Take a summertime break in the beautiful Test Valley and enjoy a whole host of inspiring events that offer some unique experiences!  There’s walking, cycling, fishing and other outdoor pursuits in some of the country’s most breath-taking countryside. You can relax in country gardens, enjoy outdoor theatre, exhibitions, festivals, theatre or music.  Or why not discover the area’s cultural heritage or learn a new a new skill

Country pursuits:

Enjoy a selection of long distance, short or circular walks including the 44-mile Test Way which follows much of the stunning River Test, the Clarendon Way, which links the cathedral cities of Salisbury and Winchester and takes in a wealth of historic sights.  The Monarch’s Way passes through the Test Valley and charts the route taken by Charles 2nd as he escaped after defeat in the final battle of the Civil Wars. And the endearingly-named Sprat and Winkle line is now a long distance footpath, having once been a railway between Andover and Redbridge, near Southampton.  The Get out and Walk leaflet lists 6 short Test Valley walks chosen by the local Ramblers club http://www.testvalley.gov.uk/communityandleisure/tourism/visiting-test-valley. Cycling opportunities abound – whether you’re up for something strenuous or just a leisurely rural ride.  And the chalk streams of the Test Valley provide some of the finest fly and coarse fishing in the world.  https://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk/explore/areas-to-visit/test-valley

Festivals and Fairs:

Summer brings an explosion of celebrations all over the Test Valley.  There’s the historic market town of Stockbridge’s Trout ‘n About Festival of Food and Crafts,  named after one of the things the Test Valley is renowned for – trout – and showcasing the best in local food  as well as  produce, crafts, music and other entertainment, all  in a family friendly outdoor market environment.   (4 August,  Stockbridge High Street.  Free. Parking provided in fields at either end of the High Street with free King Alfred’s shuttle bus service www.tnastockbridge.co.uk)/ Romsey’s well-renowned  music festival, the Beggar’s Fair will once again host over 90 acts ranging from music, dance and street entertainment spread across 20 venues. (13 July, Free. http://www.beggarsfair.org.uk/).  In the North of the area Andover has some great festivals – including a  Food Fair bringing together local speciality food and drink producers  (2 May, 10am – 2pm Andover High St),  a Gardening Fair, packed with seasonal inspiration and fresh ideas for the house and garden (30 June. Andover High Street. 10am – 3pm.  Free. https://www.andovergardeningfair.co.uk/), Cycling Festival, with 3 sportive ride distances to choose from – 80, 50 or 25 miles. As well as Schools and Family fun rides, five criterium  races are on throughout the day as well as displays from Andover BMX Club and other cycling clubs. (7 July, routes start and finish in the High Street https://www.andovercyclingfestival.co.uk/), the unique Shilling Fair, which takes visitors back in time to experience Andover’s Georgian cultural heritage through street performances, Regency costumed figures, themed market stalls, music, craft and much more! (11 August, Andover High Street, Free. https://www.facebook.com/andovershillingfair/) and Four Fun Fridays, with street entertainment, live music, creative workshops and competitions for all the family (Fridays in August, High Street https://www.facebook.com/fourfunfridays/)

 

Themed Breaks and learning experiences:

Visitors can indulge their passion for fishing or novices can learn to fish in this area which offers the best fly fishing in the world.  Fishing Breaks at Nether Wallop Mill offers various courses including a Foundation course, Half Day Taster, private tuition, or a Chalkstream course.  For family fishing there are Father and Son sessions, (or any combination of adult and child ), Family Days and a Kids Camp.  The Fishing Camp is Fishing Breaks’ answer to glamping and offers two days beside a chalk stream where you can fish and camp to your heart’s content! (more information on courses, costs, accommodation etc: http://www.fishingbreaks.co.uk/hampshire.htm). Also ideal for fishing is a new collection of 6 luxury boutique bedrooms at Houghton Lodge Gardens, originally the calf sheds of the 18th century historic home. More info https://houghtonlodge.co.uk/apple-rooms/).

Chilworth Woodland Retreat  offers shepherd’s huts or a mini log cabin for hire (visit https://www.chilworthwoodlandretreat.co.uk/ . There is fishing on site and  golf at neighbouring Chilworth Golf Club can be arranged too. Live the riverside dream by taking a break at Riverside Cottage, which also hosts courses such as yoga, painting and drawing, women’s ‘escapes’, retreats and lavender harvesting.(http://www.riversidelifestyle.co.uk/)  Or experience life on the farm staying in one of Gambledown Farm’s luxury safari-style tents or newly-converted barn buildings.  Explore and learn about farm life and enjoy the beautiful surrounding countryside.  (http://www.gambledownfarm.co.uk/).

