Emotional Wellbeing

Mandy Kloppers

Look forward to a Spring break in the Test Valley, Hampshire in 2024

Enjoy the signs of Spring in wonderful gardens, learn a new skill, see owls by moonlight, fish on the famous River Test, treat yourself to a unique glamping or a hotel stay and much more….


Now is a great time to look forward to a Spring break away. Get out into stunning countryside, visit attractions, enjoy events and activities, or just relax and treat yourself!


The Hawk Conservancy Trust is a bird of prey visitor attraction and conservation charity that cares for and displays birds of prey. It also runs spectacular events and hosts experiences.  Experience the wonder that is Evening Owls. As night falls, visitors will experience the mystical owls’ graceful, silent flights in and out of the darkness over their Savannah Arena and amongst the mysterious Woodland Arena. Before the flying displays, there will be chance to have a delicious meal, tempting treat or cozy coffee in Feathers Restaurant and explore parts of the grounds to meet some of the owls in their care, where the team there will give an insight to some of the conservation and research projects that they undertake with British owls. https://www.hawk-conservancy.org/evening-owls/ For anyone with a love for wildlife, nature, photography or birds of prey, an experience day at the Hawk Conservancy Trust offers the unique chance to get close to beautiful birds of prey and learn more about them. You can fly a variety of birds, ask the knowledgeable, friendly and passionate team questions and learn more about the Trust’s conservation and rehabilitation work. There is a selection of experiences to choose from where you can meet a greater variety of birds or a more specialised selection of owls and there are experiences just for children too. Perhaps you have a passion for photography, would like to learn more about, and fly a variety of birds of prey, or fly owls. Why not combine world-class flying demonstrations with a delicious afternoon tea? Courses are for the enthusiastic novice through to the passionate professional. https://www.hawk-conservancy.org/your-visit/experiences/


Thruxton Motorsport Centre is the UK’s fastest racetrack and offers Driving Experiencesevents and race meetings. For Driving Experiences choose from supercars, sports cars and racing cars. All the driving experiences use the full 2.4-mile Thruxton race circuit – an FIA licensed venue. You can also develop your driving skills in a safe and controlled environment by choosing the Skid Pan option.  The team will help you develop the skills needed to correct and control a sliding car, a situation that you may encounter on public roads. Or challenge yourself and your friends and family on the Kart Centre – one of the very best outdoor kart circuits in the country.  There are three different circuits on offer – at 1,100 metres long the full circuit has a selection of fast, slow and technical corners. Cadet karting is also available for youngsters from 8 years old. Bring the speed right down at the 4×4 Off-Road Centre. Drive a Land Rover on the purpose-built facility which is designed to push you and the Land Rover to the limit. Driving a 4×4 in the environment it was designed to tackle requires a different skill compared to the race circuit. Patience, caution and controlled aggression are needed as you test both the Defender and your own nerve. Thruxton also hosts Junior experiences where children from 12 years old can learn to drive.  Race meetings are a must-see at Thruxton. Look up events at https://thruxtonracing.co.uk/


The world-renowned Sir Harold Hillier Gardens are a delight all year but have some real highlights in Spring.  Look on the website for monthly updates of what to see, when.  Why not also stop and enjoy a treat at the refurbished Garden restaurant at Jermyn’s House?  Courses, tours, family seasonal trails, exhibitions and art, craft, gardening workshops and more are all on offer. Family events include archaeology, Bushcraft, pond dipping, seasonal trails and more. Art and craft workshops for Adults include Botanical Pottery, Botanical Art, Mixed Media, Ink Drawing, Lino Printing, Coloured pencil drawing, and Making a mini-quilt among others. There are also Art and craft exhibitions and regular Forest Bathing sessions. Gardening workshops and tours include Gardeners’ Breakfasts and tours, pruning classes, a Spring Blossom guided tour, Rhodedendron Woodland Guided tour, Lecture Lunches and more.  Full details of all events will be added to the website, so keep visiting https://hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/hilliergardens


