Over the last year a word that has come into common usage is ‘Staycation’ leading many of us to explore locations in our home country, nearer to home and it comes as a pleasant surprise to many what is actually available within easy reach of our homes.
The county of Hampshire is one such area where Old Thorns Golf and Country Estate became my base for two nights. Set amongst extensive woodland, boasting an 18 hole championship golf course, add to this a hotel offering over 150 bedrooms, and free parking this very much becomes a golfers delight. The hotel is home to Old Thorns Spa an area of relaxation and tranquillity, book one of numerous massages and treatments on offer or just relax in the swimming pool. The hotel also arranges spa days and nights for the person looking for that extra experience. Bedrooms are spacious, tv, wi-fi, tea/coffee making facilities, iron and ironing board, hairdryer, towels and washing/shower gels are supplied, self-contained apartments are also available. The main eatery, Kings Restaurant, with extensive views over the golf course, offers a selection of starters and deserts with a choice of 3 main courses plus one vegetarian for dinner, this restaurant is also utilised as the breakfast room offering ether continental or full English. For snacks try the Starbucks that as well as serving coffee is licensed. The Champagne Bar is comfortably furnished and currently drinks have to be ordered by an app., there is also outside seating which would be ideal in the summer.
First visit is to the small picturesque village of Selborne. home to the museum of Gilbert White and the Oates Collections set amongst beautiful gardens. Gilbert White, born in the local vicarage where his grandfather was the vicar on the 18th July 1720, grew up to be a keen gardener leading to his interest in botany and naturalism and the start of his keeping a ‘Garden Calendar’. Nearing the end of his life he compiled his observations into the book ‘The Natural History of Selborne’, taking 14 years to complete it is still in print today. White died on the 26th June 1793 and is buried in the grounds of the village church, St. Marys. The museum also records the adventures of Frank Oates, a keen artist, naturalist and traveller born 6th April 1860. The museum takes you through his life including his journey to Africa, crossing this vast country by ox cart through Matabeleland to the Victoria Falls where records show he wrote ‘After breakfast I visited the Falls, a day never to be forgotten. He died in February 1875. Moving through the museum visit the section telling of Lawrence Oates, born in 1880 his life in the army fighting the Boers, serving in Ireland, Egypt and India to finally joining Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic where before leaving his tent he said the words for which he will be remembered ‘I am just going outside and may be some time’. He died on the his 32nd birthday. Your tour of the museum takes you past displays, models and videos explaining the journey of these people.
On leaving the museum building visit the gardens where three walks have been marked out for the visitor lasting approximately 15, 25 and 45 minutes. Following this a visit to the tea room for freshly baked cakes and tea for me was a must.
Next stop, the village of Chawton and Chawton House, a magnificent manor house built in the 1580’s standing proud at the end of an extensive gravel driveway, walking along it with the gravel crunching underfoot you can envisage carriages passing to the house in a bygone age. Enter the Great Hall, see if you can spot the secret entrance, the magnificent Dining Room, large dining table and chairs set for 12, wood panelled walls adorned with oil paintings depicting owners and occupants over the centuries. Enter the hall and ascend the original large wooden staircase, visit the Writing Room, Oak Room and examine the map of Georgian London painted on a large foldable screen dating back to 1746. Back to the ground floor, transit the Servants Passage to the Chawton House Library where book cases containing, over 10,000 books and manuscripts written by women extend from floor to ceiling, such is the care taken of these items that a humidifier unit is installed to preserve the correct temperature and humidity. This is a wonderful venue with much to see and discover so set aside plenty of time. No visit would be complete without a visit to The Old Kitchen Tearoom situated in the old servants’ quarters. A personal recommendation, the home made Pineapple Tray Bake, a light tasty sponge delight washed down by an excellent cup of tea. The grounds are extensive, the views memorable, a wonderful way of ending the visit.
The following day it’s back to Chawton Village but this time to a cottage, now a grade 1 listed building, this is where Jane Austen the author made her home from 1809 for the last 8 years of her life with her mother, sister and a friend Martha Lloyd. It was here Jane wrote Mansfield Park and revised her earlier novels including ‘Pride and Prejudice’. The house contains many interesting facts and features including a room decorated in the renowned Chawton Leaf wallpaper, a replica of that found behind cupboards many years ago. See Janes writing table, her muslin shawl and bracelet, the first edition of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Visit the ‘Admirals Room’, take in the various display cabinets of china, the Chinese black lacquer writing table, displays of clothing from the period and much more. The well laid out gardens, full of colour as leaves of shrubs and trees change from green to gold as winter approaches, in the summer visitors are allowed to picnic in the garden. There is also a gift shop enabling the visitor to purchase items to remind them of the house’s famous occupant and of their visit.
A great deal to discover in a relatively small area and a perfect way to spend a few days away.
For more information visit:
Alan Fairfax -
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for
Atlantic Print Media with regional papers across Kent with high circulations and regular holiday & travel sections
in all editions
and is Assistant Editor for
Your Holiday & Cruise Magazine
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Published November 2020
THE OLD THORNS