Country Houses, gardens, rural and wildlife attractions and their events:

Historic properties, museums, attractions and gardens of the Test Valley are a real treat in summer.  The National Trust’s wonderful and historic Mottisfont house and gardens hosts a range of events and displays.  Its world-famous rose gardens bloom from late May into June, followed by late summer colour from its bright herbaceous borders (more info https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont/features/mottisfonts-rose-garden) A Good Year for the Roses by The Caravan Gallery is an outdoor exhibition of 32 quirky, colourful portraits taken in Mottisfont’s famous rose gardens during the summers of 2017 and 2018 is on display till the end of June.  (9 March-30 June, 11am – 5pm, in the Beech Circle.  Normal admission price only).  Another plant-inspired exhibition is Plants Portrayed, a selection of contemporary botanical illustrations from the collection of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The exhibition includes pieces by one of the world’s most important botanical painters, Pandora Sellars, alongside works by Masumi Yamanaka, Christabel King, Lucy Smith and others.  (4 May – 7 July. Free, but normal admission applies.)  Alongside this will be another exhibition, this time in the gallery, – For the Time Being – which showcases ceramic compositions, prints and artist books from a one-year residency by Hampshire-based artists Suna Imre and Eileen White.  Mottisfont also has an exhibition called Beano Time Travellers, (20 July – 8 September, 11am – 5pm, normal admission applies) Children can travel through Beano’s history of mischief and mayhem in this vibrant new display and whizz back to Mottisfont’s past with favourite Beano characters on the exclusive trail created by the comic. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont

 

Romsey Open Gardens takes place in early summer with 4 town centre gardens open to the public – a perfect opportunity to explore this lovely historic market town with its majestic 12th century Norman Abbey.  King John’s Garden set in the grounds of a 13th century house (not open) will be displaying period plants available before the year 1700 and its award-winning Victorian garden with courtyard will also be on show.  Other gardens include The Old Thatched Cottage (15th century), Nelson Cottage and 4, Mill Lane.  Teas are available at King John’s Garden. (26 and 27 May, 9 June.  10.30am – 4pm. Combined admission £6, children free. No wheelchair access to 4 Mill Lane)  www.ngs.org.uk

Enjoy a leisurely stroll round the beautiful Houghton Lodge Gardens, majestically overlooked by Houghton Lodge, one of the finest and earliest surviving examples of a Cottage Ornée, idyllically set above the tranquil waters of the River Test. There are both formal and informal gardens, a traditional kitchen garden enclosed within chalk cob walls, an orchid house, topiary dragon and peacock garden. (For garden entry – Adults £6.50, Children 3+ £3, under 3 Free).  A few times a year the house is opened to visitors for guided tours. You will be guided by a member of the owner’s family through the exquisite rooms and learn a little of the history of this unique historic family home.  (Summer tours 18 July 11am and 2pm and 17 September 11am and 2pm.  Price £16 for guided tour and a walk at leisure around the gardens).  https://houghtonlodge.co.uk/

Watch falcons, vultures, owls and kites soar against the backdrop of the stunning grounds of the Hawk Conservancy Trust as the sun sets at the special Sky Hunters at Sunset events.  And after the sun has gone down the birds will twist and turn in flight. The evening will start with a delicious barbecue, The event will also enable you to explore some of the grounds, guided by a member of the Bird Team, to see and learn about some of the birds living at the Trust and the conservation work undertaken. This will be followed by a very different, yet magical flying demonstration which will showcase the skill of owls at dusk. (1 June and 27 July, 7pm. Adults £32.64 (£35 with donation), Child £19.91 (£21 with donation).  You can join the team for a spectacular evening – Flight, from British Pastures to African Plains – when you’ll be taken across the world. The first part of the evening will celebrate British birds and culture, re-enacting a scene from the famous Weyhill Fair, which features in Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge. This event, which took place from 1225 until the mid-1900s, was held on the doorstep of the Trust. The event features a horse and cart, Maypole, traditional falconry display and much more. The beautiful Barn Owls intercept the scene, gliding and quartering to music. You will also be transported across the seas to Africa, starting with a fly-by from an iconic Tigermoth. African dancers, music and special effects will champion the dramatic landscape. Watch vultures, kites, storks, ibises and a Secretary Bird. The spectacular finale will include the Hawk Conservancy Trust’s own African version of ‘War Horse’!  (8 June Doors open: 6pm, Tickets £39.50 | Show starts: 7pm All profits from ticket sales and a barbecue sold for this event will directly support the work of the Hawk Conservancy Trust. The barbecue must be pre-booked and only food purchased from the Trust will be permitted on-site for this event. Licensed bar available.) And the Trust will be marking International Vulture Awareness Day in September. Vultures are ecologically vital and are now the most threatened group of birds in the world.  To celebrate this special bird there will be flying demonstrations, an opportunity to meet a vulture, a vulture-inspired creative writing competition, children’s activities and plenty of other vulture-themed activities throughout the day. (7 September) https://www.hawk-conservancy.org/events/

