After a short hop skip and jump across the same county, we have done the classic pet-sitting downsize. Having left one sturdy labrador behind we are now caring for two little terriers called Bloomer and Wispa.
The sit was arranged a good few months ago to, among other things, be a transition on our move back towards the south east but it has turned out so much more than that. We arrived on the hottest February day on record and the town of Arlesford and village of Cheriton looked picture postcard perfect. It never ceases to amaze us that these places are in areas we have so often driven by totally unaware of their existence. The number of times we have driven down the M3, which is only 5 miles away, to Southampton whilst our son was studying there but never made the time to take the scenic route. How many trips over the years have we made that mistake? Countless I’m sure but it was probably a time when work, time pressures and that “getting on” mentality doing everything in a rush got in the way.
Here are the young ladies we are currently looking after. Bloomer with the darker coat (9 years old) and Wispa (2). With great walks from the house there are plenty of footpaths, bridleways and views direct from the cottage.
The couple we are house-sitting for, Tessa and Nigel, kindly gave us the use of their self-catering accommodation, called The Barn for the first two days before they headed off on their jollidays. We had seen some photos from the link Tessa sent through but nothing prepared us for the size, comfort and homeliness of the place. The welcome home made brownies and bottle of wine were the icing on the cake!
Unusually for this time of year, Tessa and Nigel had received a couple of bookings so we arranged to do the cleaning and general turn-rounds of The Barn between guests. So after an airport run to get them on their way, we took the opportunity while the sun was still shining to get the bedding sorted. It was like being back on our HelpXing in the Highlands getting lodges ready for new guests. The previous experience has paid off with Jonno heading for the kitchen and living room and me on beds and bathroom. What a team! Before we knew it, it was all spick and span although I did have trouble getting Jonno to leave the brownies for the guests!
The name Cheriton had such a familiar ring to it and after a bit of research I now know why. There is a Cheriton in Kent. It is where the terminal for the Channel Tunnel is and a good few years ago our youngest son, Ryan, did a lot of long distance marching training with the Air Cadets in this area.
It is a quintessentially English village with its thatched cottages around a small green, The Flower Pots pub (with its own brewery), a 12th century church, a small general store cum post office. The National Trust Property, Hinton Ampner, with its vast grounds is nearby and hosts a number of events throughout the year. It has an interesting history and has been demolished, rebuilt and was a potential evacuee location during the war but the owner chose another alternative offered to him and it was used to house the Portsmouth Day School for Girls. Within 48 hours rooms were cleared of furniture and carpets and 100 camp beds installed. This use continued until 1945 when it was handed back to the owner. Shortly after a 15 year renovation, the house was ravaged by fire in the 1960s but within 3 years it was rebuilt once more. Now it is an impressive neo-georgian house that allegedly has a resident ghost.
Little did we know before we arrived that Cheriton, the Hampshire one, had been the site of an important battle in the English Civil War. 10,000 Parliamentarian and 6,000 Royalist (supporters of King Charles I) troops fought in the fields around Cheriton in 1644. The regiments consisted of artillery, muskets, pistols, swords, pikes and cavalry and the battle, which was lost by the Royalists, was a turning point of the Civil War. Within five years, the King was to lose his head.
Reenactments of the Battle take place on significant anniversaries and there is an 8km battle field walk that can be completed for those keen to get a sense of the landscape and walk in the footsteps of those troops through hedgerows, lanes and woods that have hardly changed. Maybe a good place to do some metal detecting!
Arlesford is the nearest town and where Tessa and Nigel run a deli. It is a town well worth a visit. There are some high end clothing and furnishing shops and lots of independent shops, as well as lots of tea rooms, old inns and, of course, the deli.
The pilgrim’s way runs through Alresford which gives us a link to our former home in Maidstone, Kent which also sits on the pilgrim’s way running from Winchester to Canterbury. The bad loser Royalists of the Battle of Cheriton set fire to a lot of the original houses in the town as they withdrew and fires of the late 1600s and early 1700s meant that the the town was rebuilt in the 18th century with Georgian buildings, although there are exceptions.
To get a flavour of the town we picked up a leaflet on the Millennium Walk and set off to explore the highlights. It started at the station and took us on a history and nature walk of the town. Well worth doing.. loved it and here are some of the sights….
Now you all know how much I like a plaque with a bit of history and almost at the beginning of the walk when we were gazing out of a large pond (that looked more like a small lake) there was a very unobtrusive sign. Rather than explain……here it is.
What I haven’t mentioned yet is the watercress. Watercress has grown for centuries wild in abundance in the chalk streams and ditches in and around Alresford . It perishes quickly so transporting by horse and cart to sell was not possible. It was not until the railway arrived in 1865 that it became a viable commercial enterprise. Cress was picked in afternoon, taken by horse and cart to the station in the evening and be on sale in Covent Garden the next morning. The line closed in the 1970s but the heritage railway now runs steam trains along what is now know as The Watercress Line. It looks and feels like a real step back in time as you arrive at the station and see the carriages lined up at the platform.
The Watercress Festival in May is a highlight on the Arlesford calendar and the crowning of the Watercress King and Queen who hand out bunches of fresh watercress must be something to be seen. Add in the watercress-inspired dishes on offer and what is not to like? In case you are wondering the watercress is easily visible as you walk along the sides of the ditches and streams. Watercress soup for lunch anyone??
27/02 – 03/03/2019