Off the main drag between Portsmouth and Petersfield, Horndean can be easily bypassed – but there’s plenty to enjoy.
North of Portsmouth and south of Petersfield lies Horndean, originally a Saxon village that developed as a staging post on the London to Portsmouth road (also known as the A3).
It is probably best known as the home of Gales Brewery from 1850 until 2006, when it closed, after being bought by Fuller’s. Horndean Special Bitter, Gales’ flagship beer, launched in 1959, is still brewed by Fuller’s and is on tap in several local pubs.
Today the area’s claim to fame is through Horndean Technology College which counts actors Emma Barton (Honey Mitchell in EastEnders) and Mark Wingett (best remembered as Jim Carver in The Bill) among its former pupils. Perhaps the area’s greatest asset is its local green spaces, among them commons, copses, grassland, woodland and downland.
Surrounding villages, such as Catherington, Clanfield, Cowplain and Chalton are also worth exploring, especially as they are often home to a decent pub, including the Red Lion at Chalton, thought to be the oldest village pub in Hampshire.
Jamie Williamson, Corner 53
Bartender Tom Rudman, founder of Corner 53, set up a distillery in his parents’ back garden in Clanfield as it seemed the logical option when he decided to challenge the gin market with his experimental and bold approach to distilling. In January 2017 he and Jamie Williamson built a shed in the garden (with help from Tom’s dad) and set to work creating exciting spirits to take on the status quo of the market. Tom is the driving force behind Corner 53’s distinctive flavour combinations. As a sommelier Jamie is well trained in tasting faults and inconsistencies in wine and spirits. Working closely with Tom, the pair test every batch of Corner 53 to ensure the best product is always achieved.
Jamie’s local life
“The best thing about this area is its proximity to the beautiful South Downs – which we regularly take advantage of, by holding planning meetings or general brain-storming sessions during a nice long walk taking in some fantastic scenery.”
A secret: “Bit of a self-plug, but I would say our distillery is a hidden gem, mostly because we are discreetly tucked behind a house and don’t really advertise the distillery itself, more our brand and products. We see people wandering around trying to work out where we are located – probably an annoyance to anyone else in Clanfield with 53 in their address.”
Favourite pub: “Hampshire Hog: exactly what you want from a local pub; nice and relaxed, but always plenty going on. Sune is a great manager who takes an active role in the local area.”
Café: “Nicos – best coffee, cracking gyros (meaty pittas).”
Restaurant: “Four London Road, considering its village location, it’s really trendy with great pizzas (both classic and adventurous) and fantastic cocktails.”
Shop: “Nigel and Jenny at Hadwen’s Greengrocer and Florists in Clanfield. Great selection, great knowledge, lovely people. A completely independent and well-stocked greengrocer like this one is becoming a real rarity. Just seeing one still going well is very special. That little parade of shops is fantastic as a whole really.”
Best evening out: “Start off in Kassia in Clanfield for a few chilled-out drinks. Get the No 8 into Horndean to visit Four London Road for an Old Fashioned or Espresso Martini before enjoying pizza and finishing the night off with craft beers in the Ship and Bell.”
Walk: “From Chalton to Finchdean with the dog. Get a coffee in the Red Lion to start before heading through the churchyard and up over the hill to Finchdean via the Staunton Way. Have lunch in The George Inn, Finchdean, before heading back. Finish off sitting by the fire or in the garden of the Red Lion with a pint of Gales (even though it’s now Fuller’s) and some biscuits for the tired pooch.”
Overnight stay: “Hampshire Hog has some lovely rooms and does a very good breakfast.”
Barber: “Tom with all his hair and beard swears by the great work done by Karina, owner of The Dandy Cat up the road in Petersfield. Dylan (the distillery dog) gets a great trim from Suzanne at Cocker-Poodle Do’s in Clanfield.”
Local event: “The Clanfield Run is always a great day with plenty going on, and attracts people from all over.”
Gwen Woodruffe, educational tutor, Butser Ancient Farm
Butser Ancient Farm was first conceived in 1970 by the Council for British Archaeology. The idea was to use experimental archaeology to create a working ancient farm to investigate life in the Iron Age. Work began in 1972 and since then the farm has expanded to cover not only the Iron Age, but Stone Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods, becoming famous as a site of education and research into ancient life. Butser is now open to the public throughout the year and runs regular fundraising events, festivals, family activities, and ancient skills workshops, inspiring people about the past.
Gwen’s local life:
“We live in a beautiful area with amazing countryside, yet are close enough to the sea for an evening dip!”
Evening out: “Four London Road. There is such a vibrant atmosphere! The gin selection is great, the food is fantastic, and the service is excellent. It feels like being in a hipster place in Hackney, yet I can walk home.”
Favourite walk: “I like to go up Butser Hill as this is where my husband proposed many years ago. It always brings happy memories of him down on one knee in the pouring rain. Plus the views are fantastic!”
Fitness classes: “Horndean Technology College (htc-communitydimension.com) has a fantastic community offering with gym and exercise classes such as badminton, boot camp, circuits, martial arts, volleyball and yoga. We also have local swimming available at Rusalka Swim School in Blendworth, where I love doing deep water aqua aerobics every week.”
Leisure time: “There’s an amazing variety of classes and groups at local village halls and Horndean Technology College. Personally, I really enjoy Horndean Ukulele Group and the Touchtennis fitness sessions.”
Beauty salon: “Dianna’s Beauty Retreat in Horndean. It is small, friendly and very local, which is really convenient.”
Best attraction: “Butser Ancient Farm. It is dog friendly and has a lovely atmosphere – like stepping back in time and leaving today’s modern rush behind. I really enjoy the intimate events in the roundhouse, as well as being able to take a family picnic and relax among the houses.”
Peter Chick, Blendworth Furnishings
Blendworth Furnishings occupies a grand Victorian country house in its own grounds, built in 1894 for Richard Gale of the Gales brewing family. It was sold about 1930 and during the war was used for evacuees from London and as a billet for the Royal Canadian Airforce.
The present company bought the house in the 1950s as the headquarters for a textile company who used the cellar to produce hand-blocked printed fabrics. Over the years the company expanded, with a warehouse in the grounds and a shop, in 1977, which was a spin-off from this. Blendworth Furnishings have been running as a business since then, eventually taking over the whole of the house, selling lots of things to do with the home including fabrics, furniture, kitchenware and gifts.
Peter’s local life:
“I am sure not everyone else would agree with me, but I think the most interesting thing in Horndean is us!”
Best café: “Our café is very popular. It was built in an extension to the shop with exposed beams and has been open for about 12 years now, serving breakfast, coffee and cake, light lunches and posh afternoon teas with three tier cake stands. We also have a license so we can sell alcohol. People come to Blendworth Furnishings just for the café.”
Overnight stay: “The Ship and Bell: an old coaching inn that’s family-friendly.”
Barber: “I suggest Studio H which is also in Blendworth Lane and seems to be doing pretty well.”
Favourite walk: “The best local walks are in Queen Elizabeth Country Park.”
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