National Trust property Mottisfont comes into its own in Spring.  At this romantic house and gallery set in beautiful riverside gardens there’s plenty to delight the senses at this time of year including Spring bulbs and blossom, riverside walks, wider estate walks, early roses and more. The gardens are bursting to life with colourful floral displays from daffodils and crocuses in March and April to tulips in April and May, while newly hatched ducklings and cygnets take to the water.   Late spring flowers such as snake’s head fritillary and orchids bloom in the surrounding meadow. Tulips in the parterre and walled gardens provide the finale of the spring showcase, leading into early flowering roses. The famous National Collection of roses starts to emerge in May, building up to the main National Collection of pre-1900 old-fashioned roses which are in full bloom once a year in June. It’s a sight to behold! The Kitchen Garden too is interesting in Spring, full of seasonal promise. Next to the Stables, an archway of blooming magnolia invites you to walk through to the north lawn, and a small cherry orchard provides pretty blossom displays. The many trees proudly display rich canopies of bright new leaves and blossom. And Spring walks can be enjoyed around the grounds of Mottisfont, along the River Test and across the meadows. Mottisfont also has many acres of woodland and tenanted farmland in the Test Valley, including Stockbridge Down and Stockbridge Marsh.  Head out into the countryside with an estate trail to spot spring wildflowers such as lady’s smock (also known as the cuckoo flower), celandines and bluebells and listen out for birdsong. There will also be a Heath Robinson at War exhibition (20 Jan-14 April)

Over 50 artworks of humorous drawings from both World Wars will demonstrate Robinson’s ability to counter the horrors of war with gentle satire and absurdity. You’ll also be able to hear transcripts of letters from the troops and the public thanking him for his morale-raising efforts. Demonstrating humour in the face of absurdity, this exhibition not only helps us to understand the historic role of artists in difficult times, but also represents an important part of the work of one of Britain’s finest artists, and the impact humour and creativity has on public morale during difficult times.

Property admission applies (free entry for National Trust members and under 5s).

For information on all the above and for Spring events visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont


The wonderful Houghton Lodge Gardens opens for the main season in April. At this time of year swathes of riverside daffodils, dainty crocus, and bright blue of scilla set the scene for visitors. Early visitors to the garden will be treated to the heart-warming sights of spring across the Walled Garden, Long Border, Peacock Garden and the rolling lawns down to the River Test.  Apple blossoms are in full bloom and tulips provide a splash of colour mid to late April across the Walled Garden’s raised beds and borders. A few times a year the house is opened to visitors. During these times guided tours are arranged so that visitors can learn more about this unique building – the finest surviving example of a cottage Orné in England. See the beauty of the exquisite rooms and listen to the stories and history that have been part of this house since it was built in 1793. The tearoom is also open, serving drinks, sweet and savoury treats and snacks and seasonal dishes. Traditional afternoon teas are available too. You can also enjoy a stay in luxury self-catering rooms on site. What was once a dormant calf byre of the 18th century historic family home is now a bespoke collection of six individually designed boutique ensuite self-catering bedrooms called The Apple Rooms, named after apple trees growing in the walled garden orchard. https://houghtonlodge.co.uk/



Enjoy flying fishing on the famous River Test with Fishing Breaks, which provides a programme of fishing days, camps and parties for all ages and abilities. The new trout fishing season starts on 1 April and Fishing Breaks offers many different experiences, including Fishing for a Day – best suited to the competent fly fisherman with some river experience, a Day on the River with a guide – a day’s fishing on the Test with a knowledgeable and fully qualified fishing instructor at your side, revealing the secrets of this particular chalk stream and well suited to the occasional or regular fly fisherman who might be a bit daunted by such an amazing river, a family day or Adult and Child Day, which offers a full day’s fishing experience for a family or an adult and child with private tuition – the perfect bonding time learning a new skill. There are also Kids fishing camps and birthday parties.  Or adults can enjoy Fishing tuition to learn a new skill including a Foundation course, private tuition, chalk stream courses or a Grayling course. Fishing Breaks will be introducing Women’s Days, for beginners and those with some experience and Novice’s Days in 2024. Why not make a break of it and book local accommodation or one of Fishing Breaks’ own cottages?  And to find out more about the unique possibilities presented by Fishing Breaks visit https://fishingbreaks.co.uk