autumn pond

Hillier Gardens has a number of summer events for you to enjoy, including a Falconry Photography Day (9 June 10am – 4pm, £86 to include refreshments and lunch.  Booking essential – bring a camera),), a Have a Go at Archery family session (16 June 10am – 5pm. £2.50 for 6 arrows (cash only), garden admission fees apply.  No need to book),a special cream tea to celebrate flaming June, with New  Forest strawberries and chilled Prosecco (1 – 16 June, £9.95 per person, ticket required, enquire 01794 369319), various creative workshops as well as arts, photography and glass exhibitions (check website for details), a mid-summer evening Garden Tour followed by sparkling wine. (20 June 7pm, (check re finish time), £14.95 per person.  Booking essential), live stand-up comedy from The House of Comedy’s Giggles in the Garden (29 June 6 – 10pm, gates open at 6.30pm for picnics. Recommended age 16+, under 18s must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.  £30 per person.  Booking essential) and other evening events to include a Family Summers End Picnic with Fireworks (31 August 7-9pm. Children’s entertainment in the garden.  Gates open 6pm.  Restaurant and Munch Buggy also selling refreshments.  Price Adult £20, Child (2-16) £11.50  Early Bird offers available before June – see website.  Booking essential) and a Last Night of the Proms classical picnic concert (7 Sept 7.30 – 10.15pm, Gates open 6pm.  Price Adult £20, Child (2-16) £11.50.  Early Bird offers including groups of 10+ available before June – see website, Booking essential).  There will also be a Sculpture exhibition – Art in the Garden featuring award winning, local, new and established British and overseas sculptors and artists. (11 May – 13 October 10 am -5pm.  Free but garden admission fees apply). https://www.hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/hilliergardens/whatson/events

 

Other attractions

Petrolheads and lovers of fast cars need look no further than Thruxton Motorsport Centre for some superb events.  The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship happens in May and August and is the UK’s most illustrious championship followed all over the world.  Come and experience the fast, close action and see the stars race wheel to wheel (18 and 19 May, 17 and 18 August).  You can also enjoy The British Truck Racing Association Championship   – a spectacular display of trucks racing the circuit.  (29 and 30 June, from £12) the British Superbike Championships for 3 days of action pack, high-speed, two-wheel racing (2-4 August, from £5) and the Thruxton Motorsport Celebration, a new 2-day event where you will be treated to incredible on-track racing action from glorious machinery from across the decades.  There will also be all kinds of activities off-track, including kid’s activities, Supercar Displays, Skid Pan demonstrations and much more. (1-2 June, from £12).  Also at Thruxton are regular opportunities for Driving Experiences, Off Road experiences, Skid Pan, Karting etc. www.thruxtonracing.co.uk/

 

At the Plaza Theatre in Romsey there’s a wealth of summer events to choose from.  Plays such as How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found by Fin Kennedy – an award-winning play about identity and the traces we leave on the world around us (11 – 15 June , 7.30pm, £10, A RAODS Green Room Production),  The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett, adapted from his autobiographical memoir and telling the story of Miss Mary Shepherd who took refuge in his garden for 15 years (16-20 July, 7.30pm, £13, A RAODS Production) and outdoor theatre from  The Wind in the Willows by Glyn Maxwell, all played out on the banks of the River Test in the delightful gardens of Island House (13-17 August, 7.30pm, gates open 6.15pm for picnics. £14, Family ticket for 4, must include at least 2 under 18s – £49. A RAODS Outdoor Production).  There are also a number of tribute bands throughout the summer from Coldplace – Coldplay Tribute Band (23 June, 7.30pm, £20) and Oye Santana (UK No.1 Winner at the 2018 National Tribute Music Awards. – 27 June, 7.30pm, £20), to Wall of Floyd, a Pink Floyd Tribute band (25 August, 7.30pm, £18) and more besides.  For full programme see www.plazatheatre.com/index.php