Lee traveled by train to Cheltenham to visit a friend and stay overnight. Ches and I pottered around our airbnb, which isn't exactly cosy and decided that rather than go stir crazy, we should go visit a village for the afternoon. Where? Open the map and stick a pin in a town thats about 30 minutes from home.
Crawley is around that far and to the north west of Winchester. Alresford is about the same to the north east of Winchester.
If you are searching for the perfect market town, then Alresford (the New is usually dropped) is probably the answer. Over the years it's won the title 'Favourite Market Town in the South-East' and been positioned among the 20 friendliest places to live in the country.
Alresford is about lifestyle; with the emphasis on style. We had a choice of chic cafes such as Long Barn, Caracoli or Tiffin Tea Rooms. We chose the latter ... because it was closest to where we had parked our car. Good choice. Home made scones for ches and home made crumpets for me ... and the best hot chocolate.
First there's Alresford's stunning good looks - from charming flint and brick cottages on Pound Hill with classic chaotic country gardens to elegant Georgian houses colour washed in toning shades of duck egg, dove grey, pale green and cream on Broad Street. Ah yes, Broad Street: as broad as its name, edged with trees and described as one of the most beautiful streets in Hampshire.
We walked the "T" for an hour or so. Most of the buildings are Georgian and painted in pastels. A wonderful old fire station and the original mill down on the river. It is now a private home, Porsche parked beside it, and the millstream driving a generator to provide electricity.
Henri de Blois, brother of King Stephen and Bishop of Winchester, is credited with the idea of building the Great Weir or dam and designing the T-shaped town of Novum Forum, soon to become New Alresford. He died before the completion of the project and Godfrey de Lucy, his successor as Bishop(1189 - 1204) finished Alresford's T-shaped town centre, as we see it today, still based upon the original burghage plots laid out by the developers. Another legacy of these early days is the medieval stone bridge still in place crossing the outflow from the pond and leading on to the dam and connecting with the old road from Winchester to Farnham through Medstead and Bighton. Robert Boyes, master of Perins Grammar School wrote a manuscript in the 1770s in which he suggested that de Lucy's idea in building the Weir and creating Old Alresford Pond was to provide a head of water to assist navigation of the river between Alresford and Northam. Modern thought, however, inclines to the view that its purpose was that of a fishpond.
Many who could afford it, provided themselves and their household with a pond in order to vary the monotonous diet of the period and to satisfy religious requirements regarding food consumption.
It is probably the ford created on the river, from which the name Alresford is derived. Most agree that the derivation is 'Alder ford' but it is the meaning of 'Alder' where the question arises. Some say it refers to the Alder trees that grew by the river at the ford. Others say that it derives from the Old English aldor or ealdor referring to a 'chief, theign or prince' (From the latter we derive the present day 'alderman') And so 'the ford over the river where the alder trees grow' or 'the chief's ford'.
The great thing about cafes in midwinter is that they are cosy warm and condensation fogs the windows, screening out the grey sky outside. As I said, Tiffin served wonderful home made food and was obviously popular among locals. An excellent afternoon before returning to our airbnb and reality.