Cholderton Rare Breeds Farm has a fantastic selection of some of the most beautiful breeds of farm animals, with an ever-expanding variety of breeding programmes. During your visit to the farm, there is so much to see and do, allowing you to enjoy some well-deserved quality time together when you visit. There are the Rare Breeds packed full of your favourite animals, including: Pigs, Goats, Sheep, Donkey, Calf, Ponies, Rabbits, Peacocks, Chickens, Ducks & Geese and more.  Other attractions include some fabulous play areas, daily activities, special events, accommodation, farm shop plus a  stunning English Vineyard, Bluestone, where you can book tours and tastings. About | Cholderton Rare Breeds Farm

Whitchurch Silk Mill is a 19th century water mill that weaves English silk fabrics using 19th century machinery.  It’s open to the public and is one of the area’s hidden gems. During a visit you can treat yourself in the Riverside Café and browse the shop for silk-related buys. It runs events throughout the year including workshops, exhibitions, markets and much more. For more information and the latest on Spring events visit https://whitchurchsilkmill.org.uk

Enjoy great entertainment at The Lights, Andover this Spring.  There’s a huge range of comedy, music including tribute bands, talks and performance to choose from for all ages.  And why not visit the Arena Café – a great place to meet friends, take a break from shopping in town, or enjoy a pre-performance drink or snack. For more information on events and facilities visit https://www.thelights.org.uk/ The characterful art deco Plaza Theatre in Romsey also has an array of theatre, tribute bands and comedy this Spring https://www.plazatheatre.com/

Medieval Michelmersh Manor Farm is a great place to base yourself to explore the local area on foot, enjoy farm life and all kinds of outdoor activities.  This historic family farm set in idyllic surroundings has a range of accommodation for visitors to the area with all kinds of opportunities to explore farm life at its best.  At the heart of the farm are 7 self-catering options – including 2 shepherd huts, 3 cottages and the latest addition, 2 listed barn conversions.  On the farm there are 300 cows milked on robotic milking machines, 200 sheep, as well as chickens, guinea fowl, peacocks and horses and a rare breed goat. In the Spring guests will are invited to watch the lambing which starts in early April and visitors can also watch the cows’milking taking place. Later in the year, when the bluebells arrive, guests will be able to enjoy them while walking through the woods using the specially written Michelmersh Farm walk book, which is in all the accommodation. Nearby there are lots of outdoor activities to get involved in including fly-fishing on the River Test, shooting game during the season, and clay pigeon. Local companies can arrange these https://michelmershmanorfarm.com


At Gambledown Farm near Romsey there are luxury barn conversions and African-style safari tents to be enjoyed for superb holidays on a rural working farm.  Enjoy the signs of Spring too – at this special time of year sheep are lambing and Gambledown welcomes children to help with bottle feeding at mealtimes. The shorthorn cows are also spring calving.  At the farm there are always animals to visit, including the herd of cattle and a couple of pigs. From the farm there are excellent walks through the countryside taking you to authentic country pubs or into the rural market town of Romsey and beyond. There are also bluebells and daffodils to be seen.  The Farm arranges special events, too including wood-fired pizza on Saturday nights for staying guests, residential yoga retreats in February, March and April, and an Interior Decorating Workshop in either February March (date tbc, keep an eye on the website). Gambledown Farm Meat and fresh produce in boxes can be purchased onsite including stew pot hampers.  More information from https://www.gambledownfarm.co.uk/.

