woodland. The site is an integral part of Southampton Water which is of international importance for over-wintering dark-bellied Brent geese, and of national importance for three species of wildfowl (great-crested grebe, teal and wigeon) and five species of wader (black-tailed godwit, dunlin, grey plover, ringed plover, redshank). The area also supports an outstanding array of nationally scarce coastal plants.
At Itchen Valley Country Park explore 440 acres of beautiful water meadows, woodland and meadows which have been recognised with a Green Flag award. The Visitor Centre has a variety of nature-based displays on the many habitats and species that can be found at the park. Young visitors can get closer to nature during school holidays with activities such as pond dipping, woodland activity days and bushcraft skills.
Swanwick Lakes is managed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve and is a beautiful place to walk and explore particularly during the summer when butterflies and dragonflies are in abundance.
To the west of Netley, lies Westwood Woodland Park with ancient woodland, streamside walks and rolling grassland perfect for walks and family games.
Rise and Shine – spending a morning in the Hamble Valley.
A visit to the Hamble Valley is a great excuse to try some new activities and what better way to start your day than with a few adrenaline pumping activities.
Go Ape is a tree top adventure based in the heart of Itchen Valley Country Park, nr Eastleigh. They take the lush, green forest and a healthy dollop of breathtaking scenery; blend it with a smattering of tree-top high wires, tricky crossings and wind-in-your-face zip wires – and help you find your inner Tarzan.
If you fancy going beneath the waves for a spot of diving, you need to head for Andark Diving and Watersports on the River Hamble. They’ve been teaching scuba diving for more than 30 years and offer a wealth of experience.
Marwell Activity Centre is set in 65 acres and has more than 22 years experience of teaching everything from clay pigeon shooting to craft building.
Laser tag is just one of the activities that can be enjoyed by adults and youngsters, with up to 90 minutes play around the multi terrain site including fields, marshland, woods bridges and towers. Using state of the art tag equipment, the experienced team can create great session for children parties, beginners and advanced.
Strictly for the grown-ups, you can use new 125 Yamaha Grizzly quad bikes around a selection of purpose-built quad bike safari tracks. Once everyone has been given riding training and orientation they can enjoy the thrills of riding quad bikes in a safe but challenging environment here at the centre.
For more details on adult courses and holiday activities for youngsters go to www.marwellactivitycentre.co.uk
Let’s Get Romantic…
I’m in the mood for Lurve!…
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – so sampling some local produce from the Hamble Valley is sure to make your mood more loving…
Buy some delicious local produce from a farm shop or deli for a Romantic picnic and head to the Hamble Valley. Bonne Bouche in Hamble is a member of Hampshire Fare and stocks a wide variety of local produce. Garson’s Farm Shop in Titchfield has a selection of more than 80 cheeses amongst other award winning produce with free samples available most weekends.
The Hampshire Delicatessen in Wickham is renowned for its range of fine Hampshire produce and rest of Britain. Roll out your picnic blanket in the shade of the ruins of Netley Abbey. The most complete surviving Cistercian monastery in southern England, with almost all the walls of its 13th-century church still standing, along with many monastic buildings. Even in ruins, the abbey continued to be influential, inspiring Romantic writers and poets.
Or head to the Royal Victoria Country Park, for a tranquil stroll along the seashore to admire the stunning views that can be seen across the Solent.
“One favourite spot was where I would take my girlfriend when we were 15 years old. We would walk from Bursledon station, along Blundell Lane, continuing straight along the footpath, past Aladdin’s Cave barge, under the newly built M27 where it crosses the Hamble, past the farm with their field of cows and along the river footpath, through the woods to where you suddenly emerge into a field, right on the edge of the river, overlooking the water, in total peace and quiet. We would lie on the grass, looking skyward, listening to the skylarks, sun shining and eating our picnic.”
When the clock strikes three – everything stops for tea…
An afternoon in the Hamble Valley.
You are never far from a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake; whether out on a family walk, a spot of boutique shopping or simply to indulge in something sweet, there are plenty of tea-rooms, coffee shops and cafes across the Hamble Valley.
The Woodland Cafe in Itchen Valley Country Park, The Cedar Tearooms in Royal Victoria Country Park and The Pantry in Manor Farm Country Park all serve delicious local refreshments.
In Wickham, enjoy a cream tea at Chesapeake Mill with the soothing sound of running water or delicious lunches and high teas at Lilly’s Tea and Coffee House situated in the Square. Taking the time to enjoy a little retail therapy could be the perfect way to end your day in the Hamble Valley. From high street favourites to independent shops, the area has an abundance of shops, stores and boutiques to suit every pocket.
At Hedge End, there is the dual delight of Marks and Spencer and Sainsburys – both stores are a showcase for food, fashion and so much more. Swan Centre in Eastleigh has a host of big high street names under one roof and a convenient car park too.
If you like to support independent retailers Wickham, Botley and Hamble should be on your shortlist to visit.
The traditional setting of Wickham makes it the perfect place for a mooch around the shops followed by afternoon tea. The medieval market square is the second largest of its kind in England with pretty 15th century cottages and grand Georgian residences.
Bay Tree Walk, Warwick Lane and Chesapeake Mill are a real delight with plenty of unusual gift ideas presented in a really attractive setting. There’s a real feeling of nostalgia as you wander around these shops with everything from vintage prams, jewellery and clothing on sale. Hamble maybe relatively bijou in size but what it lacks in scale it makes up for in quality. The independent shops are well worth seeking out – take a walk down the cobbled high street and take in the views down by the riverside.
One of the best examples of a countryside and woodland walk beside the River Hamble is along the National Trust shoreline at Curbridge.
Accessible by boat only at high tide, there is a small pontoon on the River Cur ( a small tributary of the Hamble) where you can moor up at the highest navigable point on the River.
Access by road is from the B3051 Botley Road just south of Curbridge, and there is roadside parking at Burridge Cricket Club. The nearby Horse and Jockey pub welcomes visitors to their car park and after the walk you invited to stay for a drink and fine food.
This tranquil enclave of ancient woodland can be steep and muddy, but there are constructed walkways and seating which afford spectacular views through the trees and across the water.
The woodland is celebrated for its wonderful spring displays of bluebells, which can be enjoyed at their best in late April and throughout May, when a carpet of flowers turns the steep slopes blue and the scent clings in the air. There are lots of other special seasonal flowers in the woods, which are home to many more unusual bird species including woodpeckers and warblers.
The reserve is locally known as ‘Wishing Tree Woods’ and hidden among the woodland is the Children’s Shrine to the Fairies – a celebration of the fairies, pixies and elves that inhabit the glades and ferns.
For many years, children and families have been leaving gifts and offerings to the fairy folk, who occasionally respond with secret messages of thanks. Look carefully – you might just catch a glimpse one day!
A Quest for Heritage
Discover some of the historical delights of the Hamble Valley by visiting the some of the its museums.
Begin at Eastleigh Museum on a Saturday morning and learn about the history of the railway town from a 1930s locomotive drive and his wife. Remember to look at the current exhibition before you stop for refreshments in the cafe and browse the gift shop.
Fully refreshed, head to the West End Museum and discover more local history, whether your interest lies in family, property or general local history, the displays and library are informative place to browse.
With a mind full of history and discovery why not stretch those legs and give the children some fresh air with a visit to Itchen Valley Country Park in West End, which has over 44 acres of woodland and meadows to enjoy and is the perfect place for a family picnic lunch.