Spend a surprising 24 hours in the town
Havant a clue where to go or what to do? Here are some pointers to parks, paths and performances – chosen by EMMA CAULTON
If there was one word to describe Havant it would be ‘friendly’. It may not be the prettiest of market towns (although its old centre around St Faith’s Church should be cherished), but it surely can’t be beaten for a warm welcome. Nothing seems to be too much trouble for the locals.
Havant also makes a good base with countryside to the north, coast to the south and parks and paths on the doorstep. Start by getting to know the town by following the Heritage Trail (pick up a map from The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre on West Street). Points of interest include malthouses, a secret Gazebo Garden which was refurbished and reopened at the end of last year, Homewell Spring, after which Havant is probably named (from Haman Funta or Hama’s Spring) and the neighbouring Parchment Factory. Over the centuries Havant’s clear spring waters have supported a number of industries including brewing, high-quality parchment (the Treaty of Versailles was written on Havant parchment)and glovemaking; the old Glove Factory is also on the Trail.
If you would rather stroll under a canopy of trees to the coast, take the Hayling Billy Trail. What was the old railway line is now a path that’s popular with dog walkers, runners and cyclists, and meanders from Havant to Hayling Island via picture postcard perfect Langstone Harbour.
Having worked up an appetite walking to Langstone Harbour, you can eat at one of two waterside pubs, The Ship and The Royal Oak, both with superb views. Otherwise, if you’ve stopped in Havant, seek out one of the town’s cafes.
Step back in time at 19Fourteas tea rooms which celebrates a bygone age with dark wood furniture, vintage radios and old photographs. Tea comes in proper pots topped with knitted tea cosies and mats are old newspapers that have been laminated. The tea room was recreated from a beauty parlour by owner Jacqui Unal and the menu includes old-fashioned favourites such as beans on toast, teacakes and traybakes. In the back garden there’s even an Anderson shelter where visiting local schoolchildren experience being “evacuated”.
Then there’s Lavender Tea Rooms which has an elegant vintage style of floral china and bunting while the menu includes jacket potatoes with coronation chicken, high tea and the likes of gin and tonic cupcakes.
Or what about Bowlers Tearoom in a characterful Victorian building within Havant Park? There’s great service and an exciting menu that includes delish breakfasts (like bubble and squeak with melted cheese, crispy bacon and poached egg), tasty lunches such as homemade pasties and local (Hayling Island) Northney Ice Cream. A new venture for Bowlers’ Tearoom is opening in the evening for a special mid-month themed dinner – October’s will be curry night with dishes from Asia to India. Look out, too, for Bowlers’ fun Hallowe’en afternoon teas.
Havant excels at park life with not one, but two parks north of the town: Staunton Country Park and Stansted Park. Staunton Country Park comes in two parts. There’s the visitors’ centre with ornamental farm, where kiddies can feed alpacas and goats, play area, walled gardens, splendid Victorian glasshouses and the like. Then there’s the country park itself – about 1,000 acres of woodland, lawns and lakes with three walking trails, two cycling trails and orienteering courses. In addition, two long distance footpaths pass through the park: Staunton Way, running to Queen Elizabeth Country
Park, and Shipwright’s Way, starting from Alice Holt Forest and passing through Havant before continuing to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.
North of Staunton Country
Park is Havant Thicket, crisscrossed by numerous paths.
East of this is Stansted Park: an impressive estate of 1800 acres of parkland and forest with a
17th century country house, furnished as if the 10th Earl of Bessborough were still at home, as its centrepiece. The house and its chapel (said to have inspired Keats when he was writing The Eve of St Agnes) are only open until the end of September (reopening next Easter) while Stansted Maze (a circular maze of yew hedging) is open weekends and school holidays until the end of October. However, there are plenty of other delights throughout the year including walled gardens, Bessborough Arboretum, Garden Centre, Pavilion Tearoom, Park Farm Shop (closed Mondays), and Stansted Park Light Railway (open weekends, Wednesdays and Bank Holidays).
Don’t miss Hallowe’en at Stansted Park with the maze dressed as a spooky labyrinth and the house transformed into a Beauty and The Beast setting complete with fire juggling and scary special effects (not for those of a nervous disposition)!
There’s a good choice of pubs.
For example, The Wheelwright’s Arms, part of the Upham
Group (Hampshire-based pub and brewery company) has an individual, quirky style. Check out the chic suitcase wallpaper, exposed brick walls, chesterfields round the fire, steel and hewn plank bar and low industrial style lamps. There are plenty of cosy corners and a sheltered courtyard garden. Events include a not-tooserious quiz night (set by cheery manager Dave Livingstone) that started with a couple of tables and now takes over half the pub. Tempting menus include a glutenfree menu (including scrummy gluten-free fish and chips) and a brand new vegan menu.
Old House at Home is another local favourite. This pub, in a quaint 17th century, timberframed building, serves rustic home-cooking and features local suppliers such as Owton’s sausage sharing platters and Chalcroft Farm beef burgers. Or there’s The Robin Hood, an old traditional pub serving hearty pub food.
Otherwise Red Chilli is an authentic Bangladeshi restaurant behind the original façade of the Perseverance pub and Chilli & Lime (North Street) serves Bangladeshi and Indian cuisine with a twist.
Aptly named The Spring is a much-loved venue and community hub with a focus on delivering experiences that enrich. The ambition is to be the UK’s leading small-scale arts and heritage centre (ten years ago next year, the theatre merged with the museum).
Based in what was once the Town Hall, the theatre programme is innovative and engaging with an adventurous mix of theatre that’s not afraid to explore new mediums (such as virtual reality) and hot topics (a whole day given over to discussing gender roles) as well as comedy, music and talks. Meanwhile the Museum continues to develop. The latest is a National Lottery funding award to record and celebrate the history of the town’s Kenwood Factory which relocated here in the 1960s. The iconic Kenwood Chef was redesigned in Havant and helped transform domestic drudgery post-war and pre-Bake Off.
Recommendations include The Brookfield on Havant Road. This comfortable hotel is known for its friendly service and is part of the Delicious Dining group – hence perhaps its reputation for good food including tasty breakfasts, afternoon teas and Sunday roasts. Or try The Langstone, just over the bridge on Hayling Island – a modern hotel with top notch facilities including swimming pool, beauty treatments and fitness classes.
ABOVE:Stansted House - spectacular 17th century stately pile in 1800 acres of parkland
TOP: Havant Park is a traditional Victorian town centre park with cricket pitch and pavilion and play areaABOVE: Star studded blue ceiling in the Chapel of St Paul, Stansted Park
ABOVE: Foodie treat: Stansted Park Farm Shop sources local produce including wild venison from the estate and game from neighbouring farms
BELOW: The Wheelwright’s Arms has cosy corners, quirky charm and popular quiz nights that take over half the pub