The Greyhound on the Test, in Stockbridge is a charming boutique hotel and restaurant, offering something for every season. Guests can enjoy a relaxing break in one of the luxuriously appointed bedrooms, featuring individual designs and little touches to make your stay even more memorable. Food and drink are a top priority for the team at The Greyhound on the Test, with the menu focusing on quality local produce and seasonality – alongside a perfectly paired wine list. Many special events run throughout the year at The Greyhound on the Test, ranging from special guest chef pop-ups to Opera nights. During the warmer months, guests can relax in the garden bar, next to the River Test. Kingfisher Hampers offers fabulous hampers to enjoy wherever your adventures may be taking you. These gourmet hampers are lovingly created by the team at the hotel and are filled with high-quality, homemade food using locally sourced ingredients. Stockbridge is home to a variety of country pursuits including fishing on the world’s most famous fly-fishing river, shooting, countryside walks and so much more. You’ll find the pleasures in every season at The Greyhound on the Test.http://thegreyhoundonthetest.co.uk/special-offers/


The iconic Grosvenor Hotel, Stockbridge is the perfect getaway for Spring.   The entire hotel has had a stunning renovation, including 6 south facing garden bedrooms with doors opening onto the hotel’s tranquil walled garden and charming three bedroom Tap Cottage, with its wood burning stove and private courtyard, adjacent to the hotel – all breathing new life into this historic hotel.  The Walled Garden is centred round an inviting oval green lawn for relaxing on and for private functions, and completely enclosed. Diners can choose from the Terrace, a fun, vibrant but peaceful space, the historic Market Room, where once the Stockbridge Market was held or the 1822 Bar with its atmosphere of flamboyant country chic. The hotel will also be introducing a new 2 or 3-day Country Sports package including simulated game shooting, fishing, and butchery as well as dinner, bed & breakfast.  Guests can also enjoy The Treatment Shed, offering massages for relaxation and sports massages to help with recovery or preparation for a sports event.  The hotel organises regular seasonal events, too, including bridge courses, music evenings and dining events celebrating the very best in the sporting and social calendar. www.thegrosvenorstockbridge.com


The Duke on the Test, Romsey is a relatively new addition to the Test Valley, offering incredible food and drink and accommodation in 12 stylish rooms. This 16th century inn, just outside Romsey, was re-opened after a period of closure and re-imagined for the 21st century with a high-quality pub/restaurant serving delicious food and elegant bedrooms at the back.  It has a rich and curious history dating back to as early as the 1500s.  It retains the same historic charm but has a modern twist.  Local produce and talent have come together to bring guests an impeccable service, comforting and creative dishes and the 12 rooms, each decorated in a relaxed contemporary style. Outside there’s a spacious, wheelchair-accessible garden for drinking, dining and relaxing. There are dog friendly bedrooms and designated areas for dogs in the bar area.  There’s also plenty of outdoor space for them to enjoy a walk.  https://www.thedukeonthetest.co.uk


The Potters Heron Hotel – a lovely, thatched hotel in a woodland setting near Romsey will be running their special Staycation Package between January and into Spring and summer.  The package gives guests the option to stay for 1 night (or more) with Dinner, Bed & Breakfast included from just £150 per night.  Plus, children stay for free when sharing with an adult. (Book ahead with confidence knowing all new bookings are subject to the hotel’s flexible cancellation policy).  Enjoy spacious, beautiful rooms which are either on garden level or first floor and almost all have their own balcony or terrace area. Dogs can come too and are allowed in the rooms and the pub area at a charge of £20 per stay. https://potters-heron.co.uk/staycations/


There are many quality places to stay to ensure your break’s one to remember – choose from B&Bs, farmhouses, pubs-with-rooms and country houses as well as cosy shepherd’s huts and more. For more information about breaks in the Test Valley visit https://www.testvalley.gov.uk/communityandleisure/tourism/places-to-visit