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Romsey & the Test Valley


The Test Valley is one of the best kept secrets in Hampshire, nestling between Winchester, Salisbury and the New Forest, the area is characterised by its wonderful countryside, attractive towns and villages all set alongside one of our loveliest rivers, the River Test.


Old Romsey, at the southern end of the valley lies close to the New Forest and has a detailed history which can be traced back to the Domesday Book and beyond, with archaeological evidence of Bronze Age and Romano-British settlements.


Romsey first came to prominence during the tenth century, with the establishment of a Benedictine nunnery on the site of the present Abbey. Romsey Abbey was started in 1120 on these Anglo-Saxon foundations and is one of the finest Norman buildings in Europe.


Open all year, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, in nearby Ampfield features 180 acres of inspirational beauty and tranquillity whatever the season. The internationally renowned Gardens have a magnificent collection of over 42,000 plants from temperate regions around the world which grow across a variety of landscapes. Themed areas include woodlands, bog garden, pond area and one of Europe’s largest Winter Gardens, with an excellent all-ability path network.


Spring interest includes beautiful Magnolia Avenue and Spring Walk. Summer is spectacular with the iconic Double Border – at a dazzling 250m long and brimming with over 30,000 plants and bulbs this is one of the longest and most impressive in Europe. Autumn is ablaze with glorious colour. Winter is striking and fragrant with winter flowering shrubs and fiery hues and textures of stems and bark.


Young visitors can explore and discover the play features including a Fantastic Tree House, Super Snake Swing, Flying Carpet Swing, Bamboo Tunnels and Wobbly Bridge. Enjoy exhibitions, workshops and events all


year or visit Art in the Garden outdoor sculpture exhibition from May to October and in summer, be entertained at Summer Concerts.


Freshly cooked, locally sourced food is served both in the Pavilion Restaurant and Victorian Manor Tea Rooms* where you can also relax and enjoy beautiful views of this stunning Garden paradise.


Moving northwards to the heart of the Test Valley we find Stockbridge, which, without doubt, was a place where the privileged lived and visited. The town had three racecourses and nine training stables; it also has some of the best and most expensive trout fishing in Britain.


A weekly market licence was granted during the reign of Richard l, and held in the town’s wide main street. By the late 18th century Stockbridge had become a busy market town on one of the South’s main east-west roads and a cattle drovers’ stop on the route from Wales to London.


The picturesque market town of Andover with its attractive high street and narrow walk ways lies a short drive north of Danebury. Most of the town’s buildings are from the 18th century when it was an important stop over destination for coaches on their way to London, Southampton and Oxford.


Continuing our journey along the River Test we eventually reach Whitchurch, which means a White Church, so named by the Anglo- Saxons because of its prominent church built of local chalk and flint.


In 1712 a Huguenot refugee named Henri de Portal, brought the skill of paper-making to Whitchurch, opening his first mill at ‘Bere Mill’. The clear water of the fast flowing chalk stream was eminently suitable for making crisp quality paper and the industry flourished. Other local industries of the time included flour-milling and the manufacture of silk and textiles.


A fine example of this industrious period is Whitchurch Silk Mill, a working mill that has been weaving silk since 1815. The mill is not large like the mills of Yorkshire but it is a gem in a romantic landscape and what is more, it is still weaving silk on Victorian machinery.


To visit the Mill is not only to step back into the past and sense the ingenuity of the Industrial Revolution but to discover the immense complexity of producing a silk fabric. Britain’s oldest silk mill is still weaving in its original Georgian building for costume dramas, interiors and fashion.


The Test Valley covers some 250 square miles of western Hampshire, its rural beauty really speaks for itself and its fabulous wealth of history and heritage is there for the finding.


Whitchurch Silk Mill 30 *Tea Rooms open daily subject to private events. The Tourist Handbook Wessex 2018-19


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