Test Valley is a small slice of Hampshire in the South of England, it has breath-taking scenery and enjoys the flowing waters of the River Test cutting through it and setting the scene for tranquillity as well as being a great place to relax, walk or cycle. There is plenty of heritage to explore from its picturesque villages, to the bustling market towns of Romsey, Stockbridge and Andover. If you are looking for a wonderful way to spend a day this summer, plan a visit to one of the beautiful houses and gardens, that have a host of fun trails, interesting sights and activities.
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens are award winning Gardens which include fantastic seasonal planting displays set in 180 acres. Experience the magic of the treehouse, where children of all ages can play surrounded by breath-taking views of the Gardens. Climb, leap, and scramble across the eight outdoor timber play features and put your strength and balance to the test or reach new heights on the nearby Super Snake swing. It also hosts open-air concerts every summer and lots of smaller events and ranging from the arts to learning about nature, guided walks and gardening tips. In August there is afternoon tea week along with fun family trails and butterfly hunts. https://www3.hants.gov.uk/hilliergardens
The National Trust Property Mottisfont is a romantic house and gallery set in beautiful riverside gardens. It is most famous for its National Collection of pre-1900 shrub roses, which blooms just once a year and attracts visitors from all over the world. Walking through the historic walled gardens you are greeted by the heavenly fragrance of over 500 different varieties of old-fashioned roses. Their blooms are a feast for the eyes with vibrant colour offering an extraordinary and inspiring sight. Explore the kitchen garden and herbaceous borders and marvel at the towering ancient trees. Stroll alongside the tranquil waters of the River Test where you can spot trout. You can explore the meadows with glorious views across to the house and gardens and catch a glimpse of the native wildlife. Over the summer holidays, the whole family can enjoy an immersive exhibition exploring the much-loved children’s books created by writer Allan Ahlberg and his illustrator wife Janet Ahlberg, featuring original artwork from The Jolly Postman, Happy Families and more. Outside, an outdoor activity trail introduces characters from the books, with fun games and challenges to complete. You can also enjoy a picnic in the paddock or a treat in one of the tea rooms. Visit the website for more details https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont (Image: John Millar)
Houghton Lodge Gardens, which celebrates its 230th anniversary this year, is one of the most beautiful privately owned gardens in Hampshire. Enjoy a leisurely stroll round this garden majestically overlooked by Houghton Lodge, an 18th Century Grade II listed Gothic Cottage Orné, 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, orchid house, topiary dragon and peacock garden, woodland grotto and water meadows complete with alpacas. The new Oriental Garden opened this April with its cherry orchard, acer walk, rose garden, stream, and beautiful Torii Arch, Moon Gate and Nikko bridge, as well as new water-loving marginal plants growing on the banks of the pond and island. Tours of the house are available on selected dates – visit https://houghtonlodge.co.uk/houghton-lodge-historic-houses-to-visit-hampshire/ You can also book to stay at the Gardens in one of the self-catered converted cow byres – The Apple Rooms. These are now a bespoke collection of six individually designed boutique en-suite studio rooms named after apple trees growing in the walled garden orchard. https://houghtonlodge.co.uk