Hampshire Life - - Inside - WORDS: Faith Eck­er­sall IL­LUS­TRA­TION: Lucy Atkin­son

8 things you didn't know about the vil­lage

8 things you didn’t know about

this South Downs vil­lage


The good peo­ple of Liss prob­a­bly know there are pret­tier vil­lages in Hamp­shire. But why should they care when their com­mu­nity was voted Vil­lage of the Year by the Hamp­shire As­so­ci­a­tion of lo­cal coun­cils last au­tumn? With their thriv­ing shops and all the clubs, groups and or­gan­i­sa­tions run­ning out of the Tri­an­gle Cen­tre, as well as the train con­nec­tions and their in­creas­ing recog­ni­tion as one of the most im­por­tant gate­ways to the South Downs National’s a fair bet the so-called ‘hid­den’ vil­lage won’t stay off the radar for much longer.


How many vil­lages can claim their own Hol­ly­wood star? It is al­leged that Min­nie Driver re­port­edly lived there as a child and at­tended nearby Bedales School. How many vil­lages, too, can claim to have starred in two of Britain’s best-loved movies; The Great St Trinian’s Train Rob­bery and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? (The now de­funct Long­moor Mil­i­tary Railway, which ran from Liss Sta­tion to Long­moor Camp ap­peared in both.)


It may have just won Vil­lage of the Year, but the com­mu­nity of Liss has had a few years to get things right. There were peo­ple liv­ing here in the Ne­olithic times, with flint im­ple­ments be­ing dis­cov­ered, as well as an Ir­ish dec­o­rated axe and bar­rows dat­ing all the way back to the Bronze Age. And Liss Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal So­ci­ety has been ex­ca­vat­ing Ro­man vil­las in the area too. Dur­ing the 19th cen­tury Liss was know as Britain’s pep­per­mint cap­i­tal. The herb was dis­tilled and sold in the vil­lage at 4d a re­fresh­ing pint.


Liss teenager, Ed­ward Arthur Dork­ing, was one of the 705 even­tual sur­vivors of the Ti­tanic. The 19-year-old boarded the doomed liner at Southamp­ton as a third-class pas­sen­ger, in­tend­ing to join his un­cle in Illi­nois. His plans changed swiftly, af­ter his res­cue in Col­lapsi­ble B, when he found him­self a mi­nor celebrity af­ter ac­cept­ing cash to re-tell his story. Dork­ing claimed to have seen Cap­tain Smith ‘look­ing like a mar­ble statue af­ter rain’ and watch­ing the ship sink, caus­ing ‘barely a ripple on the ocean’s sur­face’. He died in the USA in 1954.


The tower of St Mary’s Church in the par­ish is un­kindly known as ‘The Stump’. Architectural his­to­rian Niko­laus Pevs­ner was no less un­flat­ter­ing, de­scrib­ing the ed­i­fice, added in 1932, as ‘dig­ni­fied and dull’ but not­ing it was ‘eno­bled’ by a ‘small piece of sculp­ture of the Christ child by Eric Gill’. De­spite this, it re­mains a strong part of the com­mu­nity and helps to run the vil­lage’s pop­u­lar Spirit of Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, held in late April to early May.


Each win­ter Liss holds a suc­cess­ful Film Fes­ti­val and there is also a book club which meets at the Tri­an­gle Cen­tre. The cen­tre is home to more than 30 groups, in­clud­ing pi­lates, a com­puter club, an in­vest­ment club, bridge, yoga and tai chi. Sports fans are also well-catered for – the vil­lage has a suc­cess­ful road run­ning club meet­ing three times a week, a weekly cy­cle club and a longestab­lished cricket club with a colts sec­tion play­ing at the pri­vate Glebe ground. Liss Ath­letc FC are in the Hamp­shire Pre­mier League and the vil­lage also has a ten­nis club.


The Blue Fig, a bou­tique restau­rant on the green at Farn­ham Road has re­ceived sev­eral calls for a Miche­lin star from its de­voted cus­tomers. The cele­riac and Gruyere cheese frit­ters with roasted vine toma­toes come highly rec­om­mended. Other food stops in­clude, The Tur­tle Bean Café on Sta­tion road; The Jolly Drover on Lon­don Road, which boasts 4AA stars and The Spread Ea­gle on Farn­ham Road is per­fect for walk­ers.


Liss may have a main­line sta­tion which ar­rives in Lon­don Water­loo in just over an hour, as well as al­most in­stant con­nec­tions to the A3 and good bus ser­vices. But the best way to get around the vil­lage is on two wheels. Be­ing in­side the National Park, Liss is very at­trac­tive as a des­ti­na­tion for cyclists. Liss Cy­cling Club meets at the Tri­an­gle Cen­tre ev­ery Sun­day if you’d like to get to know the area and cy­cle in a group.

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